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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Robot Stocks 2010

Google Robot Portfolio 2010
The 2010 Robot Stock Winner of Roboland´s robot portfolio is iRobot with +39,38% increase. The stock has now passes the initial $24 IPO price, which is a nice milestone for the company. Irobot has a market cap of $636.6 million; its shares were traded at around $25.01 with a P/E ratio of 30.5 and P/S ratio of 2.1. In November iRobot was named to Forbes’ List of “Best Small Companies in America”.
German KUKA started stock lifting during second half an reached 38,90% driven by new orders from China, USA, South America and Germany. Even the successfully placing of corporate bond was a positive signal for the investors.
Adept had an impressive uptrend during the year but fell back to 27,37% in the last months due to increased losses in First Quarter Fiscal Year 2011 Results.
Intuitive Surgical had a downtrend since April 2010 ending at minus 15,31% caused by weakness in procedure volumes in the second half of the year caused by the economic downturn and remaining hight  unemployment rate. Patients who have lost private insurance coverage are simply not getting medical care at the rate they once did.

Robots@CES 2011

  • Few robot innovations announced 
  • Robots from USA, Japan, Korea, China and Israel 
  • Vacuum cleaning robots and educational toys
  • European robotics is missing
Consumer robotics is still a marginal industry with few international players, few attractive products and hard competition from established segments such as audio, digital imaging, home theater, wireless, content and gaming markets. Only 2% of 2700 exhibitors are listed as robotics exhibitors at the International CES 2011, 6-9 January, Las Vegas, USA, the world's largest consumer technology tradeshow. About 20 companies are represented in the Robotics Tech Zone as part of the Emerging Technology Section.

U.S. Robotics is represented by 6 robot companies - iRobot, Neato Robotics, Metapo, Owirobot and Orbotics, Innovo Labs -, one media company Robotics Trends and the QoLT Foundry, a CMU center for Quality of Life Technology.
Infonaut/GRB CES 2011 Robotics Exhibitors

The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) is presenting the Japan Pavilion at the 2011 International CES Robotics TechZone, for the fourth time since 2007. This year's Japan Pavilion features nine exhibitors, many of them pioneers in their fields such as Cyberdyne, Vstone Co. Ltd, Murata Electronics, PARO. JS-Robotics Inc. is a business venture focusing on research, development, manufacturing and sales of education-oriented IT and robotics. The JETRO promotion brochure claims that JS-Robotics since its establishment in 2006 has achieved sales of over 1000 Educational Robotic Kits. (A small volume in a country with 35.000 elementary and secondary schools)

Korean Robotics is represented by four companies: Yujin Robotics, Mami Robot Corporation, RoboBuilder Co., Whitebox Robotics and Ilshim Global Company Ltd. presenting Windoro is a flat, autonmous window cleaning robot that uses water, detergent and rotating pads to clean glass while navigating with obstacle sensors.

China will be represented by four companies specialized in ODM/OEM robotics such as Jetta (iRobot manufacturer), Shenzen Silver Star, Ecovacs, showing vacuum cleaning robots.

Surprisingly no European robotics company is listed as exhibitor. 

Robotics in the Mind of Ray Kurzweil

Tech visionary and singularity-guru Ray Kurzweil replies to former editor-in-chief of Scientific American John Rennie’s December 2010 critical review of this "slippery futurism". Rennie claims that many of Kurzweil´s predictions "don´t look so good on close inspection." Kurzweil replies with reference to his prediction essay "How My Predictions Are Faring" (October 2010) where he reviews the accuracy of his predictions made for 2009 in The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999) and in The Age of Intelligent Machines (1990), and predictions for 2010 in The Singularity is Near (2005). Kurzweil claims that 89 of his predictions by end 2009 have been "entirely correct", 13 "essentially correct" (realized within just a few years), 3 "partially correct", 2 are "10 year off", 1 "just wrong".

A review of Kurzweil´s predictions shows that robotics is part of his futurist world view but not very dominating. In 1999 Kurzweil predicts "Warfare is dominated by unmanned intelligent airborne devices" (2009). For 2019 he predicts "exoskeletal robotic walkers", "household robots are ubiquitous and reliable", Humans are beginning to have deep relationships with automated personalities. In 2029 a real "robot rights" movement will start and an "open, public debate over what sorts of civil rights and legal protections machines should have." In 2099 "robotic bodies" will populate the world controlled by "thinking computer programs".

In his assessment essay Kurzweil refers to robot examples from Japan (Cyberdyne Robot Suit HAL), Korea (telerobotics) and USA (UAVs, iRobot, da Vinci, Simulated Surgical Systems) that he means verify his robotics predictions. Surprisingly European robotics is not on Kurzweil´s radar screen. It may be his trendspotting blindspot but could also depend on weak European robotics PR. More info here.

