The International Robotics fair in Taiwan features the latest in interactive futuristic design. In between the showcase, competitions and various workshops, around 300 different exhibitors from around the world flaunted their hardwares. Some focussed on entertainment, while others put the onus on care.
Amongst the techno-treats on show, an exoskeleton robot – the first self-developed robot of its kind in Taiwan – proved a favorite with punters. Built to help reduce the wearer’s lower-limb loading and generate movement, it can support walking, standing and sitting.
As Wu Cheng-Ha, of the Industrial Technology Research Institute of Taiwan explained, it has the potential to change people’s lives: “These robot legs are designed for people who are paralyzed from waist down, so these legs assist people to get up and walk. They will prevent any further injuries that could happen if the disabled person uses other methods to move around. They have four motors, two at the hips and two at the knees. With these motors imitating the moment of human legs, the disabled are assisted with moving around.”
Every movement is controlled through a keypad hidden beneath the handle of the crutch. Each leg weighs around 23 kilograms, and the batteries are carried on the user’s back.
At 7,500 Euros, the Industrial Technology Research Institute of Taiwan claims these are cheaper than many of the robotic legs produced elsewhere and work has already begun on an even cheaper, lighter second generation of pins.
Elsewhere, visitors to the fair could enjoy the sight of the Sha Yang Ye Company’s miniature prize-fighters. Operators move in front of motion sensors connected to the computers, which then read the movement and send signals to two robots to uppercut to the left, Jab and Grab or stand up after a knockout blow. As developer Shayne Lo explained: “These robots are controlled by the motion detectors. After the movement is read, the robots will follow the command, for example, to punch or to turn around, or to get up.”
The Company says this kind of robotic science is not just for fun – it can also be deployed in a military setting, in battle fields, or other hostile environments whereby the controller’s safety is guaranteed.
Robots are becoming increasingly precise in their movements and their ability to complete intricate tasks. Using computers and cameras in unison, a robot arm is able to calculate the position of objects, pick them up, sort them, move their locations. This could range from lifting luggage in an airport to making very specific movements to decorate a cake.
As Wu Chin-Chia of the Industrial Technology Research Institute of Taiwan explained, it is essentially a simple system: “We are using 3D visual sensors to calculate the position of objects. After that we put the information through Computer-Aided Drafting software. The computer can calculate the estimate position of items that are randomly placed and the robotic arm can pick them up and place them in the desired place”.
If the advances on show at Taiwan’s robotics extravaganza are anything to go by, it is only a matter of time before engineering companies are in a position to offer us products that not only look human but offer functionality way beyond the human. Then consumers will have a real choice to make.