Last week the Japanese automotive manufacturer, Toyota, revealed their third generation humanoid robot, called the T-HR3, which they say is designed to help with tasks such as in-home care, at medical facilities, on construction sites, in disaster areas, and even in outer space.
When I was a kid I expected to see the streets filled with flying cars, and robots roaming the streets by 2020. I might’ve been inspired by watching too many episodes of The Jetsons, if I’m honest, so unfortunately it doesn’t really look like that will happen anytime soon.
However, The Jetsons was in some ways, oddly prescient about the future. It was the technological advances in the show that made it so interesting back then. What makes it interesting now, is that after 50 years, what might’ve seemed like some quirky, unrealistic ideas - such as talking alarm clocks, flat-screen tvs, video chat, smartwatches and digital newspapers - is now a part of our everyday lives. And of course, there’s the robots.
These past few years have been a period of solid advancements for the robotics industry, and even though they haven’t really turned out to be what I imagined as a kid, they’re still impressive.
The T-HR3 robot pairs with a virtual reality operating platform, called the Master Maneuvering System, a human can use to have the robot mirror one's movements.
The T-HR3 was built specifically to develop and test technology called a "torque servo module," which comprises motors, reduction gears, and torque sensors. There are 29 of these modules in the robot's joints, and 16 in the operating platform, which allows the robot to mimic human movement with excellent flexibility and balance.
The Master Maneuvering System is equipped with motion and force sensors that map hand, arm and foot movements to the robot. It also features a head-mounted VR unit that allows the user to see from the robot's perspective.
"The Partner Robot team members are committed to using the technology in T-HR3 to develop friendly and helpful robots that coexist with humans and assist them in their daily lives. Looking ahead, the core technologies developed for this platform will help inform and advance future development of robots to provide ever-better mobility for all," said Akifumi Tamaoki, general manager of Partner Robot Division, in a statement for Toyota Global Newsroom.
Toyota has been developing multitask robots destined for elderly care, manufacturing, and entertainment. Previous generations played instruments to test the precise positioning of joints and pre-programmed movements, but this robot is supposed to safely assist humans. So maybe, in the future, we’ll have robots travelling in self-driving, flying cars to run errands for us?