Toyota demonstrated a new Partner Robot at Japan’s 39th Home Care & Rehabilitation Exhibition, which it has been testing at the Yokohama Rehabilitation Center since 2011. The Human Support Robot, or HSR for short, is meant to serve as a robotic service dog for people with limited mobility. It has quite a bit in common with the company’s earlier Delivery Robot (first revealed in 2007), though it sports several improvements and a fresh new look.
To begin with, the HSR has a telescopic body which enables it to raise its default height by about two feet. It has just one arm, which has been designed to fold into its body to reduce its overall size. When its arm is retracted, its body has a diameter of 14.5 inches, which helps it get around inside homes. The arm has a simple gripper to pick up objects, and a suction cup which can be used to lift papers from the floor. Its head is equipped with stereo cameras and a Kinect sensor for 3D depth detection.
The HSR could also function as a telepresence robot, thanks to a tablet dock on top of its head. The tablet can connect the owner to friends, family, and health care professionals through Skype. However, this feature may not get much use as the robot itself is controlled using a tablet. That means the operator (likely the person with limited mobility) will already have a tablet on hand for Skype calling. The user interface is made up of simple icons to move the robot around, while a video feed from the robot’s cameras is shown on the screen. It seems likely the robot has a limited form of autonomy for locating and grasping objects, and uses visual markers to help it grasp boxes from a shelf unit.
Toyota has not revealed when the robot will be available or at what price, but it’s good to see they are committed to developing their Partner Robot line into a viable business.
Video (telescopic body):
Video (suction cup picks up paper):
Video (picking up a remote):
Video (visual markers):
Video (shelf with visual markers):
Video (opening the curtains):