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Toyota robot helps disabled war veteran with day-to-day tasks

Steve Rogerson
July 5, 2017

Injuries in Afghanistan to decorated US war veteran Romulo (Romy) Camargo left him paralysed from the neck down. But a robot from Japanese company Toyota is helping him manage his day-to-day routine.
Carmargo starts his day like most people. He wakes up, gets a drink of water, has some breakfast, brushes his teeth and gets dressed. But for Camargo these morning routines require some assistance, and Toyota is learning how to help.
Thanks to Camargo, Toyota recently completed the first North American in-home trial of the HSR human support robot. The HSR is one of the partner robots it is developing to assist people with everyday activities. Toyota is actively researching ways to apply advanced technologies to help people with limited mobility, including seniors or those who are disabled.
During the trial, the robot assisted Camargo with everyday tasks in his home, including opening doors and delivering bottles of water or snacks from the pantry. The ultimate goal was to help him regain some of his independence and improve his quality of life.
“At Toyota, we have a commitment to enriching lives by advancing mobility for all, whether it’s around town or across your living room,” said Doug Moore, senior manager at Toyota Motor in North America. “This includes developing technology to assist people with limited mobility. We see our research with Romy and the HSR as a natural extension of our work as a mobility company that helps people navigate their world.”
Recalling his first reaction to the HSR, Camargo said: “When they opened the box, and I saw the robot, I figured we would unfold the next chapter in human support robots helping people with disabilities – like this research is going to change the world.”
Other Toyota research aimed at applying robotics to assist people with limited mobility include:

  • Welwalk WW-1000: A wearable robotic leg brace designed to help partially paralysed people walk;
  • Project Blaid: A future mobility technology that could help people who are blind or have visual impairments gain better environmental awareness;
  • Transfer assist robot: A robot that helps transfer adult patients easily from bed to chair and chair to toilet, without overburdening the caregiver; and
  • Auto access seat: A device designed to help people who have difficulty entering and exiting special vehicles, such as seniors or others with limited mobility, do so more easily.
The company first began working with Camargo in 2015 when it provided last-kilometre funding to help him and his wife Gaby open Stay in Step, a non-profit recovery centre that provides treatment, rehabilitation and support services to veterans and civilians with spinal-cord injuries.
Toyota also works with Hiring Our Heroes to help veterans, transition service members and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities. To date, Toyota’s partnership with Hiring Our Heroes has led to more than 28,000 direct hires.