AI News, Toyota Gets Back Into Humanoid Robots With New T-HR3

Toyota Gets Back Into Humanoid Robots With New T-HR3

At first glance, it appears to be very capable, with excellent balance and coordination, and Toyota has decided to approach autonomy by keeping a human in the loop inside of a sophisticated, immersive “Master Maneuvering System.” As with most flagship robotics projects from large Japanese companies, Toyota has done a very good job of not telling anyone about it until they’re good and ready, meaning that all we have to go on at the moment is a press release and some basic specs and videos.

Toyota's latest robotics platform, designed and developed by Toyota's Partner Robot Division, will explore new technologies for safely managing physical interactions between robots and their surroundings, as well as a new remote maneuvering system that mirrors user movements to the robot.

Toyota’s press release addresses this with a very general statement about how the T-HR3 is designed to be “a platform with capabilities that can safely assist humans in a variety of settings, such as the home, medical facilities, construction sites, disaster-stricken areas and even outer space.” This particular version doesn’t seem like the sort of beefy platform that could handle an industrial environment, much less one that’s post-disaster, in contrast to the humanoid robot that Honda has been working on.

Rather, T-HR3 looks decidedly more domestic, which is in keeping with Toyota’s overall mission to “support doctors, caregivers and patients, the elderly, and people with disabilities.” To make sure its robots operate safely around people,Toyota also put a lot of effort in developing a new torque sensing and actuation system.

This, presumably, is where Toyota’s Master Maneuvering System comes in: T-HR3 is controlled from a Master Maneuvering System that allows the entire body of the robot to be operated instinctively with wearable controls that map hand, arm and foot movements to the robot, and a head-mounted display that allows the user to see from the robot's perspective.

Our guess is that Toyota is hoping to use the MMS as a tool to help enable reliable learning by demonstration, where the robot gains experience as it observes humans doing a variety of tasks through it, and eventually is able to understand how to do those tasks itself, in an approach somewhat similar to what Pieter Abbeel is doing at Embodied Intelligence.

Just a few humans in Master Maneuvering Systems would be able to provide this service for a much larger fleet of robots that only run into trouble occasionally, which makes the overall system much faster to deploy since it becomes unnecessary to try to reach 100 percent autonomy: Something like 95 percent, plus occasional remote human intervention, is close enough.

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