Like a mechanical shadow, Toyota’s new robot mimics your movements in real time

As a company, Toyota may be best known for its cars, but it sure builds some nice robots, too. Its latest, third-generation humanoid robot, unveiled November 21, is capable of exactly mimicking its operator’s movements. According to Toyota, it could one day serve as a robot assistant in homes, hospitals, and disaster zones, on construction sites — even in outer space.

Called T-HR3, the 5-foot-1-inch robot is controlled via a proprietary Master Maneuvering System that allows it to be operated by a human user kitted out with special sensors that map their hand, arm, and foot movements. A head-mounted display allows them to see through the robot’s eyes. The robot is then able to replicate movements with impressive accuracy via its 29 articulated body parts. A cleverly designed chair, packing a 16 torque servo module, lets the user move the robot either forward or sideways while sitting still.

The T-HR3 is not just able to replicate motions, but can also approximate the force of a user’s actions — for instance, it can perform tasks such as gently lifting an inflatable balloon-like ball without damaging it. It can also display some impressive balance control, maintaining it’s balance even if it runs into another object.

toyota robot mirrors movement 20171121 03 01

“The Partner Robot team members are committed to using the technology in T-HR3 to develop friendly and helpful robots that coexist with humans and assist them in their daily lives,” said Akifumi Tamaoki, general manager of Toyota’s Partner Robot Division, in a statement. “Looking ahead, the core technologies developed for this platform will help inform and advance future development of robots to provide ever-better mobility for all.”

T-HR3 will be among the bots shown off at the upcoming International Robot Exhibition 2017 at Tokyo Big Sight from November 29 through December 2. And after that? Well, Toyota hasn’t announced specific plans to roll out T-HR3 in the real world, but we’re pretty attached to the idea of a telepresence space robot that could be operated from the Earth. But we’d probably settle for a Kickstarter campaign that lets us use one to pick up our stray socks, to be honest.