This New Soft Humanoid Robot By Toyota Can Pick Things Up With Its Whole Body

While most humanoid robots rely on hand-based manipulation, Toyota introduced Punyo, a soft robot designed to mimic human movements, particularly when lifting and carrying bulky items.

With a cuddly appearance and a focus on hugging, Punyo boasts an endearing design reminiscent of Disney’s Baymax, with a friendly face and a cozy sweater-like exterior. This soft outer layer, made of grippy materials and equipped with tactile sensors, enables Punyo to feel and interact with objects in a huggable manner.

Unlike traditional humanoid robots with dexterous hands, Punyo features deformable, inflatable pads resembling hooves, which Toyota refers to as “paws.” These paws, monitored by cameras, allow Punyo to sense and interact with its surroundings. Punyo’s arms are also equipped with air-filled bladders, providing added softness and flexibility during object manipulation tasks.

Toyota researchers are training Punyo to handle various large objects using teleoperation techniques. From hugging items to its chest and lifting them to more complex maneuvers like slinging a water jug onto its shoulder, Punyo demonstrates a more natural approach to object manipulation than other robots.

Punyo’s learning process utilizes AI algorithms like those employed in Toyota’s previous kitchen task demonstration. Through a diffusion policy learning system, Punyo learns from examples and adjusts variables such as motion imitation and task priority to perform tasks autonomously and efficiently.

While Punyo’s hug-focused approach may not be suitable for all scenarios, it presents a promising solution for tasks requiring gentle handling and close interaction, especially in domestic settings.

As humanoid robots like Punyo evolve, their ability to assist with various tasks, including caregiving, opens up new possibilities for human-robot interaction in everyday life.

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