Tag: ‘Toyota’

Toyota studies brain to develop future cars, robots

17 Dec 2007

Brain -- In an effort to accelerate the development of next-generation automobiles and robots, Toyota is turning to some of Japan's top neuroscientists. According to a December 14 announcement, the automaker has teamed up with the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN) in a 20-year project aimed at researching the human brain and developing neurotechnology-based auto safety systems, sophisticated robots, and machinery that users can operate with their minds.

Toyota and RIKEN will conduct the brain research at the recently established RIKEN BSI-Toyota Collaboration Center, which will initially be staffed by 30 researchers, 5 of whom are from Toyota. The research will fall into three broad categories: (1) neuro-driving research, which focuses on the mental processes at work as drivers perceive, judge and react to the external environment, (2) neuro-robotics research, which focuses on how the brain processes information, and (3) mind-health research, which focuses on the physiology of the brain and nervous system and the relationship between the brain and physical health.

Through the neuro-driving research, which is expected to shed new light on how the brain works as drivers perceive obstacles and operate their vehicles, Toyota ultimately hopes to develop auto safety technology that can completely prevent all traffic accidents.

In addition, the automaker explains that the purpose behind the neuro-robotics research is to develop advanced robots that can interact more effectively with humans. Toyota, which sees robotics as one of its core businesses in the future, has been stepping up efforts in recent years to develop "lifestyle support" androids for use in nursing and health care. The company also believes the research will lead to the development of brain-machine interfaces that allow users to operate equipment by thought.

Toyota explains that the decision to pursue brain research is driven by an ever-increasing demand for more sophisticated automotive and robot technology. With a better understanding of the cognitive mechanisms underlying human feelings, thoughts and actions, the company reckons it can get a head start in the race to develop the cars and robots of the future.

[Sources: Sankei, Nikkei]

Toyota unveils robot violinist (video)

07 Dec 2007

Toyota robot violinist -- On December 6, several months after Toyota's DJ Robot ditched its entertainment career for a job as a receptionist and renamed itself "Robina," the auto giant unveiled a new, musically-inclined Partner Robot that can play violin. A total of 17 computer-controlled joints in its flexible arms and agile fingers allow the robot to hold the violin and correctly press the strings against the fingerboard with its left hand, while gently drawing the bow across the strings with its right hand. In a recital held at a Toyota showroom in Tokyo, the 152-centimeter (5-ft) tall humanoid entertained guests with a slightly robotic but technically adept rendition of "Pomp and Circumstance."

The robot violinist is the latest addition to Toyota's ensemble of musical androids, which can also play trumpet, tuba, trombone, French horn and percussion. In addition to further developing its musical skills, Toyota aims to continue improving the robot's dexterity and coordination so that it can one day perform household chores.

Also unveiled at the demonstration was a new mobility robot -- a motorized chair that balances itself on a pair of self-adjusting Segway-like wheels that can roll smoothly over uneven surfaces and rough terrain. Intended as a personal transport system for the elderly, the mobility robot can run at a maximum speed of 6 kilometers per hour (3.7 mph) for 20 kilometers (12 miles) on a single battery charge, can handle 10-degree slopes, and is outfitted with sensors that allow it to avoid collisions with obstacles. Users can also summon the robot by remote control and use it as a porter to carry luggage.

Toyota plans to begin testing the robots at hospitals next year, with the hope of putting them into practical use by the early part of the next decade.

(Watch a news report about the robots.)

[Sources: Toyota, NHK]

TPR-Robina: Toyota’s guide robot

22 Aug 2007

TPR-Robina, Toyota tour guide robot --- Toyota's new guide robot, formerly known as 'DJ Robot', has officially been named TPR-Robina, according to an August 22 Toyota press release.

Photos reveal a slightly more professional look (no more scowling eyes) to go along with the droid's improved ability to avoid obstacles and operate autonomously, while agile, jointed fingers enable TPR-Robina to grasp writing utensils and sign autographs. Further, in addition to being able to communicate using words and gestures, the 60-kg, 1.2-meter tall robot has an image recognition system that allows it to read visitors' name tags so that it can tailor its directions accordingly.

TPR-Robina will begin working as a receptionist and guide at the Toyota Kaikan Exhibition Hall on August 27.

[Source: Toyota press release via Carview]

Toyota ‘DJ Robot’ quits band, becomes receptionist

14 Aug 2007

DJ Robo, Toyota's guide robot -- Toyota's "DJ Robot," a two-wheeled android belonging to a band of robot musicians that entertained visitors at the 2005 Aichi World Expo, has ditched its entertainment career for a job as a receptionist. DJ Robot's departure from the band comes as Toyota gears up for its debut of a new robot violinist this autumn.

The highlight of DJ Robot's entertainment career came at the 2005 Aichi World Expo, where it performed with Toyota's other musically-inclined Partner Robots -- a show-stopping bipedal android trumpet player and an ensemble of wheeled bots playing tuba, trombone, French horn and percussion. Unlike the other band members with their human-like artificial lips and dexterous hands that enable them to play brass instruments, DJ Robot has no special abilities other than the ability to rap, a skill that earned it a role as the group's MC. (Despite what the name "DJ" might imply, the robot has no turntable skills.)

Since the Expo, the 1-meter tall DJ Robot, which rolls around on a pair of Segway-like wheels, has been working to improve its ability to interact and communicate with humans. As a receptionist, the machine will use these skills to provide information, answer questions and show visitors around offices and exhibitions. DJ Robot's first gig will come at the end of August when it goes to work alongside human receptionists at the Toyota Kaikan Exhibition Hall at company headquarters in Toyota City, which sees more than 400,000 visitors per year.

