June 12, 2004 Toyota, the world's second largest automotive manufacturer, has made a clear statement of its intention to participate in the personal robotics market by announcing an internal project to develop partner robots designed to function as personal assistants for humans This year has seen a flurry of activity in the personal robotics area and the heightened activity has encouraged a number of companies such as Toyota, which has been known to be developing robots for some time, to play its hand. Toyota does not see itself solely as an automotive manufacturer, and sees itself as a manufacturer of products which contribute to society.
The market for personal robotics
At the same time, people around the globe are starting to crave better, more diversified lifestyles. These changes are particularly prominent in Japan where dwindling birth rates and a rapidly aging population are underscoring concerns regarding the need to secure a stable labour force for the future in order for its people to be able to enjoy comfortable standards of living.
Focusing on these issues, Toyota is promoting the development of human-assisting partner robots using the collective experience cultivated by the Toyota Group in automotive development and production engineering.
Toyota wants its partner robots to have human characteristics, such as being agile, warm and kind and also intelligent enough to skillfully operate a variety of devices in the areas of personal assistance, care for the elderly, manufacturing, and mobility. Furthermore, since each area requires a special set of skills, Toyota is promoting the development of three different types of partner robots (walking, rolling, and mountable), each with its own areas of expertise.
This initial announcement of Toyota's development of partner robots will be followed by an exhibition of the results as part of the entertainment lineup for the Toyota Group Pavilion at the Expo 2005, Aichi, Japan, starting in March of the same year. Toyota plans to continue focusing the energy of the Toyota Group to further utilize their wealth of technical experience in automotive development and production to expand the usefulness of these robots while broadening their functions and areas of application.