LEIPZIG, Germany -- Toyota Motor intends to start mass producing domestic-helper robots by March 2020. The robots would be built and programmed to help the elderly at home.
Further, the leading automaker hopes to sell 1,000 of its Human Support Robots by the fiscal year through March 2021.
Toyota has been upgrading the HSR since it first introduced a robot in 2012. The company can now produce a robot capable of approaching and picking up an object with a 60cm arm. The HSR can be commanded to do so via a tablet or by voice. Its arm can grab and hold a pen, a cup and other objects. It can also "catch" a sheet of paper by vacuuming it up.
A global spotlight will shine on Toyota's HSR next summer. It was recently selected as the standard robot for a new domestic helpers competition that is to make its debut at the 2017 RoboCup.
It is no accident that the tournament's name borrows from soccer's World Cup. The whole idea behind RoboCup is to develop robots that can play soccer.
RoboCup has several leagues, including the Standard Platform League, in which all entrants must use the same robot. In this league, the competition is about which team of software developers can give the robot the most skills.
This year's RoboCup got underway here on Wednesday. Next year's RoboCup will be held in Nagoya, in the Japanese prefecture of Aichi, where Toyota is headquartered. And the competition for which the HSR will serve as the standard will be a contest for domestic helper robots.
The first RoboCup was held in 1997, also in Nagoya. The tournament has attracted universities, research institutions and corporations from around the globe ever since. That is giving Toyota hope that next year's domestic helpers competition can attract HSR collaborators from all over the world.
Currently, Toyota's standard HSR is about a meter tall and can carry an object that weighs up to 1.2kg.
Toyota will provide HSRs to the public for $900 a month. The company is already leasing HSRs to the University of Tokyo and other institutions in Japan. It can make several dozen robots a year at its robot development facility in Aichi Prefecture. The company is planning to build a production line so that it can make 300 HSRs a year.