In January 2008, the droid will begin working at Toyota's Nagoya office on the 24th floor of Midland Square, an office and shopping complex at Nagoya station, while additional versions of the robot will be rolled out at other company facilities at later dates. Toyota has yet to announce whether DJ Robot will be changing its name to better suit its new role as receptionist.

With its move into the robo-receptionist industry, DJ Robot clearly follows in the footsteps (and wheel tracks) of Honda's Asimo and Mitsubishi's Wakamaru, both of which have tasted some degree of success. While DJ Robot lags behind the competition in terms of experience, Toyota is confident its control technology will enable the bot to respond quickly and operate smoothly in its new environment. For now, Toyota plans to keep the robot employed at its own facilities, and there are no plans to put any models up for sale or rent.

Interestingly, DJ Robot's departure from the entertainment world comes as Toyota prepares to debut a new android that can walk around and play violin like a human.

Toyota worked long and hard to develop robot hands capable of playing the violin. In particular, the robot's left hand requires precise fingers that can press the strings properly, while the right hand needs to constantly adjust the amount of force used when holding and drawing the bow across the strings. According to Toyota, the advanced technology at work in these hands could eventually be put to use in humanoid robots that provide nursing care. In other words, whenever this robo-violinist retires, we can probably expect to see it get a job at a hospital.

The violinist will hook up with Toyota's other droid musicians to form a "robot orchestra," which is scheduled to hold its debut performance this autumn as part of Toyota's 70th anniversary celebration.

[Source: Chunichi, Asahi]

Ne-o videos set in Tokyo

06 Jul 2007

These videos by Ne-o feature unique spatial-temporal visual tricks spiced with dark humor and slices of mundane-but-fantastic Tokyo scenery.

Futureshock -- "Late at Night": Music video with some great night scenery, featuring an unlikely cast of nocturnal characters doing a crazy body-popping dance.

Humanity: Man merges with machine in this Toyota CM for an automobile with a very human touch. This film won the 2006 Cannes Silver Lion.

Salaryman 6: A salaryman trapped in a routine, day-to-day existence loses his memory. The film is shot in ultra-widescreen format to capture the drama of the futuristic Tokyo cityscape, and while some of the cinematic beauty may shine through on your paltry YouTube window, this was clearly meant for the big screen.

B3: A weird trip through a deserted underground parking garage, created from still photos using 3D composting and morphing techniques.

[Link: Ne-o]

Bio hydrofined diesel to fuel Tokyo buses

07 Feb 2007

Bio hydrofined diesel to fuel Tokyo buses --- On February 6, Nippon Oil (ENEOS), Toyota Motors, Hino Motors and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government announced the launch of a joint project aimed at putting bio hydrofined diesel (also known as BHD, or second-generation biodiesel) into practical use. In 2007, the city will begin trial operation of city buses that run on a 10% BHD-diesel blend.

Produced through a process of hydrogenating vegetable oil and animal fats, BHD is more resistant to oxidation than conventional biodiesel known as fatty acid methyl ester (also known as FAME, or first-generation biodiesel), allowing for higher concentrations in diesel blends. While FAME concentrations in diesel blends are limited to 5%, BHD concentrations can reach 10%. The new fuel complies with Tokyo's latest emission control regulations.

Furthermore, the BHD production process allows for the raw materials -- vegetable oil, animal fat and used cooking oil -- to be processed together. In FAME production, each type of raw material must be processed separately.

Before deciding whether or not to put BHD into practical use, the group will study the overall effectiveness of the fuel as a means of fighting global warming, as well as the feasibility of establishing a fuel production and supply system. The proposed move toward BHD is the first stage in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's project to cut carbon emissions to 25% of 2000 levels by 2020.

[Sources: Nikkei BP, Corism]

Rooftop lawn-planting made simple

25 Aug 2006

TM9 turf mat

On August 25, Toyota Roof Garden (a subsidiary of the Toyota Motor Corporation) began taking orders for its TM9 turf mats, modular grass tiles developed specifically for converting rooftops into fields of green. In addition to providing an extra layer of thermal insulation to a building, a grassy rooftop can also be used as a putting green, says the company.

The mats act as a foundation upon which to grow Toyota's TM9 brand of Korean velvet grass (korai shiba), which only needs to be cut once a year (as opposed to 3 to 4 times for other varieties) due to its slow growth. Each 50 x 50 cm (20 x 20 in.) mat is 6 cm (2 in.) thick. Setting up a field is fast and easy -- just arrange the mats where you want them and voila, your grass is ready to be enjoyed.

The mats also include space for water tubes that can be used as an automated irrigation system. Water flows through the tubes into a series of channels beneath the grass, providing an even supply of moisture to the roots. Each square meter (10 sq.ft.) needs 17 liters (4.5 gallons) of water every 3 days.

For the time being, TM9 turf mats are made to order. At 5,000 yen (US$43) per square meter (10 sq.ft.), the company aims to sell 3,000 square meters (30,000 sq.ft.) in 2006.

Green rooftops provide thermal insulation for buildings and can help combat the urban heat island effect. The annual Japanese market for rooftop and wall gardening products is expected to grow to between 10 and 15 billion yen (US$90 to 130 million) in the near future.

[Source: Fuji Sankei]