Toyota and Japanese phone operator NTT Docomo have proved that it's possible to operate a humanoid robot wirelessly via 5G, with performance similar to a wired connection.
In tests, an operator controlled a T-HR3 robot using a Master Manoeuvring System (MMS), which allows the machine mirror a human's movements. The MMS features haptic feedback, which lets the operator feel forces exerted on the robot and prompt it to respond accordingly, and a head-mounted camera lets the operator see the environment from the robot's perspective.
The trials involved tasks that required transmission of force, such as holding a ball with both hands, gripping blocks and stacking them in a pile, and shaking hands with a human.
Follow the leader
The T-HR3, which Toyota unveiled earlier this month, is the company's first foray into humanoid robots for several years. According to the company, it's designed to assist humans in various settings, including "the home, medical facilities, construction sites, disaster-stricken areas and even outer space".
Controlling a robot wirelessly from a remote location with minimal latency opens up a host of potential uses in cities such as helping people with limited mobility in their homes, for example.
"The Partner Robot team members are committed to using the technology in T-HR3 to develop friendly and helpful robots that coexist with humans and assist them in their daily lives," said Akifumi Tamaoki, general manager of Toyota's Partner Robot division.
"Looking ahead, the core technologies developed for this platform will help inform and advance future development of robots to provide ever-better mobility for all."