The biennial International Robot Exhibition is billed as the largest robot trade show in the world. Gizmag went along to this month's 21st edition in Tokyo, which attracted more companies and 20 percent more visitors than iREX 2013, to check out the latest developments in the world of robotics.
Under the theme "Making a Future with Robots" iREX 2015 was divided into two main sections – Service Robots and Industrial Robots. There was also an area devoted to the latest robotics
research and development being done by universities and institutions. It is also notable that 2015 marks the beginning of the Japanese government's Robot Revolution Initiative – a five year mission is to create and nurture relationships between enterprises, business associations and research institutions.
Here's a quick look at some of the highlights.
Examples of industrial robots abound at IREX and 2015 was no exception. From manufacturing and assembly robots to oddly-shaped inspection robots, the exhibitions displayed a high degree of speed, artificial intelligence and autonomy.
One idea for this upgrade is that their workstation does not need to be so ordered or well laid out as before. It also allows a much higher level of variability within the assemble process, so undertaking consecutive, but totally different builds. There are also special cases when an inspection robot needs to make an on the spot decision on how to proceed. It was notable though, that a human operator was ever present in the background and with their hand covering a large RED OFF BUTTON.
This Epson Robot was able to assemble two completely different products from what looked like a fairly messy work station
Several companies focussed on co-robots designed to team up with, rather than replace humans on the factory floor and elsewhere.
CORO from Life Robotics demonstrates the close proximity in which a human and a robot can safely work together
The future of agriculture was also in the spotlight at iREX 2015 – an issue that's particlarly important in Japan where the average age of a farmer is getting very close to the legal retirement age. Kubota, Iseki and Yanmar were among the companies exhibiting robotic products designed to help with the high physical and repetitive workloads in cultivating, planting and harvesting the land.
This student-designed robot allows the user to concentrate on planting seeds or picking fruit as it automatically controls the direction and speed
Japanese manufacturer Yanmar aims to have a Robot Tractor on the market soon. Prototypes are currently being tested in four areas in Japan doing various farming operations. The principal is that the robot tractor works in conjunction with a human-driven one that's doing a related task
Robots that help aging populations retains their independence represent a key growth sector within the robotics industry. In addition to providing assistance in physical tasks, these types of robots are increasingly designed to monitor feeling and mood to form a personal relationship with human users.
Toyota's HSR (Human Support Robot) is designed to provide home help for the elderly or handicapped person. It sees using three types of cameras and can be controlled by voice commands or your smart phone or tablet.
Many of Japan's elderly citizens are keener to walk than ride on a small mobility vehicles – the RT1 power assist walker is designed to help facilitate this by taking the strain uphill climbs and carrying goods
Entertainment, education and humanoid robots
From sophisticated DIY robot kits to cute character robots designed to chat with 7-year olds and unnerving humanoids, iREX did not disappoint in 2015. Visit our iREX 2015 photo gallery to check out more of the highlights from the show floor.
This DIY elephant is an example of what can be made from a prototype kit called Delta 2 from UBTECH Robotics
Leonardo da Vinci Android Initiative: Created by Minoru Asada, a professor of adaptive machine systems from Osaka, this familiar looking humanoid robot aims to teach children about just how amazing Leonardo da Vinci was – and what better way to do it than to let the great man speak about his work in his own words.