You are on page 1of 20

Building the

European Robotics Platform – EUROP

Sectoral Report on

Service Robotics

Working Group Members: Nicola Tomatis, Bluebotics (CH) Pierre Bureaux, K-Team (CH) Hansruedi Fruh, Neuronics (CH) Rodolphe Gelin and Raymond Fournier, CEA (FR) Vincent Dupourqué, Joseph Lorang and Damien Salle, Robosoft (FR) Olivier Merigeaux, Sinters (FR) Albert Van Breemen and Bart Dirkx, Philips (NL) Gian Paolo Sanguinetti, Ansaldo Ricerche (IT) Clementina Pagano, Camera di Commercio di Genova (IT) David Corsini, Telerobot (IT) Curt Nyberg and Johann Zita, Electrolux (SE) Juhani Lempiäinen, Deltatron (SF) Patrick Finlay, Armstrong (UK) John S Anderson, BAE Systems (UK) Alan Rolfe, Oxford Technologies (UK) Richard Greenhill, Shadow Robotics (UK) Authors & Editors: Rodolphe Gelin and Henrik Christensen

29 May 2005
1

Table of Contents
Table of Contents......................................................................................................................................... 2 Executive Summary..................................................................................................................................... 3 1. 1.1 1.2 INTRODUCTION .......................................................................................................................... 5 Scope of the Report .......................................................................................................................... 5 Context ............................................................................................................................................. 5 Professional service robots ...................................................................................................... 6 Domestic robots and robots for personal / private use............................................................. 6 Entertainment/Education Robots (Toys).................................................................................. 7

1.2.1 1.2.2 1.2.3 2. 3.

THE BACKGROUND: OVERVIEW OF THE MARKET........................................................ 8 EUROPE’S POSITIONING AND CHALLENGES.................................................................. 12 3.1 Europe’s Competitive Status in the World Market ............................................................................ 12 3.2 Guiding Vision & Objectives............................................................................................................. 12 3.2 Technological challenges................................................................................................................... 14 3.3 Non-Technological Challenges.......................................................................................................... 15

4.

OPPORTUNITIES AND THREATS ......................................................................................... 17 4.1 Opportunities ..................................................................................................................................... 17 4.2 Threats ............................................................................................................................................... 18

5.

CONCLUSIONS........................................................................................................................... 20

2

there has been an exponential growth in service robotics for private use in homes. helping people do what they want to do in a natural and intuitive manner.3 million service robots for personal and private use with strong future forecasts (6. These new robot technologies represent a hope for a most convenient world in Europe and world wide. surgical operators. etc. the growing spread of ubiquitous computing will lead to robot technologies being embedded into ubiquitous ICT networks to become the agents of physical action. construction and demolition. Further. individually or collectively as a group. electronics. for delivering. Over the last 5 years. learn and adapt their behaviour to the requirements of the task they are given and the environment they are in. In the same way as mobile phones and laptops have changed our daily lives. The key objective of the report is to motivate the strategic importance and the benefits for Europe to launch a European Technology Platform in Robotics which will be including.7 billion turnover expected from 2004 to 2007). 3 . Service robots could soon perform much more challenging tasks than those in the above applications. high added value industry. performance and efficiency. with the growing emergence of ubiquitous computing and communication environments. novel capabilities. by end of the year 2003 some 21. resulting in the active home. these significant social benefits should not overshadow the significant commercial opportunities for professional. robots will be able to call upon an unlimited knowledge base and coordinate their activities with other devices and systems. Since the introduction of the autonomous vacuum cleaner by 2000 the market has grown to more than 600. e. that robots interact with people and with each other and evolve. according to a recent report from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). The basis of this empowerment is that robots work with people rather than away from people. These will be very large markets and a very large worldwide supply network will develop in the provision of robotic products and support services. Some 220 companies (about 70% of these are young start-ups) develop and distribute service robots thus forming a new breed of innovative driven.) for increasing industrial productivity and for competitive manufacturing. Indeed. Long accepted by industry to improve factory quality. The report proposes a long-term vision (10-25 years) towards novel robot systems and their use in future service applications. robots are at last moving out of the shop-floor to find their way in our homes and offices. mining. and. among others. toys. cleaning. These so called service robots start proliferating around.g. a part of everyday life. and operating in field areas like forestry. After decades of hype and disappointment. robotics has for at least three decades been a key technology in engineering industries (automotive. However. hospitals. decision making and acting will become part of these networks of artefacts. freight transport. lawn mowers. personal and domestic robots. actuating. as our helpers and eldercare companions.000 service robots were used in professional applications world wide in addition to more than 1.Executive Summary Robotics is a technology at the cusp. as our appliances. This sectorial report presents the shared views from a number of experts working in leading European industrial companies in service robotic applications. sooner or later. The service market is at present experiencing an exponential growth with an increase of more than 400% per year. the major area of service robotics. assisting surgeons in medical operations. window washers. museums and other public spaces. third party upgrades of software and / or hardware. Moreover. servants and assistants. Robots as units capable of moving around. intervening in hazardous or life-critical environments for search and rescue operations. etc. Personal assistant robots will enable a greater proportion of the population to live independently in their own homes and require less hospital or care-home based support. robots are poised to become. etc. in the form of self-navigating vacuum cleaners.000 units shipped per year. The European vision for future service robotics is that of robots empowering European citizens. sensing. office and public environment. agriculture. These perspectives offer significant business opportunities for European industry. The robot systems of the next decade will be human assistants. enabling greater social inclusion and helping meet the challenges of the EU’s greying population. applications and services.