Happy New Year from Robotland

With your help, Robotland has met at least 17,000 unique visitors this year (according to Google  hosting statistics). Thank you so much for your continued support, and my best of wishes for the Next Year goes to you!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Global R&D Forecast 2011

Global research and development (R&D) spending is expected to increase by 3.6 percent in 2011 to $1.2 trillion, according to the closely watched Battelle-R&D Magazine 2011 Global R&D Forecast.
R&D Megatrends
• Globalization increasingly is narrowing the R&D gap between countries.
• The U.S. still leads all countries by funding one-third of global R&D.
• China has overtaken Japan as the second highest funder of global R&D.
ICT R&D Trends
Current hardware technology development is responding to growth in a number of areas including cloud computing, Internet servers, mobile computing, wireless, integrated power supplies, satellite-based communications, flexible circuits and displays, multiple-core processors, carbon nanotube circuits, printed circuits and more.
The software industry’s spending on R&D slowed during the recent recession but is projected to see increases in 2010 and 2011. The increase is driven, in part, by the increased adoption of embedded control and interface software in a wide range of applications. Sectors increasingly relying on more software to simulate, design, operate and control products, systems and manufacturing procedures include the telecom, automotive, energy, pharmaceutical, banking and finance, and aerospace and defense industries.
Defense & Security Trends
No segment has a stronger connection to public R&D investment than aerospace, defense and national security. In the past, defense budgets have been minimally affected during periods of budgetary constraints, but this is about to change. Many factors are aligning to change the level and focus of defense spending in the future, including significant budget deficits, the growing federal debt crisis and related scrutiny of discretionary spending like R&D, the sluggish economy, the changing status of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the evolving nature of U.S. defense activities in general. More info.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

US$ 26 Million to Promote Korean Service Robotics in 2011

The Korean Government continues to push Robot Industry forward targeting Korea's global robot market share from the current 10 percent to as much as 20 percent by 2018. The Ministry of Knowledge and Economy (MKE) has announced the service robot industry promotional plan which consists of 10 tasks to support overseas market entry, upgrade robot technologies and discover sectors with a great growth potential. The MKE will invest US$ 26 Million (KRW 30 billion) in 2011 and handpick 10 key areas to speed up overseas market entry by Korean robot makers. The promotional plan also contains market-specific export strategies to boost robot exports, for instance, surveillance robots will be mainly developed and exported to the Middle East, robot maids for the elderly to the US and the EU, and cleaning robots to China and Southeast Asian nations.
Infonaut/GRB: South Korean Service Robotics Industry 2010 (click image to enlarge)
South Korea aims also to take a lead in development of standards for the robot convergence sector and within the Best 8 Project promising robot products will be supported to gain technological competitiveness. The Korean robot industry's competitiveness will also be ramped up by pushing for joint R&D projects with advanced research institutions in the US, Japan and Germany.
So-called robot-meister high schools will be designated and more robot R&D centers will be built at universities. Robot experience centers will be run on a continuing basis and best robot contests will be held.

Monday, December 13, 2010

110 Million Euro for Robot Projects 2010

In 2010 the European Union (EU) has funded 32 robotics projects with 110 Million  Euro. Most of them are funded within ICT Challenge 2:  Cognitive Systems and Robotics focusing at enabling technologies that apply across domains such as robotics and automation, sensing and process control, complex real-world systems, image recognition, natural language understanding, and automated reasoning and decision support.
Infonaut: Robotics EU Projects 2010 (Click on image to enlarge)
The 2010 projects cover a wide range of applications from agrorobotics (CROPS, GARNICS and RHEA), industrial robotics (Custompacker, FIRST-MM, Robofoot) to assistive robotics (KSERA, Mindwalker, RADHAR). 
Two coordinating/network projects (euRobotics, INTRO) aim improve cooperation between industry and academia and to create a new generation of robotic researchers with a broad understanding of the research and technologies needed to build intelligent robots that function in close interaction with humans in unstructured, changing “real word” conditions.

EU ICT Work Programme 2011-2012

The new Work Programme covers activities foreseen to be financed through the 2011 and 2012 budgets of the ICT Programme. Robotics is covered by Challenge 2: Cognitive Systems and Robotics, Challenge 5: ICT for Health, Aging Well, Inclusion and Governance, Challenge 7: ICT for manufacturing & factories of the future and Future and Emerging Technologies (FET). More here.

1,2 Billion Euro to Top 10 European Research Institutions

The Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7) is the biggest ever investment made by the EU in assuring its future as a knowledge-based society. It builds on the successes and experience of previous FPs that have grown in ambition over the years. FP7 has a budget of some €50 billion over the seven years from 2007-2013, constituting an annual average investment that is substantially higher than in previous Framework Programmes and that will, by the end of the period rise, to around 10% of the public spending on research by Member States.
A recent FP7 Evaluation Report claims that the principle of excellence in project selection is largely achieved. In much of the  Cooperation  Programme to which nearly two-thirds of FP7 funding is allocated, leading researchers are being funded.
The Top 10 research organizations account so far for 1,2 billion Euro and the Top 50 for 3,1 billion Euro of EU contributions.
The 10 Top organisations are:

Organization Country Participations EU Contribution €M
1 CNRS FR 501 231
2 Fraunhofer Ges. DE 331 153,1
3 CEA FR 234 118,7
4 Max Planck Ges. DE 238 115,4
5 Univ. of Cambridge UK 215 97,8
6 EPFL CH 165 97,4
7 Univ. of Oxford UK 176 96,7
8 ESF EU 9 93,5
9 ETHZ CH 170 91,7
10 Imperial College UK 175 86,9
Source: FP7 interim evaluation report Nov 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

New Swiss Center of Robotics

A new National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Robotics was opened December 1, 2010 in Lausanne, Switzerland. The new nation-wide centre is consisting of leading research groups across Switzerland with the common objective of developing new, human-oriented robotic technology.
NCCR Robotics gathers top ranked scientists in Switzerland from cutting-edge research institutions: EPFL as the leading house, ETH Zurich, University of Zurich and Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence. The Center will run for up to twelve years, with a funding of about USD 5 million per year. The key research areas, around which the NCCR will be structured, are locomotion and mobility, interaction and manipulation, prosthetic robotics, distributed robotics, and robots for daily life.
A number of professor, PhD and postdoctoral positions are available.  More here

IKEA´s nightmare Swiss Roombots

Forget IKEA flat-pack furniture think Roombots, modular robots to be used as building blocks for furniture that assembles itself,  that can change shape over time - a stool becoming a chair, a set of chairs becoming a sofa. Furniture that moves using actuated joints to different locations depending on the users needs. When not needed, the group of modules create a static structure such as a wall or a box.

