Toyota — they’re not just into cars! Officially as of 2012, but likely in some form since they first st up their Partner Robot Division in 2005, Toyota has been working on the Human Support Robot, a mobile robot companion made to serve the needs of a rapidly expanding elderly population — particularly in Japan, where it’s predicted that 40 percent of the population will be 65 or older in 2060. Toyota is getting to the point where they like what they see in the hardware, but the real usefulness of the robot comes in the software, and that’s where Toyota is about to get a big boost.
Toyota’s not really much for software themselves, so they’re getting a little help from their friends. They’re taking a community approach by providing research facilities, businesses, and universities with HSR units to play around with. Those groups will work on software, adding functionality to the HSR while sharing their progress with everyone else involved in the process. That will start this September, when Toyota starts accepting applications to join the community research program, which existed before on a much smaller scale. Toyota expects any new research projects to take about two years, so it looks like they’re serious about taking their time and making sure they get the HSR just right.