Toyota unveils new robot aimed at helping the elderly and disabled in the home
Toyota has developed a new product that seeks to give the elderly and disabled a hand — a robotic one, that is. The car giant debuted a human-support robot Wednesday in Japan, a country whose graying population has created a growing need for in-home care. Even though Toyota’s new robot doesn’t act like Rosie from the Jetsons, it does have a folding arm and a pair of fingers which can pick up objects weighing almost three pounds from the floor, open curtains, and perform several other household tasks that would be difficult for a person with limited mobility. To determine which of these functions to include in the robot, Toyota worked with the Japan Service Dog Association, which recommended focusing on picking up and retrieving objects from hard-to-reach places, according to a company release. Weighing in at 70 pounds, the robot stands about four-feet tall. It travels at speeds of up to 1.8 miles per hour and was designed to move slowly enough to be safe for indoor use. A tablet computer can be used to operate the machine, which also has a space for a tablet to be worn on its “head,” allowing those far away to communicate with users in the home by video chat. The company worked with the Foundation for Yokohama Rehabilitation Service in 2011 and now plans to collaborate with universities and healthcare professionals to come up with new functions for the machine. Its price has not yet been released and it is only a prototype, but the robot will be on display Wednesday through Friday at Tokyo’s International Exhibition Center for the “Forefront of the Development of Home Care and Rehabilitation Equipment” event. This isn’t the first time Toyota has unveiled a robot. In 2007, the car company introduced a series of humanoid “partner robots,” including one that could play the violin. Then, the company billed its robots as an important step in the development of more advanced helper robots.