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NTT and Toyota to develop partner robots

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Japan’s NTT and Toyota are working together to create robots that can help with housework and childcare – autonomous assistants that the companies call partner robots. NTT said that much of the work done to date in the area of robotics has focused on industrial applications, but the company sees a market for household robots.

Toyota is already developing a machine that it calls the human support robot (HSR). The company said it is currently focused on three basic functions essential to daily lifestyle support: picking up objects from a floor, retrieving objects that are out of reach for a human, and communicating with humans.

Communication is where NTT enters the picture. The company will add its expertise in voice recognition technology and media processing. The telco said its goal is to create a robot that can understand more than simple commands, and can track more complex conversations as well as hand and body gestures. NTT said it plans to provide voice recognition, dialogue control, and synthetic voice technologies developed at its research laboratories that enable dialogue between humans and robots in natural language.

One way to market the robots to potential buyers will be by using them as assistants in public spaces. The companies said the prototypes can interact with people at events and commercial venues, helping with information and navigation. Service prototypes will be in action next month at CEATEC JAPAN 2017, the companies said.

Many people in Japan have already seen personal robots in action thanks to Japanese carrier SoftBank and its SoftBank Robotics unit. SoftBank has created Pepper, a verbal robot about three and a half feet tall that speaks in a female voice and interprets facial expression and body movement, according to SoftBank.

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