The five most important robotics trends of 2011 enable volume manufacturing and aim at further integration of robotics with machine vision and automated systems. Some of the trends outlined below discuss very targeted applications, from bomb sniffing to baggage handling, but the developments in each are relevant to other, sometimes very different, types of applications. These developments concern both the design of robots themselves and the systems in which they work. (Separately, take a look at our Slideshow: Humanoid Robots Get Real.)
One of the most significant trends in robotics is the integration of multiple technologies
that will help speed up and automate the factory.
1) Integration. A key trend is the integration of multiple technologies to speed up and automate the factory. Computing Advances Permit New Integration Answers looks at how vision systems, robotics, and 3D laser scanning are being used in a wider range of applications as prices come down and performance goes up. One example is a vision system that verifies box size and the placement of labels on cases coming off a packaging line. Ten years ago, the system would have required cameras and processors costing more than $100,000, but today it can be built using a single camera for around $30,000.
2) Bomb-sniffing robots. Integration is also a major theme in military robots that sniff out bombs. These sophisticated robots integrate sensors, cameras, processors, and various feedback devices. Though they offer a great deal of autonomy and multiple capabilities, their growing complexity is increasing their weight, size, and cost. A new modular design platform, described in Simplifying the Complex in High-Risk Duty Robots, departs from onboard processors and other devices and substitutes direct user control. The robotís path is determined via images transmitted by its wide-angle infrared camera. These and other improvements have reduced costs to the point where 10 robots can be purchased for the cost of one previous model.
vimalkumarp, thanks for the feedback. Also, thanks for the info a while ago on the da Vinci surgical robot. It has a surprising number of potential apps. For example, NASA is using a modified one in a program that's studying how robots can refuel and service space satellites, remotely controlled from Earth:
It's interesting that you post Integration as the number one issue. I just read an article in another trade magazine (I don't remember which one) that was talking about this very issue. The ongoing integration efforts include a change to programming so it more closely resembles PLC programming and is therefore easier for a wider variety of engineers to setup.
Easier than going to Amsterdam: go to youtube and search for "Grenzebach Baggage Handling" to see the baggage robot at work.
Also, if you happen to have a stopover in Amsterdam, you can catch a glimpse at the robots (as the new baggage hall has a window front towards the public side of the airport - the technology does not have to be hidden in the basement ;-)).
Finally, any seriously interested party can get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org, and we can arrange for a site visit.
You´re right. There´s quite a bunch of technologies involved (SW algorithms for online "palletizing", robot controls, vision technology, handling technology, HMI, ...) to have a robot "playing 3D-tetris" in such a complex environment
Chuck, I've been tracking industrial robots, not consumer or office models. But I'd bet there are more of them out there, if the commercials and ads are any indication. I do know that home robots started out pretty pricey, and have been an early adopter phenomenon (read: expensive).
Rob, those are good questions and I'd like to know the same things myself.