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Roboticists Gear Up For Horizon 2020
by Staff Writers
Brussels, Belgium (SPX) Mar 15, 2012

File image.

THE European Robotics Forum, the largest Robot industry and academia gathering in the EU, was held this year at Odense, Denmark. Delegates heard a renewed commitment to Robotic R and D from the European Commission.

Khalil Rouhana, director for digital content and cognitive systems in DG INFSO in the European Commission, told the 350 delegates that Horizon 2020, a projected 80 euro billion research fund which is planned for the period from 2014 to 2020, will be one of the largest research and innovation budgets in the world.

"Successful economies are those that are able to keep their industrial base modernised", said Rouhana. "Robots are the mainstream technology of the future - in our everyday life, in business and in industry.

Industry and academic collaboration is vital because we need to bring research into practice if European economies are to benefit. This is an investment in the future that will boost the competitiveness of our economies and meet societal challenges."

Bernd Liepert, president of EUROP and chief technical officer at KUKA AG heralded the second European Robotics Week, which will be held in the week commencing 26th November 2012. "Last year, the week featured 350 robotics events across 19 countries and 80,000 people participated.

Our vision is to achieve a higher quality of life for everyone through robotics." Liepert welcomed the platform the Forum gives the robotics community to come together to discuss the latest developments.

The Forum was held over three days, 5th-7th March and the broad theme was "towards new horizons", as the roboticists began preparations for Horizon 2020. The burgeoning field of service robotics was the subject of several workshops and presentations. As sensors, navigation systems and object recognition systems are becoming increasingly sophisticated, the potential benefits for the elderly, the disabled and the caring professions are great.

The Adaptable Living Assistant, for example, is a mobile robot that provides monitoring, cognitive and social assistance, while Kompai features both speech and voice recognition to provide a navigable companion platform which will soon boast health monitoring devices.

Several exhibitors presented their rehabilitation robots, with one, ARMin, winning the prestigious, euRobotics Technology Transfer prize.

Martin Hagele, head of the Department of Robot Systems at Fraunhofer IPA, led the Industrial Robotics strand. He commented: "according to International Federation of Robotics, approximately 150,000 industrial robots were sold worldwide in 2011 and the market is growing as the robotics industry increasingly expands into new markets like food, logistics and the chemical industry. I predict a future where humans and robots work alongside each other collaboratively and without fences".

His words were echoed by Peter Schlaich, senior expert in the field of Production Automation at Robert Bosch Corporate Research: "The industrial market now demands robots able to work without the need for safety barriers, that don't need retooling, capable of learning intuitively and can be set up quickly, as our lines are now used for a matter of months".

The Forum was shown several examples from KUKA's omniRob to Robert Bosch's APAS system, a versatile and rapidly installable robot for a multitude of pick and place jobs. All are expected to be deployed in real life scenarios by 2014.

Morten Ostergaard, Danish minister for Science, Innovation and Higher Education, who attended the opening day of the forum, exclaimed: "The robots are coming! The future has only just begun!"

The euRobotics Coordination Action targets two main objectives: the improvement of cooperation between industry and academia, and the enhancement of public perception of (European) robotics.

The euRobotics Coordination Action is funded by the European Commission within the 7th Framework Programme, ICT Challenge 2: Cognitive Systems, Interaction, Robotics. (FP7-ICT-244852; 01/2010-12/2012). Further information here.


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