The recent demonstration of the Atlas humanoid robot’s jumps and backflip might have left you impressed at how far such robots have come. It might have also left you terrified at its appearance. Boston Dynamics has never really been known for creating visually appealing robots. Coincidentally, Toyota has just announced its own humanoid robot, the T-HR3, which boasts of some smooth and precise movements. In contrast to Atlas, however, it is also designed to attract humans and not scare them off.
Of course, Boston Dynamics and Toyota have different goals in mind for their robots, which determine the differences in their design and functionality. Boston Dynamics’ machines are often geared towards industrial, sometimes even military, use. They are also programmed to move independently to some extent.
While the Toyota T-HR3 may be used for construction sites or disaster response, its main objective is to help people in homes and medical fields, especially those with mobility problems. This is why T-HR3 is designed not to be intimidating. At least as much as a robot can be.
The main focus of the T-HR3 is actually what Toyota dubs as the Master Maneuvering System. In a nutshell, it lets an operator control the robot remotely by sitting on a platform, donning half an exoskeleton, and a headset. This allows the human operator control of nearly every robot limb while seeing what the T-HR3 sees through the headset. Many of Toyota’s technologies, like the Torque Servo Module, Flexible Joint Control, and Self-interference Prevention, all work in harmony to make the robot move more naturally, precisely, and gracefully.
Those who have seen the film “Surrogates” might see in T-HR3 the precursor of that sci-fi technology. And if the last few seconds of the video above, which almost plays like an eerie ad in a dystopian sci-fi game like Deus Ex, that might indeed be the future we’re headed for. But for the very near future, Toyota will be demonstrating the T-HR3 at the International Robot Exhibit in Tokyo from November 29 to December 2.