TOKYO — A cart-like robot scuttles across the field to bring back javelins and discuses. A towering screen-on-wheels is designed for "virtual" attendance. The cute ones are, naturally, the likeness of the Olympic and Paralympic mascots. Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp., a major Olympic sponsor, is readying various robots for next year's Tokyo Olympics. The robots were shown to reporters for release Monday. The mascot robots have moving limbs and its eyes change to the image of stars and hearts. It cannot speak at all or walk very well. But the engineer in charge, Tomohisa Moridaira, suggested various possibilities, such as getting the robot to hold the Olympic torch using magnets. The T-TR1, developed by Toyota's robotics institute in the U.S., highlights "virtual mobility," taking the automaker's usual business of transportation to another dimension. It's a moving human-size display designed to represent people who can't be there. Think a faraway grandma at a child's birthday party or a legendary athlete not able to attend but "virtually" taking part in Olympic festivities. Like all the world's major automakers, Toyota uses robotics in production plants. But it has also designed human-like robots, including those that play musical instruments. The Cue 3, which computes a three-dimensional image with sensors and adjusts motors for the right angle and propulsion to accurately throw basketballs, recently got listed in the Guinness World Records for making 2020 free throws without missing, a record for a robot and an homage to the Tokyo Olympics. An earlier Toyota robot that glides around like R2-D2 is devoted to picking things up, to help the sick and elderly. The latest "field support robot," which looks like a cart, will also be picking things up: the javelin, discus or hammer on the Olympic field. Its intelligence helps it avoid obstacles as well as repetitive routes to minimize wear and tear on the grass. The catch is: It can't go find the objects or pick them up on its own. A person has to run in front of it. Once the object is loaded, by the human, the robot will return to its original position.
Akio Toyoda over the years has professed his love for speed and racing, which is noteworthy because Toyota, the company Toyoda helms, has for many years been most known for making beige and boring automobiles. But Toyoda has been a steady path to change that with the automaker churning out some legitimately exciting and interesting automobiles. If you're still in doubts of Toyoda's latest efforts and claims, what he's about to do may just change your mind.
Coming up this weekend is the world-renowned annual ADAC 24 Hours of Nürburgring and of course, Toyota's Gazoo Racing team will be participating, particularly with racing specification GR Supras. Peering at the list of primary driver's reveals some genuine talent on call, including the likes of famed racers Takeshi Tsuchiya, Masahiro Sasaki, and Nayoa Gamou, along with well-known VLN Endurance racer, Uwe Kleen, just to name a few. But there's one name that raises an eyebrow among the team roster: an odd "Mr. Morizo."
Toyota said on Sunday it was setting up a research institute in Beijing in partnership with Tsinghua University to study car technology using hydrogen power and other green technologies that could ease environmental problems in China. The initiative, outlined by Toyota's President and Chief Executive Akio Toyoda in a speech at Tsinghua University, is part of the Japanese carmaker's efforts to share more technology with China as it seeks to expand its business in the country by beefing up manufacturing capacity and distribution channels, a source close to Toyota said. The Tsinghua-Toyota Joint Research Institute will conduct research into cars and new technology to solve environmental problems in China, including reducing traffic accidents, Toyota said in a statement. The institute will "cooperate in research not only related to cars for Chinese consumers, but also in research related to active utilization of hydrogen energy that can help solve China's energy problems," the company said. The move dovetails with Toyota's announcement this month that it would offer carmakers and suppliers around the world free access to nearly 24,000 patents for electric vehicle technologies. Executive Vice President Shigeki Terashi told Reuters earlier this month that the automaker intended to become a tier 2 supplier of hybrid systems and that it had already received enquiries from more than 50 companies. (Reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu in Beijing; Editing by Susan Fenton)