Japan gets all the cool stuff. Last week the International Robot Exhibition (iREX) finished in Tokyo with hundreds of exhibitors and more than 100,000 visitors. iREX 2009 focused on enhancing market awareness for current and emerging robot technologies. As such, companies put their best robots on display and hyped their abilities and possible applications. If there's a robot that's going to make a big splash in the industry in the next few years, chances are it was at the exhibition. Check out some of the cool pics and videos after the break.
Humanoid robots received the lion's share of attention. Industrial grade human-replacements such as the Motoman series, and Nextage were represented. Nextage actually helped open the exhibition, and Motoman put on a light saber dance show (see the videos below). Kondo, king of small humanoid robotics kits, had several advanced models on display. Kokoro had one of its creepy/lovely Actroids set up to answer questions and interact with visitors. The latest incarnation of TOSY's ping pong playing robot, Topio, was taking on challengers and trying to intimidate them with its robotic abs (see photo below). In raising market awareness at iREX, the most common tactic seemed to be making robots more human. That strategy even extended into models whose shape is no where near the humanoid form. There were even industrial lifters and movers with happy faces on them.
The trend towards humanizing robotics isn't new, and perhaps I shouldn't feign surprise at its nearly universal application at iREX. These robots are on display to help them sell, and humans love to purchase things that remind them of themselves.
Still, as attractive as robot-humanity may be, it's not the only way to move merchandise. In the following video from IDG News, we see Mitsubishi using Lego toys to help them promote their latest industrial robotic arms.
And lest you think that humans get all the robotic fun, check out this next video (also from IDG) and the super cute baby seal bot at 0:27.
The bots at iREX are certainly impressive, but the vast majority are not new. Crowd favorites, like Nao, have been around for years, and make return appearances at every exhibition. Large commercial/public venues like this are just as much about displaying small upgrades in systems as they are about premiering new models. Perhaps what should really impress us, then, is the sheer number of robots on exhibition. If any doubt the breadth and depth of the industry, iREX serves as a persuasive reminder that the field of robotics is continuing to expand at an extraordinary rate.
[photo credits: Pink Tentacle]