New Toyota’s robot avatar could go where humans can’t

Toyota Motor has developed a humanoid robot that mimics its controller’s movements at a distance, a technology with potential applications ranging from nursing care to space travel.

The T-HR3 robot unveiled Tuesday is controlled by an operator seated in what the automaker calls the Master Maneuvering System. Equipment worn on the arms, legs and hands reads the user’s movements and maps them to the robot.

A head-mounted display lets the operator see through the robot’s camera, allowing for interaction with its environment — picking up objects, for example. Sensor-equipped joint modules let the user feel outside force applied to the robot.

Though the current version of the robot must be connected to the control system by cable, Toyota plans to develop a wireless link. The company envisions the robot performing work in such dangerous locations as disaster areas or outer space, as well as providing assistance in the home or medical facilities.

The automaker will showcase the T-HR3 at the four-day International Robot Exhibition here starting Nov. 29.

This is hardly Toyota’s first foray into robotics. In April, the company started rentals of a system designed to help patients suffering from leg paralysis learn to walk again.

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