Section 8. Integrating IT and Exploring New Energy Sources
Item 4. Actions for Assisting Mobility
Toward realizing 'Toyota Partner Robots'
In the area of healthcare, Toyota took on the new challenge of developing "partner robots" that could work in harmony with people.
As an aspiration shared by the whole Toyota Group, work began in 2000 on a project designed to meet society's needs by fusing industrial robot technology, which had been used in manufacturing plants since the 1970s, with automotive, electronics and intelligence technologies. TMC's policy direction for up to 2025 sets out four areas of activity in which Toyota is working to realize robots that will be of use to people: 1) household assistance, 2) nursing and healthcare 3) manufacturing in production plants, etc., and 4) personal mobility.
To realize the functions required in these four areas, the elements considered important are technology for harmonization with people, mobility technologies, advances in whole-body movement, and ability to use tools. Development in each of these areas is ongoing. With Expo 2005 Aichi, Japan offering an ideal setting for the unveiling of such robots, Toyota developed performing robots that could play the trumpet and other musical instruments that can be difficult even for people. The robots, collectively known as the "Toyota Partner Robots", debuted at a performance called the Welcome Show at the Toyota Group pavilion at the exposition. The performance proved to be a great attraction and featured a band of eight robots and dance performances by the mountable walking "i-foot" and the single-rider, four-wheeled "i-unit".
At Expo 2010 Shanghai China, the Japan Pavilion featured a violin-playing robot. The bipedal walking robot presented a form with which people could readily relate and coordinated both hands and arms to give meticulous performances that even featured displays of vibrato.
While advancements are being made in all four areas, in the area of personal mobility, Toyota presented the Winglet, a personal transport assistance robot ridden in the standing position, in August 2008. Three types were developed, all of which moved on two wheels, and verification testing took place in the same year at Central Japan International Airport near Nagoya and in 2010 in Toyota City.
In another of the four areas, nursing and healthcare, four categories of Toyota Partner Robots were presented publicly in November 2011 in four categories: 1) independent walk assist, 2) walk training assist, 3) balance training assist, and 4) patient transfer assist. At the same time, plans for commercialization starting from 2013 were announced. These robots were developed in collaboration with Fujita Health University, which is providing Toyota with design feedback on the needs of specialized medical facilities. With a view to commercialization, development is accelerating with the cooperation of a wide range of nursing and healthcare facilities through verification studies and other steps.