Europe has to focus its development in a same way on some well chosen specific objectives. • Europe has the necessary ingredients to meet successfully its ambitions in creating a world leading European service robotics industry. they concentrated the efforts of their research labs and companies towards this goal. investment to build the first products. The objective will be to drastically increase intelligence and autonomy of robots through advanced cognition.Related key technology challenges that need to be addressed in order to prepare a vibrant and very competitive European industry in service robotic applications include: • • Robotic components: Design and development of marketable key robotic components (sensors. 4 . control and action capabilities. Europe has strong brand names in white goods and domestic services and many big companies are ready to play a very active role in the future market of service robotics. More than 100 high tech SMEs have been created in Europe the last 5 years. robust and “plug-and-play” service robot systems. − Network-centric robotic systems: Embedding into. standardisation to turn competition between actors into general profit. This report proposes some concrete lines of action in this direction. flexible and dependable arms and efficient grasping mechanisms. modelling and development of new. actuators. Intelligent and cognitive robot systems operating in human environments and co-operating with people through intuitive multimodal interfaces. with more than 200 universities and research institutes offering education and research in robotics. Europe has also several world leading academic teams in robotics research. and thus creating an unparalleled basis in qualification and knowledge. What is missing is organisation of cooperation between the actors. for achieving goals in everyday environments. When Japan or Korea decided to build a humanoid robot. dependable. by bringing together the main industrial and academic robotic players around such a European initiative. bringing many new innovative solutions in the service robotics market. locomotion systems) with standardised interfaces. co-ordination and interaction of robot systems with smart IT infrastructure. SMEs and research labs have the capacity to develop the missing robotic technology and final users begin to be convinced of the interest of robotics in everyday life. including: − Integrated modular systems (“plug & play” robotics): Advanced modular design. System Engineering issues.