Roombots are the robotics vision of researchers at the Biorobotics Lab, EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland. The  project is funded by the Locomorph project and the Swiss National Center of Competence of Research in Robotics (NCCR). Preliminary studied were also funded by Microsoft Research Cambridge and EPFL.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Robotic furniture adopts to people

Denmark continues to stay in top of playful robotics and edutainment. In the city of Odense robotic furniture displaced vertically and adapts to users while they are acting as playground for children and young at heart. The furniture is in the center and newly renovated pedestrian Railway Street, where they help to connect the railway station and city center. Robotic furniture was developed in collaboration with the Municipality of Odense, Denmark's largest manufacturer of street furniture Veksø and actuator company MOVETEC.
Movable furniture allows city residents to create their own seats while playing with height adjustment and lighting.

10 Million Euro for Harvesting Robots

Artist impression of the concept
Clever Robots for Crops CROPS is a large-scale integrating FP7 EU project in the theme Nanotechnologies, Materials and new Production Technologies within the call: Automation and robotics for sustainable crop and forestry management. 
CROPS is coordinated by Wageningen University & Research Centre (WUR) and will develop scientific know-how for a highly configurable, modular and clever carrier platform that includes modular parallel manipulators and intelligent tools (sensors, algorithms, sprayers, grippers) that can be easily installed onto the carrier and are capable of adapting to new tasks and conditions. Several technological demonstrators will be developed for high value crops like greenhouse vegetables, fruits in orchards, and grapes for premium wines. The CROPS robotic platform will be capable of site-specific spraying (targets spray only towards foliage and selective targets) and selective harvesting of fruit (detects the fruit, determines its ripeness, moves towards the fruit, grasps it and softly detaches it). Another objective of CROPS is to develop techniques for reliable detection and classification of obstacles and other objects to enable successful autonomous navigation and operation in plantations and forests. The agricultural and forestry applications share many research areas, primarily regarding sensing and learning capabilities.
See also Robotics in Agriculture Research Program

Monday, December 06, 2010

NEC Robot Promotion Videos

Japan is famous not only for its robots but also for its special media and ads culture. The latest example is a promotion video from NEC with cute PaPeRo robots supported by a male cheer squad.

Communication robot PaPeRo developed by Japanese NEC since 1997 is a personal robot that can recognize and speak over 3000 words, notify its owner of incoming messages, give updated information, recognize faces, send video messages, dance, play games, and remotely control other electronic devices.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Robot Arm wins First Prize in Taiwanese Robot Competition

A research team led by Prof. Tzuu-Hseng S. Li of Department of Electrical Engineering at National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) was awarded the first prize and NT$400,000 in the 2010 National Robot Competition, hosted by HIWIN Technologies Corporation and Industrial Development Bureau, Ministry of Economic Affairs, with the invention of sophisticated intelligent robot arms.
The 2010 National Robot Competition includes categories of dancing, lifting, brushing and categorizing, emphasizing the flexibility, stability and lifting ability of the robot arms.
The 2010 National Robot Competition was organized by Robotics Association Taiwan and co-organized by Precision Machinery Research Development Center, integrates the three major themes of intelligent robots, intelligent machinery arms and security robots, aiming to stimulate creativities, promote industry-academia cooperation, cultivate outstanding talents and encourage the development of Taiwan’s robot industry.

Friday, December 03, 2010

50 Billion Connected Things 2020

Ericsson the world's leading provider of technology and services to telecom operators envisions over 50 billion connected devices in 2020. "In the future everything that will be benefit from being connected will be connected", said President and CEO Hans Vestberg in April 2010, when he met the shareholders in his new position for the first time at the Annual General Meeting of Shareholders in Stockholm. For every seven people on the face of the earth, there are now five mobile connections. In June 2010 the world passed the 5 billion subscription mark

Infonaut: ASIMO@AEC 2010
Connected Things 

  • 30 billion connected consumer devices (3 billion x 10 connected devices)
  • 1 billion vehicles
  • 3 billion utility meters
  • 100 billion embedded processors shipped (cumulative) 

Example from Sweden

Based on this vision Swedish telecom operator Telia expects 300 million connected devices in 2020, reports NyTeknik. Head of Telia Reseach Lars Klasson lists cameras, security alarms, washing machines and surveillance cameras as examples. Of Sweden's 12,2 million mobile subscriptions about 2 million (14%) devices, mostly utility meters, are already connected via the mobile network, but also alarms, cameras and vehicles are mobile connected.
What about Connected Robots?

