With a shortage of nurses predicted for the future, Japanese motor giant Toyota has revealed its own solution to the problem: robots. Back in 2007, the auto manufacturer began a new initiative aiming to develop robots that could integrate into everyday life, called the Toyota Partner Robot program. Since then, we've seen them used for personal transport, playing violin, and even heard plans to send them to the moon. However, the latest developments promise to improve rehabilitation of injured or sick patients, helping with walking, balance, and posture; along with aiding in transferring patients between beds. There are four different designs in all — one combats lower-leg paralysis (pictured above right); another takes body weight to reduce stress on a patient's knee and lower leg; one employs a Segway-like device to help improve balance; and the last (pictured above left) aims to make lifting patients easier for nurses.

Earlier today, we heard that researchers elsewhere in Japan are looking at the potential for robots to help nurse the elderly and disabled, and we've also seen Honda developing robotic walking assistance. However, in contrast with these other programs, Toyota's already aiming towards commercialization — expect to see these in 2013.