Is your room a mess? This robot might help! In this July 24, 2015 photo, Toyota's engineer Kouichi Ikeda looks at new HSR, left, short for "human support robot," at a welfare and nursing exposition in Yokohama, south of Tokyo. Toyota's new robot that glides around like an R2-D2 is devoted to a single task: picking things up. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Is your room a mess? This robot might help!
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Toyota's new robot glides around like R2-D2 from the Star Wars movies. It is devoted to a single task: picking things up.

HSR is short for "human support robot."  It comes with a single mechanical arm. It can grasp objects of various shapes and sizes and also pick up smaller items with a tiny suction cup.

It doesn't have other tricks in its repertoire, except for a computer panel on its head for surfing the Internet. A person can also access the robot from another computer and use it like a camera-phone.

Kouichi Ikeda is its engineer. He is serious about using it to help around regular homes. First it will be for people with disabilities and then for the elderly in general. Picking up is especially challenging for people with spinal disorders and other ailments that hamper the ability to stoop down and grab, he said.

"Although it can only do one simple task of picking up, it's already making disabled people quite happy. We're just getting started. But eventually we want it to enter people's homes," Ikeda said at an exhibition of health care technology. It was held in Yokohama, southwest of Tokyo.

Nearly 40 percent of Japan's population will be 65 or older by 2060. The rest of the developed world and some developing nations also will follow that track. Toyota is banking on the demand for robot helpers to grow.

"People feel more comfortable asking a robot to pick up after them than asking a human helper," said Tadashi Hatakenaka. He is manager and engineer at the Yokohama Rehabilitation Center.

A robot like HSR is also ideal to replace service dogs. The animals go through special training to help people with various disabilities. This includes those who use wheelchairs, have balance issues or may be prone to seizures, he said.

Toyota came up with the basic concept model for HSR in 2012.

The revamped model is expected to enter universities, research facilities and businesses next year. It will be involved in partnerships to develop more applications, so the robot can enter homes as quickly as possible.

One drawback is cost. Mass production is needed for the price to come down. Toyota declined to give the current price.

Ikeda showed how HSR can be controlled relatively easily. A user tapped on a tablet device to fetch a TV remote-controller.

The 4-foot-4 tall robot has several cameras. They include two on its head that look like its eyes and sensors on its body. It scoots quietly around in all directions.

Unlike the robotic arms at auto-assembly plants, HSR's grip and bumps are designed to be soft. That's so they can't hurt anyone. But it can pick up items that weigh up to 2.6 pounds.

There was no attempt to make its design cute, like the Pepper childlike robot that recently went on sale in Japan from Japanese Internet company Softbank Corp.

Toyota has long been working on robots. The company even has a human-shaped one with fingers dexterous enough to play the trumpet. Another plays the violin.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why might this robot be more helpful to people in Japan than other countries?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (210)
  • p1-gabriel-pen
    8/13/2015 - 08:57 a.m.

    Nearly 40% of Japans population will be 65 or older by 2060.

  • p1-callen-pen
    8/13/2015 - 09:06 a.m.

    It is easier because some parts of Japan are dirty, and its made in Japan. I really enjoyed this article on robots. The most interesting part I found about this is that it can pick stuff up to 2.6 pounds! It is also cool how Toyota the car company is making super cool robots. The research showed that by 2060 40% of Japan's population will be over 65! Something that really shocked me is how tall it was 4 feet 4 inches for a robot that is very cool.

  • p1-gavyn-pen
    8/13/2015 - 09:07 a.m.

    If robots like this are improved and invented all of the back breaking work (example: Mining) could be done by robot, meaning that the work would be done faster and better than some people. Furthermore life for seniors would be a lot better, because they wouldn't have to mend down breaking their back.

  • p1-thomas-pen
    8/13/2015 - 09:07 a.m.

    I would see the point in having a robot like this around. A Japanese person's life span on average is longer than an American's. Therefore robots that help around the Japanese household would be very useful. Especially so because 40% of the Japanese population will be over 65 in 2060.

  • p1-madison-pen
    8/13/2015 - 09:08 a.m.

    I think this robot that Toyota has designed would be helpful in any country. Many elderly people and disabled people can't pick up things or bend over and this robot would help fix this problem. If Toyota's robot is successful, Japan would get a lot of money from it. If they had to improve this robot, I would figure out a way for it to do chores around the house to help out parents.

  • p1-kayla-pen
    8/13/2015 - 09:09 a.m.

    It would be more helpful to people in Japan because the population is getting older. There are people with disabilities and may have spinal problems which could make it hard for a person to bend down and pick something up. It would be helpful to almost anybody, even children who don't like to pick up after themselves! But, almost forty percent of Japan's population will be 65 or older by 2060. So, it would be most helpful for Japan to have the robot.

  • p1-abdoul-pen
    8/13/2015 - 09:15 a.m.

    I think that it would be more helpful in japan because in the year 2060 there will be a higher population of elders and if they have kids they could make a mess and this robot would help clean up the mess so that the elders don't have to get hurt trying to clean up.

  • p1-lauren-pen
    8/13/2015 - 09:16 a.m.

    In the passage it said that "nearly 40 percent of Japan's population will be sixty-five or older by 2060." So in about forty-five years lots of people in Japan will be sixty-five and older. The robot would most likely be more helpful to a country like Japan because the company's product is going for elderly people. So if Japan was to have more people elderly people than say the United States then the robot would be more helpful to Japan. The countries with more elderly would have more use for the product.

  • p1-abigail-2-pen
    8/13/2015 - 09:17 a.m.

    This robot might be more helpful for people in Japan than other countries because by 2060 almost 40 percent of Japans population will be 65 or older, and this robot will help those elderly people pick up the stuff they have dropped so that they don't have to hurt themselves trying to get whatever they dropped. This robot will also help the people that live in Japan with disabilities, such as they are paralyzed or are in a wheelchair and can't bend over to pick things up. I think that this is a great start for robots, and for the Toyota company that will hopefully be making more robots that can help with many more things around the world.

  • p1-alan-2-pen
    8/13/2015 - 09:17 a.m.

    Well the article said that 40% of the population in Japan will be 65 years old around 2060. Since Toyota already made the robot it'll be more helpful whenever someone needs a helper, and there are many elders in Japan. It's also better because people feel more comfortable asking robot helpers than human helpers, they want to be polite. It's been helping many disabled people and elders around the world and in Japan,so it's a success. Many people like that can't be able to pick something heavy back up without any help, so I think this robot will be very helpful in Japan and around, it can pick up 2.6 pounds! It can also access the internet for elders who forget how to access the internet.

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