Getting There: Mobility As a Social Issue and How Toyota is Making Moves

What if I told you there’s technology that can open a door and bring you a glass of water from across a room? 

My guess is you would wonder why. Why did someone devote time and brainpower to create an alternative means for such simple, rudimentary tasks? For a lot of us, these tasks are so basic that we don’t even think about them. 

But for some people, they aren’t so simple – and that can make a big difference in their day-to-day lives. Imagine you need water, but you can’t get up to get some. Imagine you’re outside an unlocked door, but you can’t turn the handle to let yourself in. Suddenly that technology sounds a lot more useful, doesn’t it?

Toyota’s Human Support Robot

If you were at the Net Impact conference, you may have had the chance to meet our Human Support Robot, or HSR. For more than [20] years, Toyota has been working to develop “partner robots”, like the HSR, with the goal of supporting people who require help with everyday tasks, just as they are.

For those of you who didn’t have a chance to stop by, here’s a short video of our first in-home trial with the HSR and Romy Camargo, a decorated U.S. war veteran, who is paralyzed from the neck down. 

Mobility for All

Now you may be wondering what Toyota has to do with robots. You probably know us for our cars and trucks, and now we’re talking about going off-road in a new way. 

Here’s the thing: our goal is the same, whether we’re making great vehicles or assistive robots. Toyota creates solutions that help people get where they want and need to be – whether it’s across town or across the room.

That’s why we at Toyota believe that everyone should have access to mobility, no matter their circumstances, so they can live better lives and fulfill their potential. We call it “Mobility for All.”

How does this fit into my role as Chief Social Innovation Officer? Many people may not think about mobility as a social cause, but it is. Where you can go is directly tied to the opportunities you can access, like conferences for learning and networking, but also jobs, classes and doctor’s appointments – and these, as you know, can be life-changing. 

Based on what we learned with Romy and his family, we focused on the HSR’s functionality on three “high-value” services to meet his individual needs: opening doors; fetching a bottle of water and retrieving a snack from the pantry. These may seem like simple tasks, but we know from Romy that they can go a long way towards enriching his quality of life and enabling him do more with greater freedom, independence and confidence.  

We’re proud of what the HSR can do—but at the end of the day, we’re most excited about what Romy can do. 

There’s lots more work ahead on the HSR and other exciting projects, but we are committed to helping people get where they want and need to be, because we know that, just like the HSR, mobility opens doors.

Thank you to Toyota for being a Convening Sponsor at the 2017 Net Impact Conference. 

Comments

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Al Smith - Toyota’s Group Vice President Social Innovation

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