New Applications for Industrial Robotics: Robotics Summit 2010

Industrial robotics 2
The next online robotics summit is scheduled for Wednesday, October 27, 2010. The latest summit is focusing on "New Applications for Industrial Robotics" and promises to be interesting. Several of the speakers and sessions will be particularly relevant, addressing important topics like close robot/human interaction and contact, as well as the competitive advantages that can be realized through effective implementation of robotics in many different business sectors. Also, the organizers have lined up a wide range of companies and technologies presenting their latest developments.

In some ways, you could think of this as a major robotics tradeshow, but without the pain, strain, and expense of having to fly to a major city, rent a car, pay for a hotel room, and lose the productive work time while you're away from the office. Of course, it doesn't have the same cachet as some physical tradeshows in attractive locations where your family could be off enjoying the beach or Disneyland while you sit through the seminars.

There are several sessions then we have particular interest in. The morning session in the Factory Automation Solutions track, “Workspace Sharing between Robots and People: Lessons Gained from Medical Applications” promises to be particularly useful and insightful. According to the description, the talk will address robots sharing workspaces with people and all that differs dramatically from the typical factory automation environment. Knowledge and experience gained through two different medical applications, surgery and rehabilitation, that require close personal contact and physical interaction between robots and people will be covered.

We're also looking forward to hear what John Dulchinos, the CEO of Adept Technologies, as to say in his keynote presentation. His topic, “ Automation: the Competitive Equalizer", is particularly relevant in these tough economic times when companies are struggling just to survive. Robotics and automation technology won't solve all their problems, but they can certainly go a long way towards improving competitiveness, optimizing throughput, bettering business response times, and allowing companies to be more flexible in responding to rapidly changing business conditions and customer demands.

We attended the last robotics summit and came away with mixed emotions. On the one hand, it was great to have access to all the vendors and information at our pace. The vendors that we interacted with online were very responsive and knowledgeable, which was refreshing compared to a physical tradeshow where the really knowledgeable people at any booth are totally overloaded and stressed out. The online format was also a blessing for our feet and back. No aches and pains from spending an entire day walking in a snails pace on cold concrete in a convention center.

The downside was that the organizers, in our opinion, tried to mimic a real physical tradeshow too much. So, many of the exhibitors pages/booths looked like miniature versions of the real thing and were often kind of cartoonish. But, since this kind of format is relatively new and untried, we have high hopes that it will improve over time as the organizers and the exhibitors gain experience and get feedback from visitors to the summit.

Some of the exhibitors are offering giveaway premiums to summit participants. For example, Barrett Technologies is going to send free T-shirts to the first 50 attendees that visit their site. Genesis Systems Group, specializing in multi-robot Mig welding and material handling, will have visitors enter for a chance to win a new Apple iPod touch. Wind River, a leader in embedded device software development, is planning to give away a windup dancing robot to the first 50 visitors, and they also plan to have an iPad giveaway. It's hard to know which boost to run to first to maximize our chances to get one of the prizes.

All that being said, the virtual robotics summit should represent an excellent chance to quickly and easily assess the market, see what the major suppliers and competitors are up to, and discover new business opportunities. We plan to participate, even though it will be the middle of the night for us here.

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