Connected robots are not mentioned but will amount for some 100 millions in 2020-2035.  Here some predictions from Japan and South Korea. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) expects the Japanese market for service robots based on domestic production will grow to US$ 12 billion by 2020 and US$ 60 billion by 2035. This means 24 to 120 million US$ 500 service robots.
"One Robot in Every Home"

In 2007 Bill Gates envisioned "one robot in every home". The Korean government has already a stated goal of one robot in every Korean Kindergarten by 2013 and one robot in every home by 2020. 
If service robotics takes a similar path as the mobile phone did in the 20th century we may have 5 billion mobile robots around year 2030. 
The Unknown Unknown
  • What will this mean for society and our daily life? 
  • What are the great opportunities, what are the great risks? 
  • Are we prepared to live with billions of connected machines? 
  • What questions haven´t been asked yet? 
  • Any blindspots or tabus? 

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Soft Robotics wins German Innovation Prize 2010

At an official award ceremony held on the evening of 1 December 2010, Germany’s President, Christian Wulff, presented Dr. Peter Post and Markus Fischer of Festo and Andrzej Grzesiak of the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation (IPA) with the 250,000-euro “Deutscher Zukunftspreis 2010”.

Bionic Handling Assistant

The Bionic Handling Assistant is a light, free-moving “third hand” system. Thanks to its structural compliance, direct contact between humans and machines humans and machine is now no longer a danger.

The research team developed the Bionic Handling Assistant within the framework of Festo’s Bionic Learning Network. Its structure and function were inspired by the elephant’s trunk. The flexible assistance system allows humans and machines to work together safely and efficiently as a team for the first time. Possible areas of use therefore include industry, agriculture, the home and even care facilities.

Freedom of movement and adaptive gripping
Eleven degrees of freedom open up a host of task-specific transport directions which, in contrast to conventional handling systems, are not restricted to linear axes. Sensors detect the paths and precisely adjust the system. The adaptive fingers grasp objects positively and non-positively and make the system a genuine assistant when it comes to sorting and moving sensitive objects or supporting assembly processes.
About Festo
Festo is a leading international supplier of automation technology. With its innovations and problem-solving expertise in the field of pneumatics and electronics, the company has established itself as the performance leader in its sector. Festo’s innovative strength is demonstrated by over 100 new products which it launches every year and the 2,900 patents it holds worldwide. Its new approach to product development using bionics and biomechatronics within the framework of the Bionic Learning Network, represents a true first in the field of automation technology.
About Fraunhofer IPA
The research and development focus of the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA is on organizational and technological tasks related to production. Since 2005, the institute has been aiding partners and clients both in the planning and design of new products as well as the redesigning and optimization of existing product lines using generative manufacturing processes.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

$20 Million for Heartland Robotics Secret Robot

Heartland Robotics, Cambidge, MA, founded by robotics MIT professor Rodney Brooks, raised $20 M in Series B financing led by new investor Highland Capital Partner and joined by Sigma Partner, Carles River Ventures and Bezos Expeditions.

Buy a Robot and Save America

The company has high robotics and patriotic ambitions with their "touchable" robots that "will reinvigorate industry and inject new life into the economy. Making businesses more competitive. Keeping jobs from moving overseas. Demonstrating the power of American ingenuity."
There is still secrecy about the new industrial robot technology. At RIA Homepage it is reported that they develop a light-weight robot with a torso, one or two arms with grippers, camera as head, and on a rolling base. This robot with a price point at $ 5000 will make U.S. manufacturing more productive and efficient.

Secret Robotleaks?

Well, it isn´t hard to find out that this robot concept was born at MIT CSAIL Robotics Center, where Brooks has worked in many years with smart guys like Aaron Edsinger and Eduardo Torres-Jara devoping robots like upper-torso humanoid robot DOMO and Obrero humanoid robot especialized in sensitive manipulation. Edsinger co-founded robotics startups HeeHeeHee Labs and Meka Robotics. Meka is developing lightweight compliant robot arms, hands, grippers, humanoid heads and torsos, mobile robotic platform capable of omnidirectional motion.
MIT CSAIL Eduardo Torres-Jara Obrero 
With Obreo and Meka in mind, it would be a surprise if the 27+ Heartland guys would invent something  radical different. The scientific work and prototyping has been done, the team is formed and investors have been convinced to finance product development, business and manufacturing planning.

2.4 Million U.S. Jobs Lost

What is left is to prove  that it is possible to bring back manufacturing to the U.S. by starting manufacturing smart robots in the U.S. but not overseas. If Heartland can do that, they must have found a disruptive innovation that can outperform high-tech manufacturing Chinese workers. If it can bring back the 2.4 million U.S. jobs that have been lost or displaced between 2001 and 2009 to China is unlikely.

According to the Alliance of American Manufacturing losses in the Computer and the Peripheral Equipment sub-sector make up more than half of the job losses in the Computer and Electronic Parts sector and 13.7% of the total jobs lost to China in the 2001-2008 period.

Well, Brooks founded iRobot in 1990, incorporated in 2000 and made the company a world leader in defense and home robotics. Will he repeat that success with Heartland Robotics to "demonstrate the power of American ingenuity"? 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Robocon 2011 ABU Asia-Pacific Robot Contest 2011 Bangkok

The Asia-Pacific Robot Contest (ABU Robocon) is an Asian Oceanian College robot competition. founded in 2002 by Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union. In the competition robots compete to complete a task within a set period of time. The contest aims to create friendship among young people with similar interests who will lead their countries in the 21st century, as well as help advance engineering and broadcasting technologies in the region. The event is broadcast in many countries through ABU member broadcasters. In the last three years teams from China have been awarded both the ABU Robocon Award and the Grand Prix. 
The Robocon 2011 Contest will be held August 26-30, Bangkok Thailand. The 2011 contest theme is Loy Krathong, Lighting Happiness with Friendship. See video introduction below. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Winner of the 4th Robot Award 2010

The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has announced the winners from  92 applicants of the "4th Robot of the Year Award" 2010.

