The Human Support Robot (HSR) is being developed to assist people in their everyday activities. In the future, the HSR will coexist with family members in the home, providing support to improve living conditions and the overall quality of life.
Three key features make it possible for the HSR to operate in indoor environments around people.
- 1.Compact, Lightweight Body
- To better accommodate a wide variety of households, the HSR needs to be lightweight and maneuverable. An articulated arm and telescoping body allow the HSR to cover a large workspace despite its compact footprint.
- 2.Safe Interaction
- Realizing that contact between human and robot is an essential aspect of support in domestic situations, a safety-conscious design was a top priority for the HSR. The robot’s arm uses little power and moves slowly to prevent accidents and injuries. Obstacle avoidance and collision detection help the HSR to operate safely in a human-centric environment.
- 3.Simple Interface
- HSR can be controlled intuitively through voice commands or a simple graphical user interface via any number of common handheld touchscreen-enabled devices, such as tablet PCs and smartphones.
HSR has three basic modes: Pick-up, Fetch, and Manual Control.
The arm has a simple gripper to pick up objects such as pens and TV remotes, while thinner hard-to-grasp objects like paper or cards can be lifted off the floor using a small vacuum installed in the hand.
Using voice commands or the touch-screen GUI, the user can command the robot to retrieve objects from boxes and shelves by simply specifying what to fetch.
Tasks that are currently beyond the scope of HSR’s autonomous capability can be performed manually via the user interface. Manual control is also useful for remote operation (“telepresence”), which would allow caregivers and family members to communicate with the robot’s owner over Skype or other services, by means of a display on top of its head.
- 1.Folding Arm
- HSR is intended to help out around the home by fetching things, opening curtains, and picking up fallen objects. Along with a telescoping body, the robot’s single arm can extend to pick stuff up from the floor or atop tables and high counters. When not in use, the arm is designed to fold in tightly to reduce its body’s overall diameter.
- 2.Flexible Hand
- Attached to the HSR’s arm is a two-finger gripper, which is soft to the touch. This flexible hand conforms to the shape of objects it grasps, and includes a pressurized suction pad to lift thin items such as cards or paper.
- 3.Object Recognition & Grasp Planning
- Object recognition algorithms allow HSR to understand the size and shape of items tasked to pick-up or grasp. This information is used to compute an appropriate path for the arm and position of the hand.
- 4.Environment Recognition and Autonomous Mobility
- Onboard sensors keep HSR apprised of its surroundings, so that it can safely navigate inside the home, avoiding obstacles while continuing along the optimum route to its instructed destination.
- 5.Remote Functions
- Family members and caregivers can access and operate HSR using a network-enabled device to perform the following tasks:
- Remote Control
Perform household tasks (Retrieve objects, open curtains, etc)
- Remote Monitoring
Watch over a disabled family member or check-in on an empty house
- Remote Communication
Video chat with family members (“telepresence”)
Currently, this functionality is limited to use on a local network, but access from remote locations will be available in the near future.
HSR will keep family, friends, and society connected.
- Remote Control
TOYOTA has developed the HSR prototype to assist independent home living for persons with limited arm or leg mobility. Aiming to improve quality of life, TOYOTA has developed the HSR prototype in cooperation with the Japan Service Dog Association to identify the needs and desires of individuals with limited limb mobility, and developed functions focused around picking up dropped objects, retrieving items, and communicating with family members and caregivers.
In 2011, TOYOTA conducted in-home trials using the robot with individuals with limb disabilities in cooperation with the Foundation for Yokohama Rehabilitation Service and incorporated user feedback into development.
Additionally, in response to the aging of Japan’s population, TOYOTA will collaborate with research organizations such as universities as well as persons involved in nursing and healthcare to research and develop new functions for the HSR—such as remote monitoring and assistance—with the aim of practical application in the field of care for the elderly.