Tokyo – 9 September 2021 – Toppan has leveraged virtual reality (VR) and computer vision (CV) technologies to develop TransBots, a digital twin solution that makes it possible to centrally manage and control multiple robots of different types. TransBots links real-world spaces at exhibitions and venues with replica VR spaces in real time and enables centralized management and coordinated control of multiple robots.
TransBots has been adopted as the robot-enabled remote participation system for the World Robot Challenge, part of the World Robot Summit 2020 (WRS2020) being held in September (Aichi) and October (Fukushima) this year. Multiple telepresence robots controlled remotely will move around the competition venue, and live footage filmed by the robots will be streamed via WRS VIRTUAL.2
Against the background of Japan’s decreasing population and super-ageing society, the use of robots is garnering increasing attention as a way to supplement a workforce affected by labor shortages. With an increase in the number of elderly people requiring nursing care services, solutions that employ remotely controlled robots are being considered to address human resource shortages in the nursing care industry and insufficient numbers of doctors and nurses for increasingly depopulated islands and provincial areas.
The way in which people work and live has also been affected significantly by Covid-19 and measures to prevent the spread of infection. Restrictions on movement and efforts to avoid contact and face-to-face interactions are spurring a rapid increase in the use of contactless communication tools. As the digitalization of society accelerates, recent years have seen increasing interest in so-called ‘digital twin’ technologies, including online communication and virtual experiences that take advantage of VR, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT).
Addressing these challenges, Toppan has applied its accumulated expertise in VR and CV to develop TransBots, a digital twin solution giving rise to a new type of communication that combines video chat in virtual spaces with remotely controlled telepresence robots. Using the TransBots management dashboard, operators can set courses in a VR space for the movement of robots.
Robots in the real space estimate their current location and can move autonomously and safely to their destination, avoiding obstacles on their designated courses and speaking to ensure the safety of people in the vicinity. Being able to set courses in a VR space means that robots can also be controlled remotely from distant locations.
These functions are expected to enable a range of possible applications that include remote participation in exhibitions and large-scale events with restricted admission and provision of online medical services to island residents. In addition to telepresence robots, the use of various other services robots, such as transportation robots, mobile picking robots, and drones, will also be possible.
By developing TransBots and other solutions that support the use of digital twins, Toppan aims to contribute to fulfilling, sustainable living. Targeting the launch of commercially available services in 2022, Toppan will advance the application of TransBots by conducting pilot testing of telepresence robot services linked to hospital services, such as doctors’ rounds, medical examination, distribution of medication, and consultations, and to facility usage, such as meetings and reception services at shared offices.
Features of TransBots
・Coordinated control of multiple robots of different types
With TranBots, regardless of the type of robot, central management and coordinated control of multiple robots is enabled by reflecting the result of the simulation in the VR space in the movement of robots in the real space. Even when multiple robots are present within the same space, they are able to ascertain each other’s positions and avoid collisions.
・Simple, safe control of robots
When courses for robots’ movements are set from the management dashboard, the robots estimate their current location and move autonomously to their respective destinations while avoiding obstacles on their designated courses and speaking to ensure the safety of people in the vicinity. Anyone can control the movement of robots because course setting requires no advanced expertise and operators do not need to perform complex operations.
・Digital twins linked to VR and other communication tools can be created
Diverse needs can be addressed by linking digital twins to other tools offered by Toppan, such as IoA Work,3 IoANeck,4 and V-MESSE.5
1. Coordinated control: Synchronized operation of multiple robots.
2. WRS VIRTUAL: A 3D space within the WRS2020 official website that allows users anywhere in the world to freely explore the world of WRS.
3. IoA Work: A service using remote experience technologies to provide a new remote working environment in which users can freely select the office in which they work from real and virtual spaces.
4. IoANeck: A wearable device worn around the neck that makes it possible for users to share experiences with people in distant locations by exchanging video and other content via a device mounted at the front.
5. V-MESSE: A platform that enables the customization and use of a range of functions required to hold online exhibitions.
The World Robot Summit 2020 & the World Robot Challenge
WRS2020 Aichi: September 9 to 12, 2021, at the Aichi International Exhibition Center [Aichi Sky Expo] (Tokoname, Aichi Prefecture)
WRS2020 Fukushima: October 8 to 10, 2021, at the Fukushima Robot Test Field (Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture)
Organizers: Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) Official website: https://wrs.nedo.go.jp/en/
WRS VIRTUAL: https://wrs.nedo.go.jp/en/virtual/
About telepresence robots
In the development of TransBots, Toppan collaborated with the following robot manufacturers:
1) Ohmni® Robot: OhmniLabs, Inc. (USA)
Distributor for Japan: Elmatec Corporation http://www.elematec.com/en/
2) temi – The Personal Robot: temi USA inc. (USA) Distributor for Japan: hapi-robo st, Inc.
3) THOUZER –Collaborative transportation robot: Doog Inc. https://doog-inc.com/en/