Soft Robot wins Grand Prize 2010

METI: Safe Human-Robot Interaction
The winner of the Minister Award Prize 2010 for industrial robots is Toyota Motor Corporation, Ochiai Nekus Inc. Nagoya Institute of Technology and Tokyo Metropolitan University for its low power 80W energy-saving comfortable robot  installed at the Toyota car assembly plant working safely in cooperation with people.

Since 2006, METI has presented the "Robot of the Year" awards in recognition of contributions to market creation and the most promising robots of that year. The award program has resulted in an increase in the number of inquiries received by the winning companies and otherwise helped to achieve increased visibility for robots and achieve market creation.

Venture Business Award was awarded to the Pork Ham Automatic Slitting and Deboner Robot HAMDAS-R developed by Mayekawa. It is a mechanized slitting process assumed to be the most difficult for automation by optimally controlling knives incorporated in vertical multi-joint robots. This system has achieved high or higher yield ration than a skilled-workers do.  The system doesn't cut off the meat but debone with dismantling so the meat is free from the damages caused by knife. Since human hands don't touch the meat, the problem of sanitation and security is highly improved. HAMDAS-R will contribute yield ration improvement and man-power saving.

Japan Machinery Federation President Award was awarded to the Medication Picking Robot System developed by Panasonic Healthcare Corporation.

Organization for Small & Medium Enterprises Chairman Award was awardet to Expliner high pressure transmission lines inspection robot developed by HiBot Inc.

Hisashi Tate Award Miraikan was awarded to "Kibo" Robotic Arm developed by Agency Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and NEC Corporation (NEC).

Service robot sector "Excellence Award" was awarded to humanoid robot HRP-4C developed by National Institute of AIST 
Courtesy AIST: HRP-4C

HRP-4C was efficiently developed based on the User Centered Robot Open Architecture utilizing the fundamental robot technologies (RTs) including real-time Linux, RT middleware, robot simulator OpenHRP3, speech recognition and bipedal walking technology which have been studied and developed at AIST .

HRP-4C is expected to be useful in the entertainment industry, for device evaluation for humans working as human simulators, and mechanical products to assist human movements.

Service robot sector "Excellence Award" was also awarded to the strawberry harvesting robot developed by Bio-oriented Technology Research Advancement Institution (BRAIN) and Esuai Seiko Co., Ltd, and to and joystick driving system developed by National University Corporation Tokyo University of Agriculture and Automotive Industry Co., Ltd. Nissin.

Industrial Robots division "Excellence Award" was awarded to M-1iA light weight and compact high speed assembly robot series developed by FANUC Robot.

Public sector Frontier "Excellence Award"
was awarded to FRIGO-M fire-fighting reconnaissance robot developed by Special Equipment Systems Co., Mitsubishi denki and Fire Academy and Fire Research Ministry.

Component Software Division "Excellence Award"
was awarded to Module D3 service robot communication kit developed by D3 Technology Co., Ltd.

Robot Award of the Year Winners 2006-2010 (click image to enlarge)
Infonaut/GRB - Robot Award of the Year Winners 2006-2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

$20 million for High School Student Robotics Program

United States Foundation For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), a nonprofit organization in Manchester, N.H. founded by U.S. entrepreneur Dean Kamen in 1989 to encourage youth to become leaders in science and technology, will get up to $20 million over the next five years of NASA to support a national program to inspire student interest in science, technology and mathematics with a focus on robotic technology.
NASA is the largest organization involved with FIRST and has participated since 1995. In 1999, NASA and FIRST signed a memorandum of agreement to cooperatively expand the availability of technology development, education and inspiration programs to students throughout the country.

FIRST reaches about 235.000 students most of them via FIRST LEGO League (FLL) with over 147.000 students ages 9-16 years, in 57 countries and with a design and build format utilizing Danish LEGO Mindstorm technologies.

As reported here before also Google will provide $3 million to support FIRST robotics teams. 

In 1998, The LEGO Group was a pioneer in educational consumer robotics with the launch of the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Robotics Invention System, that introduced children to the world of robotics.
The Danish LEGO Group’s revenue in 2009 was about US $ 2,09 billion (DKK 11,661 million) an increase by 22.4%.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Factory of the Future

Japanese Kawada Industries demonstrated in 2009 their idea of future factory workers that with their versatile arms and precise movements can cooperate with each other and humans. The upper body humanoid robots are equipped with special sensors that allow it to remain mindful of humans in its vicinity, particularly in a production line environment.

The upper body humanoid robots are based on the HIRO platform developed by Kawada Industries, Inc. with its background and know-how gained from lease and maintenance business with biped humanoid robot, HRP-2 “Promet.” By keeping the price low - about US$ 65.000 for basic version - Kawada released HIRO as an upper body humanoid robot platform that enables users to carry out practical robotics research activities. HIRO enables its users to develop important technologies for next generation robotics including safety devices, image processing, voice recognition/synthesis, and work in real human environments. By incorporating an environment recognition device, for instance, an exterior camera, HIRO becomes a suitable research tool to developing future generation robotics systems.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Walkman is Dead, Dancegirl Alive.

