When you ask a man on the street where revolutionary advanced robots are being developed, he is likely to name Japan and the United States. Japan is well known for such amazing mechanical creations as ASIMO and HRP, as well as robots that dance, engage in martial arts, transform, and play musical instruments. In the United States, the success of iRobot in both military and consumer markets is legendary. The DARPA Grand Challenge demonstrated advanced work on autonomous vehicles. GM has its own autonomous vehicle and expects driverless cars to be on the roads in a few years. (Lexus already has a car on the market that parks itself.)
A true robot connoisseur will include Sweden on the list. The seeds of Cyberdyne Systems technology and the robot uprising might be growing in Gothenburg instead of Sunnyvale, California – all really to serve mankind rather than destroy it of course.
It may seem like ancient history, but Sweden’s ABB is an international giant in industrial robotics. This has helped drive robotics research and education in Sweden for decades. Among current activities, ABB along with other interested companies such as Volvo participate in a large regional program for advanced robotic systems development and commercialization (The Robot Valley) The program also receives government funding to encourage collaboration and commercialization efforts and provides annual science prizes for innovative robotics research throughout the world.
Achievements in software, sensors, and systems have been impressive. Some examples: In 2000, Swedish researchers at Linköpings University reported creation of miniscule submersible robots that “may cruise through your bloodstream looking for misbehaving cells or man the production lines of miniature factories.” (BBC) The world’s first successful flapping wing robotic system (ornithopter) was created at Chalmers University of Technology. (The Humanoid Project) A general purpose spherical robot with applications in security among other things that moves through mud, sand, and snow without getting stuck is commercially available. (Rotundus AB) Husqvarna offers a line of autonomous lawn mowers. Karolinska University research hospital has been a significant contributor in international developments in robot surgery. The Stockholm International Fairs conference center uses autonomous robots to layout its large halls for displays before each show.
Gothenburg based Institute of Robotics in Scandinavia AB (iRobis) is poised to introduce the world’s most advanced artificial intelligence for robotics this year. (related article) Based on successful research in learning and adaptive software at Chalmers, iRobis attracted funding from both Sweden’s largest civilian funding agency and the military. Phase 2 of the research program is aimed at producing complete working prototypes. The iRobis system uses a technique in evolutionary machine learning (“genetic programming”) that has been pegged by some as the front-runner for achieving a technological singularity – a very versatile artificial intelligence that can improve itself to become smarter than humans. Researchers and companies throughout Europe are already contacting iRobis in advance of their initial product launch regarding joint R&D.
Sweden: The Land of Robots
Roger F. Gay has been a reporter, commentator, and international correspondent at MensNewsDaily.com since 2002. (archive)