You might expect that any robot event here would automatically be standing-room-only, but the RoboTech Exhibition 2010 last week wasn't crowded at all. In fact, it was extremely low key, and low energy.
“In odd numbered years, like 2007, 2009, or 2011, Tokyo plays host to the International Robot Exhibition, the world’s largest robot show. But in even numbered years, like 2010, there really aren’t any comparable robot shows or exhibitions. However, there are a few smaller, less well attended, robot shows. Although they lack the huge attendance and excitement of major announcements, they do serve to keep interest in robotics very much alive and well.
Last week the RoboTech Show was held at the Big Sight convention center in Tokyo. As you can see from the photos, the attendance was pretty slim. This was primarily due to the unusually hot and humid summer weather and the fact that it’s currently vacation season here.
Most of the show attendees were people already involved in the robot industry, and many that were actively exhibiting at the show.
Many of the booths featured university research projects, regional business development organizations, and consulting design engineers looking to attract new projects.
There were no new ground breaking robot product introductions. Almost all of the robots and robot related products featured at the show have been around for several years, including old favorites like the cute Chapit robot that recognizes speech and engages in a pseudo conversation.
Some products, including the IXS semaphore frog signaling car navigation directions showed a lot of creativity but don’t seem positioned to fill a strong customer need.
In contrast, the RakuRobo Desktop Factory system shows a lot of potential. By scaling down large factory automation technology to desk top size, and achieving a major price reduction, the company foresees strong market demand for low volume, high variability product manufacturing and assembly.
The Yurina patient handling system, developed by Japan Logic Machine for use in hospitals and senior centers, also addresses a significant social problem. Unfortunately it’s maximum load rating is only 80 kg, way below where we tip the scales.
We were lucky enough to spend some 1:1 quality time with the Paro robot seal, and have considerable video footage that demonstrates why Paro has been so successful.
VStone, who we understand has taken over the marketing of JR robot products, was the only hobby robot company with a major presence at RoboTech. We’re always fascinated by their omni-directional video camera setup.
HiBot, based in Tokyo, was another interesting find at the show. Their business model involves developing complete robot systems for unique, often hazardous, applications. At the same time they sell a wide range of sub-assemblies and circuits to other companies for use in robot applications.
There were also several rugged wheeled robots designed for rescue robot use and remote inspection in difficult locations, like underneath building foundations.
Japan’s emphasis on developing robots for medical and senior care continues. The most interesting development at RoboTech was the Rapuda robot arm that can be attached to wheelchairs, tables, or other surfaces and is used by patients to pick up bottles, cups and other objects to feed themselves.
Some advanced sensors were on display including force transducers that have been used in many of the high performance Japanese humanoid robots.
The most surprising, and most interesting, robot developments for us at RoboTech was at the micro or even nano size end of the spectrum. We will be posting some video footage of the microscope ultrasonic motors driving optical mirrors and tiny robot platforms.
One company doing impressive robot development work at the nano-level is FANUC. Their strategy seems right on target in scaling down robot technology to extremely tiny size while improving overall performance at the same time.