Toyota Demos Humanoid Linux Robot

Toyota yesterday unveiled humanoid "partner robots" that play the trumpet and may someday assist the elderly or handicapped. Toyota developed the appliances with NEC, Yasukawa Electric, the University of Tokyo and MIT.
TOKYO - Toyota Motor Corp. unveiled trumpet-playing humanoid robots that are being developed as "partner robots." The demonstration here on Thursday (March 11) revealed technical advances in terms of robot configuration and control.

"Toyota has high-level technology for automotive development and production engineering," said Toyota President Fujio Cho. "The partner robots are developed by making use of and evolving the technology."

Toyota began robot development about two and half years ago, bringing together expertise from Toyota Central Labs. Inc. and group companies such as Denso Corp. and Toyoda Machinery. It also worked with business partners such as NEC Corp. and Yasukawa Electric Corp. and the University of Tokyo and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Two robot types were demonstrated: A biped humanoid and a mobile humanoid robot. A mountable biped robot was also shown on a video. All are designed as partner robots to assist the elderly or handicapped. The wheeled robot could also be used in manufacturing as the Japanese workforce shrinks as a result of declining birth rates.

The biped humanoid is 120 cm tall, the same as Honda's Asimo robot. The size is considered adequate for partner applications in the home. The wheeled robot is 100 cm high, and the upper part body resembles the biped robot but can move quickly on its wheel. The mountable robot resembles a two-legged walking chair that can be controlled by the rider.

Each robot uses a Pentium III processor as the main CPU along with a Real Time Linux OS. NEC supplied a customized lithium ion battery, which powers the biped robot for about 30 minutes.

The robot designs are based on Toyota's proprietary technologies, and the automaker said the designs would not conflict with other patents such as Honda's biped walking technology.

The biped robot has 29 joints and the wheeled robot has 17. Each has three joints in the right hand and no joint in left. In the trumpet demonstration, the right hand manipulated the trumpet. To play the trumpet, Toyota developed artificial lips which simulated human lips movement.

Toyota said it plans to expand its robot technology by next demonstrating a robot band at the Toyota Group Pavilion during Expo 2005 in Aichi, Japan, next March.

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