Skip to Content

Toyota’s Home Helper Is a Glimpse of Our Robot-Assisted Future

A machine that can fetch a drink of water and open doors has made one paralyzed man’s life a little easier.

Romulo Camargo is a U.S. Army veteran who was paralyzed below the neck during an ambush in Afghanistan. Unable to perform everyday tasks for himself, he’s recently received a little help from a robot.

As The Verge notes, Toyota’s Human Support Robot has already been tested in hospitals in Japan, where the company plans to build and sell machines to help care for an aging population. But Camargo is the first person in North America to have one of the firm’s devices roam about his private home, which is a challenging environment for a robot tasked with handling everyday objects.

The robot itself is beckoned by Camargo, who taps a stylus held in his mouth on the screen of a tablet. Then the robot will, say, bring him a bottle of water and raise it so that he can drink from it. “Those are the most important tasks I do throughout the day, and the robot will do it for me,” says Camargo. “You know, that’s something huge.”

It’s still a fairly limited device: it has to use QR tags to identify objects in the relatively cluttered environment of a home, and the number of tasks it can perform makes for a rather short list, as you can see in the video above. But it does hint at the possibilities that will be provided to elderly and disabled people by robots in the future, and it demonstrates that the state of the art has advanced significantly.

The personal robotics industry is set to grow swiftly in the coming years. It is estimated that it will be worth as much as $34 billion by 2022, growing almost 40 percent per year until then. That big an opportunity has industrial-robot makers like Kuka eyeing the market.

But beyond the financial incentive, such advances promise to change the lives of many people. Camargo sums it up neatly: “This is, you know, a big game-changer for everybody that has a disability.”

(Read more: The Verge, “Industrial-Robot Firm Kuka Looks to Automate the Home,” “Personal Robots: Artificial Friends with Limited Benefits,” “Meet Toyota's Robotic Nurses”)

Keep Reading

Most Popular

open sourcing language models concept
open sourcing language models concept

Meta has built a massive new language AI—and it’s giving it away for free

Facebook’s parent company is inviting researchers to pore over and pick apart the flaws in its version of GPT-3

transplant surgery
transplant surgery

The gene-edited pig heart given to a dying patient was infected with a pig virus

The first transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart into a human may have ended prematurely because of a well-known—and avoidable—risk.

Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research
Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research

Saudi Arabia plans to spend $1 billion a year discovering treatments to slow aging

The oil kingdom fears that its population is aging at an accelerated rate and hopes to test drugs to reverse the problem. First up might be the diabetes drug metformin.

Yann LeCun
Yann LeCun

Yann LeCun has a bold new vision for the future of AI

One of the godfathers of deep learning pulls together old ideas to sketch out a fresh path for AI, but raises as many questions as he answers.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.