Toyota has been quiet on the robotic innovation front for more than a decade. Its last innovation was the release of a bipedal robot with its own battery pack in 2005. Last week, Toyota unveiled its new T-HR3 robot, which looks to fulfill users’ dreams of controlling their very own Mecha Robot like in the blockbuster film Pacific Rim.
The new T-HR3 is the company’s third generation of a humanoid robot developed and designed by Toyota’s Partner Robot Division. The purpose of the robot will be to explore new technologies for safely managing interactions between it and its surroundings and fellow human operators. The T-HR3 will be used in home, medical facilities, construction sites, disaster-stricken areas, and space exploration.
T-HR3 has 16 controls commanding 29 individual robot body parts. The T-HR3 stands at 5 feet and 1 inches, and weighs 165 pounds. The robot is controlled via its Master Maneuvering System. The entire body of the robot can be operated instinctively from a set of wearable controls that map the hand, arm, and foot movements. The user sits in the controller chair and wears an exoskeleton suit, which gives the operator a full range of motion in the arms and allows the user to walk in place.
Toyota’s new robot actuator integrates motor, gears, and sensors in a compact package and relies on a chromium nitride alloy thin-film torque sensor.
The maneuvering system’s motors, reduction gears, and torque servo modules are connected to each joint on the suit. These modules communicate with the corresponding joints on the robot and, in conjunction with the 16 master controls, offer a fully synchronized experience.
An HTC Vive Virtual Reality headset allows the user to see from the robot’s perspective. The exosuit also offers force feedback from the robot’s sensors for the user to determine the appropriate level of force. The torque servo module offers three distinct capabilities:
- The Flexible Joint Control controls the force of contact the robot makes with any object or person in its environment.
- The Whole Body Coordination and Balance Control maintains the balance of the robot when it collides or comes in contact with external objects.
- The Real Remote Maneuvering provides users intuitive control over the robot and user feedback.
Toyota plans to build up its robot division by investing over a billion dollars into research including artificial intelligence research. According to Akifumi Tamaoki, general manager, Partner Robot Division, “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 AI.” T-HR3 will be shown at the International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo from November 29 to December 2.