EU robotics week kicked off yesterday with an aim to draw attention to the various robotics research activities taking shape across Europe. During the course of the coming week the growing importance and influence of robotics systems in a variety of industrial sectors will take centre stage in a series of EU-wide events.
The so-called digital revolution has changed our mind-sets as consumers, thus spurring businesses to switch their approach in order to keep up with our rapidly changing needs and demands. However, and to the detriment of economic growth, the digital shift has not been able to seduce a similarly potent workforce.
In recent weeks a video of a girl – Louise – who appeared to programme a robot to splash her boyfriend with a soft drink cut a viral trail through Internet networks. The EU-financed SMEROBOTICS consortium has now revealed it was behind the widely viewed spoof clip. But their continued efforts to spark an interest among young students in robot technology – particularly its application in industrial manufacturing – aim to communicate the opportunities offered by a sector with burgeoning potential.
‘We are quite overwhelmed by the attention the ‘Louise’ video received: It was much more than we expected. Maybe this is because we chose to present industrial robots to the youth in a new, different and interesting way’ says Jesper Johansen from the Danish Technological Institute, responsible for the campaign.
Researching and developing cognitive robot systems for small and medium-sized manufacturing companies in Europe is at the core of SMEROBITICS work. The use of automated robots in manufacturing is an age-old practice, but while robots are able to execute repetitive and nominal tasks to a high standard, they do not meet the high-flexibility needs of SMEs.
‘There is a need for flexible robots that can be used by production workers on their premises. We hear this from all sides, and those who visit our test-exhibition at our centre in Odense, walk home with renewed inspiration and are probably reconsidering automation and profitability. Now it is up to us and the researchers of the future to meet the expectations – there is still lots of work to be done in this field,’ explains Jesper Johansen.
The Danish Technological Institute, along with four additional European research institutes, continuously examine the use of robots in an SME environment in order to develop new software components aimed at improving communication, understanding and collaboration between humans and robots.
SMEROBOTICS’ end goal is to deploy such robots on SME shop floors, agile enough that companies can change the processes and assignments of the robots without having to call in specialists, thereby liberating the human workforce to concentrate on more challenging tasks in the production cycle.
Set for completion in December 2015, SMEROBOTICS brought together ten partners from five European countries. It received a contribution of EUR 12,149 967 in EU funds under the current ICT framework programme.
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