Quality Magazine

Chicago Expo Showcases Robots Ready to Assist Humans

June 8, 2009

ROSEMONT, IL - The International Robots, Vision & Motion Control Show showed first-hand how far the science and business of robotics has progressed. At the 2009 show in Chicago, held June 9 to 11, 2009,  visitors were able to see robots more up-close-and-personal than ever before.

Thanks to advances in machine vision technology, artificial intelligence and robot safety, among others, robots are gaining a new level of practicality and human/machine integration. Among the examples of cutting-edge robotics at the show, held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in suburban Rosemont, are the following:

The ReadyBot, a low-cost, two-armed mobile service robot that can be used in both industrial and home applications. Designed to prove the viability of a mass-produced robotic product, the ReadyBot will demonstrate its dexterity in doing tasks as diverse as parts retrieval and light assembly, and domestic chores like getting food and cleaning dishes.

Toyota’s Partner Robot, an example of the “personality” that can be built into robots for real-world use. On display in the show’s main stage, Toyota’s robot is a 4-foot-9-inch, 88-pound bipedal creation that plays the trumpet to the delight of audiences. Toyota hopes to develop Partner Robots to assist people in four core fields: nursing/medical care, housekeeping, manufacturing and personal mobility.

Military Robotics is the subject of the conference’s keynote presentation from Mrs. Ellen Purdy, Enterprise Director of the Joint Ground Robotics Enterprise, part of the Office of the Under-Secretary of Defense. Ms. Purdy explained her agency’s part in developing robots that are capable of handling battle-related tasks including minefield clearance, soldier retrieval and enemy reconnaissance.

Therapy is the focus of PARO. This robot looks like a baby seal and its purpose is to provide emotional comfort for elderly and disabled people. Loaded with sensors, intelligence and feedback routines with specific therapeutic benefits, it is lifelike and yet safe to use for patients who cannot realistically manage a live pet.

Representatives from Cornell University demonstrated Self-Learning Robots that can decide for themselves how they want to walk, what their shape or appearance is, or even how to construct other robots just like themselves. By allowing robots to learn and make their own decisions, they will be more resilient at adapting to unanticipated conditions.

Hands-on Highway is the chance for visitors to the show to see just how easy it is to use robotics, machine vision and motion control technology. Exhibitors in Hands-On Highway offered quick, self-guided demonstrations focused on issues like ease of use, cost justification, and productivity enhancement.

Another aspect of the evolving robotics industry covered at the 2009 International Robots, Vision & Motion Control Show was the emphasis on green technology. Throughout the show, exhibitors and conference speakers emphasized how robots help reduce scrap materials and control waste, as well as conserve energy by enabling tasks to be done faster with less energy. One of the newest innovations is the advent of “lights out” manufacturing; because robots often can operate in the dark, they can complete tasks in rooms with low-level or even no light-a way to significantly reduce energy costs.

Attracting 125 exhibitors and 5,000 industry attendees from more than 30 countries around the globe, the International Robots, Vision & Motion Control Show focused on all aspects of robotics technology, from how manufacturing companies can become more competitive and efficient with robotics to the newest robot applications and research projects. Together, robotics and machine vision account for $2.5 billion in annual sales in North America.