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Toyota unveils robot helping hand for the elderly, immobile

TOKYO -- Japanese car giant Toyota on Wednesday unveiled a robotic best friend that can offer a helping hand around the house fetching and carrying for the elderly or immobile.

The human support robot, a compact cylinder-shaped machine 37 centimeters (about 15 inches) in diameter and up to 130 centimeters tall, can be remotely controlled by a tablet computer to recognize items it is sent to fetch.

Taking their cue from dogs that are trained to retrieve things, Toyota engineers designed the robot to perform simple tasks on command, using an arm equipped with a small suction pad.

“The robot still has challenges such as selecting items from a drawer containing all sorts of things, for example,” said Takashi Yamamoto, general manager at Toyota's advanced technology engineering department.

“Finding an item by itself before getting it to the person controlling it is the most difficult challenge,” he said.

Toyota, one of the world's biggest automakers, has applied technology developed for its cars, such as precise control of motors at high speeds, in the design of the robots.

Products catering to the elderly are big business in Japan, where a declining birthrate and lengthening life-expectancy are creating a graying society.

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Japanese auto manufacturer Toyota Motor's home-living-assistance robot, “Human Support Robot” (HSR), picks up an object from the floor to hand to an operator during a demonstration at the annual Home Care and Rehabilitation Exhibition in Tokyo on Wednesday, Sept. 26. (AFP)

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