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Toyota develops hanging ‘Butler Robot’ to help the elderly at home

Toyota Develops Hanging 'butler Robot' To Help The Elderly At Home
Toyota Research Institute/Cover Images

Toyota has designed a ‘robot butler’ that hangs from the ceiling aimed at helping the elderly in their homes.

The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) believes the world’s ageing population is a cause for concern, and that technology can go a long way to help make the lives of the elderly much easier and dignified.

Its prototype ‘gantry robot’ – dubbed the ‘hanging butler robot’ – is one machine designed to operate in the home.

Mounted to an overhead mechanism in the company’s California lab, the arm would be able to perform mundane tasks such as loading a dishwasher, wiping surfaces and cleaning clutter, the company said in a statement.

Toyota says the robot’s design was inspired by trips to Japanese homes, where researchers found that limited floor space would constrain a robot’s ability to help. Their solution was to imagine a future home built with robots directly integrated into the architecture.

“What if instead of needing a robot to navigate the cluttered floor, it could travel on the ceiling instead, and be tucked out of the way when it’s not needed?” said Dan Helmick, co-lead of robotics fleet learning at the Toyota Research Institute (TRI), during a virtual presentation.

The TRI also unveiled a second prototype technology allowing robots to interact with the human world more easily. A robot arm currently would run into the issue of breaking things found around the home due to its hard construction and extreme strength.

But with the TRI’s ‘soft bubble gripper’ applied to robotic arms, the days of broken mug handles and chipped dinner plates will be over, thanks to some clever sensors inside the arm’s grippers. The TRI applied soft bubbles to the inside of the grippers that can handle more delicate objects using an array of sensors. These sensors can detect the rigidity of an object and adjust the air pressure inside the bubbles to firmly – but safely – grip whatever it detects.

These bots, though, are very much just prototypes, and Toyota has no immediate plans to commercialise the tech.

“The robots that you see today are prototypes to accelerate our research, but they are not going to be turned into products any time soon,” said Max Bajracharya, vice president of robotics at TRI, according to a report from TechRepublic.



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