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 Star Wars. It is devoted to a single task: picking things up.

HSR is short for "human support robot" and comes with a single mechanical arm that 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, its engineer, 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 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. So 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, manager and engineer at the Yokohama Rehabilitation Center.

A robot like HSR is also ideal to replace service dogs. They go through special training to help people with various disabilities, including 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 (69)
  • p1-erin-pen
    8/13/2015 - 09:04 a.m.

    The general population in Japan is getting older and as they do they will need assistance around the house. This robot could help Japan tremendously when the population does start to get older, because if the population is older in 2060 than the robot will be more advanced by then and able to further the company and help the elderly people of japan.

  • p1-preston-pen
    8/13/2015 - 09:05 a.m.

    In Japan people need more help. There are a lot of old disabled people there because they have more generations then some countries. They need to make some that can pick up more than 2.6 pounds because what if something heavy falls on an elderly person how would they be able to pick it up and move it. What if an elderly gets hurt do they have an auto emergency 911 call or does someone else has to do it, but I do think these robots could help a lot in Japan.

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

    In America we make robot but we don't make as much as Japan, but Japan 40% will be over 65 in 2060. So we should start now and not later. Plus Japanese people have a longer lifespan than America does therefore robots would be more helpful there than here.

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

    Why might this robot be more helpful to the people in japan than other countries? I think that it will be more helpful because in the article it says that there are less and less young in japan and there will be more old people. Most elders need help to bend over and to pick up different items without throwing their back out. this robot is a great invention for either people who have back problems or for people who are very tall. this robot I think is just the beginning for the robot world, and for the Toyota co. who knows maybe Toyota will come up with another great robot who can carry twice the weight of this one, or a robot that can cook you food, you just don't know what people may come up with in the world of robots.

  • p1-mariah-pen
    8/13/2015 - 09:12 a.m.

    Because in Japan 40% of all people will become 65 years old in 2060. Also with the population in Japan younger and older will be able to use it with much success. Young ones will be able to use it with cleaning their room, surfing the internet to help with homework. Elderly can use it to get there medicine, to help guide the way for the blind.

  • p2-james-pen
    8/13/2015 - 10:05 a.m.

    The robot is really cool i think it will help a lot of people.Its cool how it can help people around places. It is really light but it doesn't pick up very heavy things.

  • p2-brennan-pen
    8/13/2015 - 10:05 a.m.

    This is very interesting thing that I think we shouldn't have but may be use full. But it would make us lazy that's why I don't think we should have it. It would be really good for helping out disabled people. If this was made for just cleaning it would make us lazy but its the best for helping the disabled.

  • p2-isabelle-pen
    8/13/2015 - 10:06 a.m.

    Since the Japanese population is getting older, like said in the article, people will start having back problems. If people start having back problems, they will appreciate the robots help.

  • p3-emilia-pen
    8/13/2015 - 11:43 a.m.

    Okay, I think this new robot is actually very creative and helpful. I mean it picks up things for the elder or for the disable! But I don't think young people should get this because if they're not disable they shouldn't get it, because they're young and healthy they can appreciate that they can do things. So this is very good idea but I think it should only be for the elder and the disabled.

  • p3-ryan-pen
    8/13/2015 - 11:46 a.m.

    I think it will help people in Japan more than people in other countries is because the population of Japan is increasing every moment of your life. It will be a great help to the Elderly and Disabled people from accidents or wars. I think it will help all of Japan because of how many Elderly are living in Japan and how they need help with everything.

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