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Toyota joins Japan's robot technology race with trumpet-playing humanoid
Thu Mar 11, 6:54 AM ET

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan's top carmaker Toyota unveiled a trumpet-playing robot -- its first humanoid machine -- in a bid to catch up with robot technology frontrunners such as Honda and Sony

Toyota Motor Corp. showed off its walking and rolling virtuoso robots to the media at a Tokyo hotel as it announced the outline of its robot development project.

The 120-centimeter (48-inch) tall robot played "When you wish upon a star" with a trumpet as a presenter held a microphone up to the instrument, swaying naturally to the rhythm of the famous song from the Disney cartoon film Pinocchio.

The robot, with what appeared to be an artificial green leaf stuck behind its left 'ear', bowed to the audience and waved its arms to respond to applause following the brief performance.

The 35 kilogram (77 pound) as yet unnamed robot has artificial lips which can alter their position as subtly as human lips as air is forced through them, enabling it to play a trumpet as it presses the stops with its hands.

"We are determined to drive forward the Toyota Partner Robot project by putting together what we have cultivated in automotive development and production," Toyota president Fujio Cho told the news conference.

"I'm confident that this will be a symbol of Toyota Group's technology," Cho said.

Toyota plans to form a "robot band" to play music at the 2005 World Exposition at the carmaker's base in Aichi, central Japan, the president said.

Among its partners in the project are Japanese computer giant NEC Corp. and micro-motor maker Yasukawa Electric Corp., a Toyota official said, adding the company has no concrete plans to commercialise the project.

Toyota started humanoid robot development two and a half years ago, Cho said without mentioning costs.

The robot development race is highly competitive in Japan, the world's leader in the technology.

In 2000, its rival Honda Motor Co. Ltd. unveiled ASIMO, the world's first two-legged walking robot, and Sony Corp. revealed its QRIO, the world's first jogging robot, in December.

Earlier this week QRIO appeared for a photo opportunity conducting the Tokyo Phiharmonic Orchestra as it performed part of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.

It was not immediately clear whether QRIO would be conducting Toyota's robot musicians in future as well.

"Honda has obtained excellent patents of two-leg walking robot technology, but we cleared that hurdle with our own automotive technology," said Kusuke Shiramizu, Toyota's executive vice president.

 

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Looks like a stormtrooper from Star Wars.

Honda has done some pretty awesome stuff with robotics lately, and it's certainly interesting to see some auto manufacturers taking a lead in humanoid robotics. It kind of makes me wonder what the motivation here is, though. Is it because with sufficiently skilled robots like this they could eventually replace the human entirely from the assembly line (this was an original promise of robotics, but it was soon learned that robots weren't skilled enough or smart enough to do many of the jobs). Or perhaps it's because they think the future of the industry lies in mechs? Hmm...
 

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Those Japanese...always "accelerating the future". Anyways, that's a pretty cool robot! Heck, it has artificial lips that mimic human lips!
 

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umm... so what's the purpose of the leaf? :D
 

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Originally posted by mackingu@Mar 13 2004, 03:54 PM
umm... so what's the purpose of the leaf? :D
I sure don't know. To me the leaf reminded me of those old American west people like Davy Crocket, the Native Americans, etc. weird...
 

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Originally posted by RCtennis3811+Mar 13 2004, 10:43 PM--></div><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (RCtennis3811 @ Mar 13 2004, 10:43 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> <!--QuoteBegin-mackingu@Mar 13 2004, 03:54 PM
umm... so what's the purpose of the leaf? :D
I sure don't know. To me the leaf reminded me of those old American west people like Davy Crocket, the Native Americans, etc. weird... [/b][/quote]
how about the piper that kidnapped all of the children after the townspeople didn't pay for his extraction of the rats? hmm...
 
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