Virtual robot Hatsune Miku (初音ミク?) is a singing synthesizer application and its female character, developed by Crypton Future Media. It uses Yamaha Corporation's Vocaloid synthesizing technology. Customers can purchase the digital avatal and then program to perform any song on a computer. But that´s not all, now Hatsune Miku, the Singer in the Box, has jumped on stadium stages in 3D Hologram as part of a concert tour, where capacity crowds waved their glow sticks and sang along.

Guess, what´s next? Hatsune Miku downloaded to a female HRP-4C android body. Who will be first to launch  a new generation robotic Dance Girls? Japanese Robot Yuenchi or French Aldebaran? One Hatsune Miku in every home! Let´s Dance!

Obama´s meeting with Japanese robots

At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Yokohama, Japan, U.S. President Barack Obama met Japanese female humanoid robot HRP-4C and therapy robot PARO. He even sat down in the latest version of Toyota's i-REAL personal mobility vehicle, but there was not time for a real test drive.

Interesting to note from the video above are the different reactions of the president related to the robots. The meeting with the talking and gesturing android is formal without any interaction, while the president is directly touching seal robot PARO when talking to the demonstrators. He seems even more interested, even a bit scary, when sitting in the personal vehicle.
Soft robotic animals are more attractive to the U.S. president than plastic androids. The test ride was very short and caused some balancing problems.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Opera Mecatronica

35 meters below earth in a unique 13000 m3 exhibition space, which was Sweden’s first nuclear reactor, designed for scientific research, built in 1954 and phased out in 1970s, robot marionette Olimpia and robot swan Robocygne perform mecatronical dances at the Opera Mecatronica exhibition in Stockholm.
Olimpia is a three‐meter tall three‐dimensional creation built from rusty and patinated machine parts that dance in a curiously human like manner whilst singing an aria from The Tales of Hoffmann.

Swedish choreographer and dancer Åsa Unander-Scharin and her team of composers, visual artists, computer programmers and robot designers have created six installations at the exhibition Opera Mecatronica. The dancing robot swan Robocygne is dancing to Carl Unander-­‐Scharin’s electroacoustic version of Tchaikovsky’s majestic music from Swan Lake. Robocygne was developed at Mälardalen University and had its debut at the Swedish Book Fair in Gothenburg in September 2010.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Winning Robot Boat from Austria

Image: INNOC ASV Roboat

Austria's ASV Roboat remains the undisputed world champion in robotic sailing. The completely automatic sailing boat from the  Austrian INNOC research team was able to defend its title against eight competitors from the USA, Great Britain, Canada and Germany at this year's World Robotic Sailing Championship (WRSC) in Canada from the 7th to the 10th of June 2010. All in all, the participating boats had to prove their worth in six disciplines. By using artificial intelligence, robotic sailing boats can, in the long term, be set on any course – fully automated and without human involvement. INNOC – Austrian Society for Innovative Computer Sciences is an independent research center founded in 2005 and located in Vienna, Austria. INNOC focuses its scientific work at Cognitive Systems, Robotics, Electronics and Embedded Systems.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Robot Cleaning 2010 - from gadget to appliance?

Ten years after that the first home cleaning robot - the Trilobite 1.0. - of Swedish Electrolux became commercially available as a mass product, a new generation of cleaning robots has been launched 2010 promising clean floors and time saving. Home robotics is cool again and growth expectations are high. In 2001 Trilobite 1.0 was an expensive US$ 2000 gadget but also a milestone in the history of cleaning robotics. It opened the market for many other companies such as iRobot (2002), Kärcher (2004), Sharper Image (2004) Hanool (2005), Yujin (2005) etc. 
According to the robotics bible "Handbook of Robotics" published in 2008 the market size for full-size household vacuum cleaners in the US was estimated to be close to 20 million units in 2003. The ratio between domestic cleaning robots sold worldwide from 2002 to 2006 and regular vacuum cleaners sold only in the U.S. during the same time was 1:40. Conservatively estimated, this ratio may be around 1:400 or worse worldwide. Given these figures domestic cleaning robots still seem to be considered to be gadgets rather than appliances." (Handbook of Robotics 2008, page 1279).
Shenzhen Silver Star Intelligent Electronic Ltd
Two years later the IFR Service Robotics 2010 study estimates 5.6 million units for domestic use have been sold up to end of 2009, most of these are cleaning robots. IFR statistics claim about one million vacuum cleaning robots sold in 2009, 7% fewer than in 2008. With an average price of US $400 per unit the cleaning robot market may be valued US $400 million in 2009. A forecast of WinterGreen Research for 2016 anticipates cleaning robot sales of US$ 2 billion in 2016, which means 4 million cleaning robots worldwide. Well, compared to smart phones that sell in millions, cleaning robots still have problems to attract the masses. Apple sold 1 million iPhones in 74 days and 1.7 million iPhone 4 units for the first three days the device was available to customers.
Today there are at least 20 brands and 100 different models of cleaning robots on the market in the price range US$ 69 to US$ 1500. American iRobot is the leader with more than 5 million Roomba robots sold in 10 years.
Image: GRB/Infonaut Cleaning Robots 2010. (Click image to enlarge)

But there are many competitors around the corner. New features such as anti-cliff sensors, side brushes, UV light, built in fragrant compartment for deodorizing, washable filters, scheduling etc. have been introduced in the last 10 years. New navigation technologies have been recently implemented by companies like Neato Robotics, Evolution Robotics, Samsung and LG. New entrants like Taiwanese electronic giants ASUS and MSI have identified home robotics as a post-netbook growth market. Chinese manufacturers offer already 50+ different models. The image above shows a selection of cleaning robots from only one of these companies, which can supply 50,000 sets per month each.

