Business / Tech | SEEN AT CEATEC

Toshiba unveils a humanoid robot that could be a sign of the times

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff writer

If you visit the Toshiba booth at CEATEC this week you’ll be greeted by ChihiraAico, who can communicate in sign language . . . and who just happens to be an android.

In the future Toshiba Corp. foresees its humanoid communication robot not only handling front-desk reception but also assisting with nursing care.

The lifelike robot, which has smooth silicone-based skin, was jointly created by aLab Inc., Osaka University, Shibaura Institute of Technology and Shonan Institute of Technology.

Chihira’s unique talent is her ability to sign. Hitoshi Tokuda, manager of Toshiba’s marketing group in the new business development division, said while the robot’s hardware was provided by aLab Inc. and Osaka University, Toshiba developed the algorithm that coordinates the 43 servomotors that move her arms and hands. The technology was derived from the firm’s extensive experience in the production of industrial robots.

While Toshiba’s primary target is the healthcare and welfare fields, Tokuda said it also hopes business customers will be interested in hiring Chihira for events or communicating with customers.

Tokuda said the firm is also planning to release a software development kit for third-party developers, which will hopefully kickstart unforeseen uses for the robot.

Toshiba hopes that by 2020, the year of the Tokyo Summer Olympics, the quality of this robot will have be evolved enough that she can act as a guide for foreign visitors.

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