Toyota turns to AI startup Preferred Networks to build helper robots for humans
Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, is turning to Tokyo-based AI startup Preferred Networks to develop so-called service robots that are “capable of learning in typical living environments.” In a joint announcement today, the two companies agreed to engage in joint research and development on Toyota’s Human Support Robot (HSR) robotics platform. They aim to develop service robots that cater to market needs at the earliest opportunity.
As part of the collaborative agreement, Toyota will first loan several dozen HSRs to PFN; over the next three years, the two companies will then collaborate in research and development. Using Toyota’s Human Support Robot as a base, the two companies will accelerate development by sharing their respective technologies
In recent years, the scope of robot activity has expanded from industrial use to medical care and logistics. However, there remain many technological issues in the field of service robots, which are required to integrate into individuals’ lives and make decisions and respond appropriately to various situations.
Founded in 2014 by Daisuke Okanohara and Toru Nishikawa, Preferred Networks applies cutting-edge deep learning technology to applications in the the Internet of Things. Preferred Networks operates as a software development company focused on applying real-time machine-learning technologies to new applications in the emerging field of the Internet of Things.
The company is also engaged in the research, development, and sales of computer software, hardware, and network aspects as well as solves problems in the areas of data analytics, edge-heavy computing, distributed intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, and computer vision activities. Preferred Networks advocates Edge Heavy Computing as a way to handle the enormous amounts of data generated by devices in a distributed and collaborative manner at the edge of the network, driving innovation in various fields, with a focus on three business areas: transportation, manufacturing, and bio/healthcare.
By combining their respective technologies and know-how, Toyota and PFN intend to develop service robots capable of learning in typical living environments and executing a variety of tasks.
Specifically, Toyota will first loan several dozen HSRs to PFN; over the following three years, the two companies will then collaborate in research and development. Toyota and PFN will share their respective development information and technologies, including existing intellectual property. The two companies will also be free to use the results of their joint research as they see fit. In this way, Toyota and PFN seek to accelerate development aimed at the practical realization of service robots.
Nobuhiko Koga, Chief Officer of Toyota’s Frontier Research Center, commented: “Since around 2004, Toyota has engaged in the development of partner robots that support both people with disabilities and the elderly, based on the concept of ‘coexisting with humans and assisting them in their daily lives.’ In 2012, we developed the HSR, which has a basic robotics platform for supporting independent living. Up to now, HSR has been used in research and development at 49 organizations in 13 countries including Japan, and has been highly praised as a robotics platform. Going forward toward our goal to develop service robots that better cater to the needs of our customers, we are excited by the prospect of collaborating in research and development with PFN, which boasts world-class intelligence technologies.”
Toru Nishikawa, President & CEO of PFN, said: “Since our establishment in 2014, at PFN we have used deep-learning to develop intelligent hardware for automobiles and industrial robots. At CEATEC Japan 2018, we demonstrated a robot capable of cleaning a room in a fully automated manner; we applied deep-learning technologies to create an HSR that could pick up and put down undefined objects, draw up its own operation plans, and respond to human instructions. HSR is an outstanding robotic platform. By engaging in joint research and development with Toyota, who created the HSR, we hope to accelerate development of the functions necessary for robots to work in human living environments. Our goal is to realize the practical implementation of service robots for the first time in the world.”
Going forward, Toyota and PFN will work on joint development of service robots that have the intelligence to respond to various needs so that we can contribute to enhancing the quality of life for more people.