Philips FC9910/01 HomeRun
Prices are falling, but so do product and service quality. A look into user forums shows a mixed picture of happy and angry owners of robot cleaners. When the market is flooded with low priced vacuum cleaner robots from Asia, the number of frustrated consumers increases and so do the electronics rubbish tips. Electronic giant Philips seems to see opportunities for advanced models and has decided to make a late entry with the brand new Homerun FC9910/01 cleaning robot, equipped with an integrated camera, 14 infrared sensors, USB port and with scalable software which allows it to create mappable grids for effective cleaning. On a 3 hour charge it offers 100 minutes of cleaning. Sales of Homerun starts in France priced at 700 Euros ($ 885). 2011 will show if cleaning robots have grown up to be accepted as useful cleaning appliances or if they are still funny gadgets for some million robot nerds.

Grant Cleaning Robots Challenge 2012?
The First International Contest for Autonomous Cleaning Robots took place on October 1-3, 2002, in Lausanne, Switzerland at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne. The general objective of this contest was to bring together representatives from the cleaning industry and appliance manufacturers as well as young researchers, future customers and users, and draw their attention to an emerging technology. The goal was to clean within 10 minutes a 5 x 5 m sugar covered room as good as possible. Of total 12 teams the winner of the competition was the Czech team with robot Berta. 2012 would be a great opportunity to challenge the robotics industry with a "Grant Cleaning Challenge" for cleaning robots under the rule of professional cleaning criteria and real consumer demands. If cleaning robots want to invade peoples homes they have to be better, cheaper and greener than traditional vacuum cleaners. If they aren´t, they may have trubble to survive. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cleaning Robot Idea for Development

Swedish Electrolux offshored its vacuum cleaner production to Hungary in 2004 and closed the Swedish factory in Vaestervik. Robot cleaner Trilobite 2.0 became the second and last generation from the Swedish  consumer robotics pioneer. Sad for customers but also for creative developers behind a concept idea of a multi-functional robot cleaner. The idea responds perfectly to what cleaning experts claim for a healthy home - not only cleaning of floors but also textile furniture. Take a look at the video below. 

BTW, Electrolux had launched the Ergorapido 2in1 manual stick vacuum in 2004 and the idea of robot cleaner and stick vac was not so new in 2006. But the idea is great and I´m sure multi-functional cleaning robots will come. Who will be first with a green, affordable and effective solution? 

At Yanko Design a very similar All-In-One Robot Cleaner design concept of In-oh Yoo & Sun-woong Oh for Metatrend Institute  was published May 2010. 

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Positive Market Signs from Japan

A recent November report carried out by JARA, the Japanese Robot Association, shows significant growth of +86,1% in Q3 2010 robot orders in Japan. This was four consecutive quarters of positive growth. The production value was 2,4 times higher than one year ago.
According to JARA robot demand is driven by the automotive industry that is shifting to electric cars and hybrid vehicles, the electronic industry under strong sales of telecommunications equipment and semiconductor industry.
Looking at the overseas market, China has become the center for mounting electronic components and welding due to strong smartphone sales. In addition, exports to Europe are going up.

Source: JARA/Infonaut

Friday, November 05, 2010

Celebrating 10.000 visits mark

To our visitors and readers! 
Today Robotland passed the 10.000 visits mark. A great day and a wonderful feeling to look at the global map visualizing spots of Robotland readers. 

Thank you to all, who have contributed with links, great robotics ideas and comments since our counting start in Februari 2010.  Robotland will continue to watch the global robotsphere, report about exciting events, analyze robotics innovations and explore future challenges and robotics visions. 

The new Global Robotics Brain Cloud will be released very soon including 20.000 robotics research organisations and companies with 35.000 links to people, projects, places and 8.000 webpages. 
We invite you to join by signing up for the beta test. 

Robotics Timeline
Celebrating 50 Years of Robotics a brand new Robotics Timeline is now open for preview.  

 Please, send an e-mail to grb[ at ] if you are interested in a preview. 

Thursday, November 04, 2010

World's most advanced Robot Runners

Recently Bloomberg/Business Week has listed 20 of the Worlds's most advanced robots. Surprisingly the list doesn´t include two of the world's most advanced humanoid runners: ASIMO from Honda running 6 km/hr and Toyota's humanoid running 7 km/hr.

The video below shows a Toyota robot displaying balancing skills and running (i.e. feet completely leave the ground with each stride) at 7 km/h.
Toyota Humanoid run


Run with ASIMO App

Honda has released 'Run with ASIMO,' a funand informative iPhone app featuring a race around the Suzuka circuit in ASIMO Grand Prix, and a visual history of Honda's bipedal robot development. (Android version will be available in mid- to late-November.)

Great idea HONDA to get people running instead of driving! 

Robonaut 2 Ready for Liftoff

NASA will launch the first human-like robot to space today to become a permanent resident of the International Space Station (ISS). Robonaut 2, or R2, was developed jointly by NASA and General Motors under a cooperative agreement to develop a robotic assistant that can work alongside humans, whether they are astronauts in space or workers at GM manufacturing plants on Earth.
The 300-pound R2 consists of a head and a torso with two arms and two hands.

