Toyota's latest humanoid robot aces operator mimicry
Toyota has unveiled an assistive robot test bed that builds on previous work undertaken by its Partner Robot wing, which examined specific robot limb joints and pre-programmed movements – including robots that played musical instruments. A human operator strapped into a remote maneuvering system and wearing a VR headset controls movement in real time, with the T-HR3 busting moves like performing Tai Chi and building Lego-like structures with precision.
The T-HR3 has been built as a test platform for designing "friendly and helpful robots" that will work alongside humans, helping in the home, on building sites, working in disaster zones, in medical establishments and perhaps even making their way to outer space. Toyota has also introduces a management system that allows human operators to remotely control the third gen humanoid robot and have it mimic movements in real time.
The operator controls the show from something called a Master Maneuvering System, which brings to mind Davros from cult Brit TV show Dr Who. Somewhat bulky monitoring apparatus in the 850 x 1,500 x 1,450 mm (33.5 x 59 x 57 in), 170 kg (375 lb) module maps user hand, arm and foot movements using 16 sensors and sends movement instructions to the appropriate servo motors, reduction gears and torque sensors on the robot. A virtual reality headset (in this case an HTC Vive) allows the operator to see the world from the T-HR3's point of view.
When the user performs walking movements from within the Master Maneuvering System module, the robot will move forward or sideways accordingly. If the operator raises an arm, the robot mimics the movement precisely, and a "data glove" caters for grasping and gripping objects. Force feedback allows for just the right amount of pressure to be applied by the robot's 10-fingered hands to ensure safe operation and systems are in place for maintaining balance in the event of collision.
The robot itself is 1,540 mm (60 in) tall, tips the scales at 75 kg (165 lb) and has 29 body parts capable of moving across multiple axes that enable it to perform complex actions. It may not be quite as agile as the back-flipping Atlas, but it's no less impressive.
The T-HR3 is scheduled to make an appearance at the International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo from November 29. In the meantime, you can see it in action in the video below.