August 24, 2007 Toyota is continuing to apply its manufacturing capabilities and cutting-edge technology in the field of robotics with the release of a new Tour Guide Robot that will escort visitors around the Toyota Kaikan Exhibition Hall in Toyota City, Japan, from later this month. The robot’s stand-out attributes include completely autonomous motion, jointed fingers (giving it the ability to sign autographs), image recognition (it can recognize name tags and address visitors directly), plus complex verbal communication skills that enable it to provide explanations of exhibits.
Though best known as automotive manufacturers, both Toyota and Honda (which has spent more than 20 years developing Asimo the humanoid robot), will leverage their already established global sales networks to become key players in the market as robots become ubiquitous over coming decades in developed countries. Toyota will become the largest car manufacturer in the world this year and with cars are getting smarter and smaller and robots evolving to be able to carry people, a new era of convergence in personal mobility is on the horizon. The direction may be predictable, but who knows what form it will take… and we can't wait to see what they do next.
The Tour Guide Robot is a wheeled model robot, which stands 1.2m tall, and weighs approximately 60kg, is purely designed to carry out the task of guiding visitors through Toyota Kaikan Exhibition Hall. It is equipped with full autonomous movement, which means it has the ability to move towards a destination while avoiding all obstacles. Along with this, the robot can interact with visitors through a combination of verbal communication and gestures. Its image recognition capability allows the robot to recognize the specific name tags of visitors and direct commentary to an individual on the tour. If that’s not enough to impress guests at the exhibit, the Tour Guide Robot has specially jointed fingers, so it can even sign autographs.
Toyota initiated the Toyota Partner Robots venture in 2005, and since then, has been very active in the development of robotic technology, helping to advance production in fields like personal mobility and functional assistance for humans. The company has focused on the four main areas in which they can be of most use to humans: assistance with domestic duties, assistance with nursing and medical care, assistance with manufacturing and assistance with short-distance personal transport. At this stage, the Tour Guide Robot is seen as a prototype which can be closely monitored to evaluate its positive and negative attributes. "Toyota plans to incorporate what it learns from using the tour guide robot at the Toyota Kaikan Exhibition Hall to further improve and develop its robots”, a spokesman for the company said. “Toyota’s vision of enriching society will support people in their daily lives and help create a healthy and comfortable society in the future.”
The Tour Guide Robot will begin operation in later this month in Japan.