Retired Army Ranger and Toyota robot conduct Special Ops

Decorated war veteran Romulo (Romy) Camargo starts his day at home like most other people. He wakes up, has some breakfast, brushes his teeth and gets dressed. But because he is paralysed from the neck down through injuries he suffered when serving in Afghanistan, his morning routine needs some assistance – which is where Toyota is learning how to help.

Thanks to Romy, Toyota recently completed its first North American in-home trial of its Human Support Robot (HSR), one of the “partner robots” it is developing to help people with everyday activities. It’s part of Toyota’s research into advanced technologies that can help those with limited mobility, including the elderly and disabled people.

During the trial the robot helped with everyday tasks such as opening doors and fetching water and snacks from the kitchen. The goal was to help Romy regain some of his independence and improve his quality of life. A video showing Toyota’s work with the former Army Ranger can be viewed below.

Doug Moore, a senior manager at Toyota Motor North America’s Technology for Human Support, said: “At Toyota we have a commitment to enriching lives by advancing mobility for all, whether it’s around town or across your living room. 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, Romy 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.

Toyota’s wide-ranging research into how robotics can be used to help people with limited mobility includes: –

  • The Welwalk WW-1000, a robotic leg brace designed to help partially paralysed people walk
  • Project BLAID, a future mobility technology that could people who are blind or have a visual impairment gain better awareness of the environment around them
  • The Transfer Assist Robot, which helps move patients easily from bed to chair and chair to toilet, relieving the burden on the carer
  • The Auto Access Seat, a device designed to help people who have difficulty getting into and out of special vehicles.

The work Toyota has done with Romy Camargo reflects its long-standing support for the USA’s service veterans. It first helped him and his wife in 2015 when it provided last-mile funding to help them open Stay in Step, a non-profit-making recovery centre that provides treatment, rehabilitation and support services to veterans and civilians who have suffered spinal cord injuries. Toyota also works with Hiring our Heroes, which helps find meaningful work opportunities for veterans, service people in transition and military spouses.

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