On July 3rd 2009, Souya Takagi, the manager of the Toyota Partner Robots program, clarified Toyota’s vision for the next 5 years of robot development. Toyota is not looking to make a mass-market impact immediately in the fashion of automobiles, rather they will gradually build up the market by providing for those who are in need of robots to help them in daily life (such as those who are disabled or in hospital).
Toyota’s Partner Robots are being designed to live alongside people in four main areas: for household help, medical care, personal navigation, and manufacturing support. They have already developed robots that can play the violin, walk as well as run, robot service “dogs”, and personal mobility devices like the Mobiro and Winglet. Starting this year, Toyota is embarking on a 5-year project developing robots specifically for life support, similar to NEDO’s current vision for robotics development.
The plan is to first offer robots to the disabled that are a joy to use, by slowly expanding their feature sets layer by layer as needed. The target market is people who are expected to have difficulty leading normal lives once they are discharged from hospital. Field trials are being conducted at Toyota Memorial Hospital, where patients are already providing feedback.