78 SERVO 02.2014
the realistic robot musicians such as
the trumpet-playing robot shown in
Figure 7. These Toyota robots have
not made major headlines outside of
technical media until recently.
The original robots were not
necessarily designed to entertain but,
more importantly, used to showcase
intricate and practical material
handling applications for industry and
home service. Of all the humanoid
robot attributes, robots with
articulated arms and dexterous hands
exhibit the ability to manipulate
objects — a capability that only
primates possess. An improved Human
Support Robot and a new compliant
robot arm for industrial applications
were introduced at IREX 2013.
The Human Support
A robot application that is seeing
growing worldwide interest is robotics
to serve the elderly and bedridden.
Toyota’s HSR robot shown in Figure 8
has been designed for just that
application. It is often called a robot
butler. Retrieving a dropped object is
something that most of us take for
granted, but getting out of a chair or
bed to pick up eye glasses or a TV’s
remote control can be very difficult for
the elderly. Calling your trusty Toyota
HSR by voice commands or the use of
a basic touch-based tablet computer
could be the answer.
The HSR can use its vision system
and computer-based object
recognition to zero in on the desired
item without an elderly user trying to
remotely manipulate a multi-axis hand
to grip the dropped object. The robot
can determine the size and best way
to grip the glasses or remote, and is
able to return it to the user without
having to call in another person to
The HSR has a folding arm within
a lightweight cylindrical body that
enables it to unfold and pick up
objects off the floor, suction up thin
objects, retrieve items from high
locations, open curtains, and perform
other household tasks. Figure 9
illustrates some of the robot’s ability
to extend to heights to reach objects.
In-home trials were conducted in
2011 using the robot with individuals
with limb disabilities in cooperation
with the Foundation for Yokohama
Though the cost of industrial
robots has dropped over the years, the
cost of a robot to assist the elderly
must be available at an even lower cost
to be a viable product for the masses.
Research information derived from
various organizations in Japan was
used by Toyota to design a lower cost
but fully functional robot for use with
elderly and disabled persons. The cost
of the HSR robot for the consumer has
not been settled at this time.
One of the highlights of the IREX
2013 show was Toyota’s torque servo
arm that has been in development for
years. While not an industrial product,
Figure 8. Toyota human support robot can reach
down to the floor.
Figure 9. Toyota HSR is telescopic in height.
Figure 10. SCARA robot arm.
Figure 11. ABB FRIDA at IREX 2013.
Figure 7. Toyota Partner Robot
plays the trumpet.