Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) Corporation and Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) announced the beginning of a joint research aimed at developing robots for personal use. A joint statement issued by the two companies stated their aim of promoting the use of partner robots that can coexist with humans harmoniously.
NTT, which is partly owned by the Japanese government, is involved in the research and development of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies under the unified brand name of corevo (collaborative revolution). Some of their main areas of development are voice recognition technology, language and knowledge processing, and human sensory information processing. All of these developments will allow the AI to understand human emotions, languages, expressions, and even complex discussions involving hand and body gestures. These factors are very essential as far as human-robot interaction are concerned.
In this joint effort, NTT has expressed plans to provide voice recognition, dialogue control and synthetic voice technologies that enable dialogue between humans and robots in natural language. Corevo also incorporates R-env, a technology that enhances non-verbal interaction between humans and robots by connecting them to other devices.
The AI technology will be partnered with Toyota’s Human Support Robots (HSR) which are Toyota’s lightweight, compact, easy-to-use robots intended to live and operate in homes with humans and to support their lifestyles as well. The HSRs are very safe to interact with as they will be used in domestic situations.
Toyota plans to provide HSRs, which possess three basic essential functions – pick up objects from the floor; retrieve objects that are out of reach, and communicate with families and caregivers.
Toyota has also revealed plans to conduct further research and tests in order to improve the functionality and therefore expand the use of HSRs. The two companies are developing prototypes that will be used in event halls and commercial facilities so that people can interact with them. These field tests are useful for verifying the technology, end-user reception and overall effectiveness of the prototypes. The service prototypes will be exhibited at the NTT booth during CEATEC JAPAN 2017, which is scheduled to be held at Makuhari Messe from October 3-6, 2017.
This approach is a major shift from the usual approach towards robotics, where previously robot development focused primarily on industrial robots in factories and other workplaces, fulfilling tasks in place of humans. NTT and Toyota’s collaboration is a push towards integrating robots further in human life. Their combined technologies and know-how are integral to solving many societal problems. These prototypes are aimed at improving quality of life of people with limited limb mobility and also to assist independent home living.
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