R2 will launch on space shuttle Discovery as part of the STS-133 mission. Once aboard the station, engineers will monitor how the robot operates in weightlessness.

GM plans to use technologies from R2 in future advanced vehicle safety systems and manufacturing plant applications

R2 Prep for Liftoff video below.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Robotic Theater at Copernicus Science Centre, Warsaw

At the brand new Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw Polen, three robotic actors are ready for the grand opening on Friday 5th November. The RoboThespians will be performing two scientifically-themed plays in both Polish and English within a purpose built theatre. One play is based on the short story “Prince Ferrix and the Princess Crystal” by Stanislaw Lem. 
Below is a preview of the Robotic Theatre – Teatru Robotycznego.

The fully programmable humanoid robots are developed by UK company Engineered Arts Ltd. specialised in the design and build of imaginative, interactive exhibitions, audio visual and mixed media installations. RoboThespian™ robot actors, which are installed in science museums and public venues around the world have  three major applications: to meet and greet visitors, to interact with the public, and to perform. At the Shanghai Expo 2010, "Jack" the RoboThespian greeted visitors as they walked through the Macau Pavilion exhibition area. At the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh "Andy Roid" the RoboThespian greets visitors entering the roboworld exhibition. 

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

€ 1,2 Million for Danish-German Robot Project

Handling and packing of natural objects from agriculture and food industry is still mainly a manual process. This because no robot currently available is able to handle the degree of flexibility found in these products.
In Southern Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein, there is a rather large food industry that could become endangered if production costs rise. Here, it would be advantageous to upgrade production with intelligent robotic assembly, which at the same time will upgrade the qualifications and required skills of the workers.

The Danish-German cross-boarder robotics project IFRO (Intelligent Robots for handling of Flexible Objects) is aims at bundling expertise within computer vision and robotics across the Danish-German border and supplying a competence center that links to industry as well as research and educational centers in the regions. The € 1,2 Million project is sponsored by the INTERREG 4A programme Syddanmark-Schleswig-K.E.R.N and The European Union’s "The European Regional Development Fund" with € 0,8 million.

Robotics Skills & Knowledge Wanted

Japanese CYBERDYNE Inc. is offering R&D engineering positions available for highly qualified individuals who are willing to challenge the leading edge of technology.

Here is the list of required qualifications:
Required skills: Robot Design, Mechanical/Mechanism Design, Dynamics, Kinematics, 3-D CAD, CAM, CAE, Circuit design/Electronic design, Programming, Application development (interface/data base), Designing sense, Cybernic technologies.

Required knowledge: Mechanical engineering, Mechanical design, Robot control theory, Robotics
Informatics, Computer sciences, Digital and analogue circuit design, Sensing circuit design, Human interface theory, Telecommunication programming, Programming languages (C, C++, JAVA, XML, Objective-C, etc.), Operation System (Linux, OSX, Windows, Tron, etc.), Data base (i.e. SQL, Oracle etc.), Cybernics, Physiology, Physiotherapy, Brain/Nerve Sciences, System Engineering, Other professional knowledges.

Candidates with communication skills in Japanese are preferable. Candidates are required to be residing in Japan prior to the application.

Monday, November 01, 2010

How will we work and play with Robots & Avatars in 10-15 years?

Robots and Avatars is an innovative programme in the UK developed by body>data>space with key partner NESTA. It is designed to explore how young people will work and play with new representational forms of virtual and physical life in 10-15 years time. It examines multi-identity evolutions of today’s younger generations within the context of a world in which virtual and physical spaces are increasingly blended. Robots and Avatars are producing a series of vodcasts which are available to view on their site. They explore the themes of the programme, including Artifical Intelligence, Behaviours and Ethics, Health and Wellbeing and the Future Workplace from the perspective of a diverse array of professionals and experts, who share their expertise and insight in this series of interviews.innovation experts are exploring

Robots and Avatars Vodcast #1 from body>data>space on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

French Robot Ballet at World Expo 2010

One of the robotics highlights at the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai was the robot ballet performed by 20 synchronized Nao robots of French Aldebran Technolgies. The 8 minutes dance involved information exchanges between the NAOs by WiFi or infrared signals. The robots were not remote-controlled, but able to "think" and act together.

Aldebaran Robotics Nao Robot Show in France Pavilion Shanghai Expo 2010
Video credit: Aldreba

The Nao robots are also playing at Robocup, the world´s largets robotics competition, that was held 2010 in Singapore. In July 2007, Nao was nominated as the official platform for the standard league by the RoboCup Organizing Committee, and successor to Sony’s Aibo robot dog.

ASIMO 10th Anniversary

ASIMO has reached a huge milestone and will celebrate its 10th Anniversary on 31st October. A decade ago, Honda created a humanoid robot so advanced it started a revolution in humanoid robot technology. To mark this date, dedicated Anniversary websites and films have been launched today, with new photos, videos, the story of its creation and smartphone apps.

Click here to view ASIMO's Anniversary celebrations - ( 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Swedish Service Robotics 2010

Country Profile Sweden  - Service Robotics 2010
Sweden has a highy developed robotics industry with market leaders in industrial, service and consumer robotics such as ABB Robotics, Atlas Copco, Delaval, Electrolux and Saab. These global players are supported by small highly specialised development companies in optronics, system design and integration.
The network graph below shows leading Swedish service robotics companies and some of their links to each other.
(Click on the image for large view).

Image: GRB/Infonaut 2010

If you are interested in this or other robotics industry graphs from around the world contact Infonaut.