Nice development by Toyota. Always a forward looking company. It made me smile - partly because I could imagine having such a helper one day. The "mature citizen" of the future just may have this machine, an automatic floor sweeping robot, maybe even an automatic "closet" that can help them get dressed. It will be a very different world from what our parents experienced.
Charles, I agree. I want a robot to look like a machine, not my next door neighbor. I understand that for some individuals to accept a robot it has to have a warm and pleasing appearance and the Toyota robot is in cusp of providing it. Rethink Robotics' Baxter I believe has achieved the warm pleasing appearance attribute.
Creepy is relative. I can remember bosses being "creeped out" by email when it first came into the workplace. Could we do business without it today?
On a more similar note, realistic animation had several hurdles because of the uncanny valley hypothesis. People just weren't ready to see a "not quite human" reality on screen. Designers have worked around that by using more realistic effects in anthropomorphic characters (notice how Alex the Lion's hair in the movie Madagascar blows in the wind). Human characters still need to look like animation to be accepted in the main stream but it's slowly changing. Video gaming and adult entertainment have used more realistic animation for years. People are getting used to it.
It's interesting that so many over the age of 60 embrace human-like robots (there must be a pun in there somehow). Typically we only expect children to gravitate towards new technology easily.
Thanks for reporting on this. Toyota also has created another series of robots that help patients and healthcare workers, including the Patient Transfer Assist, the Walk Training Assist, the Balance Training Assist, and the Independent Walk Assist: http://www2.toyota.co.jp/en/news/11/11/1101.html
Ferby, I haven't seen one of those in a while. Once when we were driving from Olso to Stockholm we stopped at a McDonalds in the countryside. The toy in the Happy Meal was a mini Ferby. The main problem with it was that it answered back in Swedish.
One of the longest emerging trends in geriatric healthcare is using robots. In the 90's, many realized that a Ferby (that hamster-like robot toy), could be a good companion to those who were unable to care for pets. Robotics enabled assisted living in already used in in Japan and Europe.
In a recent issue of the IEEE Proceedings on Quality of Life Technology there was a robot with a humanlike body used for a similar purpose. This seems more practical, and probably much less expensive, for a range of simple tasks.
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