Both technology and non technology key challenges are identified that need to be address in the coming years in order to implement such vision. summarises the objectives and importance of a European initiative on service robotics in order for Europe to become world leader in these huge future markets. servants and assistants. interact with people and with other robots in a most natural and intuitive manner. individually or collectively as a group. Car manufacturers and other large production industries have installed on a massive scale robotic manipulators to address repetitive but delicate tasks or force requiring manipulations. as our helpers and elder-care companions. applications and services. and more broadly. among other areas. intervening in hazardous or life-critical 5 . In the same way as mobile phones and laptops have changed our daily lives. After a comprehensive overview of the present world market status and its future prospects for development.1 Scope of the Report This report describes robotic systems and technologies for service applications. deliver to people. it provides a guiding vision for the development of the European service robotics industry over the next 10-25 years. assist people in carrying out their everyday tasks. robots are poised to become. as our appliances. − Finally. − Section 3 focuses on the European perspectives of the service robotics industry. Industrial robots are today widely adopted by industrial branches and further productivity gains are expected through further technology progress in manipulators and end-effectors and through a wider use of robots in the shop floor. the initiative for setting-up a European Technology Platform in Robotics. robotics has become a synonym for competitive production industry. The key objective of the report is to motivate the strategic importance and the benefits for Europe to launch a European Technology Platform in Robotics which will be including. It is part of a series of reports produced by the participants of EUROP.1. where they are expected to add performance and functionality in future machines and operations. − Section 2 overviews the world market status today in service robotic applications. a host of novel capabilities. − Section 4 identifies the main opportunities and threats that need to be considered in our way towards world leadership in service markets. The next major challenge of robotics will be to make robots and people closely working together. The report is structured as follows: − Section 1 briefly introduces service robotics in the context of their range of potential use in service applications. The report proposes a vision for future European service robotic technologies that is centred on robots empowering European citizens. After a short overview of Europe’s present competitive position in the world market. INTRODUCTION 1. 1. section 5. also those of service robotics. assisting surgeons in medical operations. obstacles to overcome and technology challenges to address in order for the European industry in service robotics to become world leader in these markets. a part of everyday life. sooner or later. the report focuses on the key business drivers. The basis of this empowerment is that of robots that are embedded in ubiquitous computing environments and that work closely with people.2 Context Since the middle of the 20th century.

the growing spread of ubiquitous computing will lead to robot technologies being embedded into ubiquitous ICT networks to become our agents of physical action. Such applications provide a basis to establish the business domain in a wider sense. for delivering.2 Domestic robots and robots for personal / private use These robots are directed at everyday chores such as home vacuuming or floor cleaning and other ordinary domestic tasks. driving assistance. thus allowing them to be more autonomous in their daily lives.) − Autonomous transport (floats of vehicles.2. individually or collectively as a group. mining. SMEs can assume production of such robots. freight transport. decision making and acting will become part of these networks of artefacts. This new sector offers significant business opportunities for European industry. actuating.) − Medical and rehabilitation robots. etc. future personal and domestic robots can add convenience. tanks. The robot systems of the next decade will be human assistants.1 Professional service robots The professional service robots are probably the first service robots that will be available on the market. Moreover. These units will be large scale production items that are aggressively priced. tubes. construction and demolition. enhancing and extending our physical capabilities and our senses. and they will require involvement of mass production companies such as present white-good providers. deep sea exploration. applications and services. Service robots will thus be found in all domains of our future life. − Construction and demolition − Logistics (hospital and office courier systems including mail / drug / meal delivery. assistance and care to our daily life at home. domestic/private robots and entertainment/education robots (toys). pipes etc. Further. factory logistics) and museum guides − Underwater (pipeline inspection. walls. novel capabilities. In the future. Robots as units capable of moving around. robots will be able to call upon an unlimited knowledge base and coordinate their activities with other devices and systems. leisure time will gradually become a still more valuable commodity and consequently people will be willing to pay money to be relieved of such chores. 1. These robots will likely not be produced in huge quantities. sensing. Today’s and future applications include: − vacuum. mass ground transportation) − Cleaning and inspection of floors. repair. They represent not only a hope for a most convenient world but also a massive new market for high technology industry. because they are the answer to specific needs and have clearly defined business cases that could be achieved with a modest R&D effort. window cleaners − room tidiers 6 . They can attract significant attention as a valuable contribution for e-inclusion and independent living for elderly and disabled. cleaning. The potential applications are so numerous that it can be useful to classify them in three main areas: professional service robots. helping people do what they want to do in a natural and intuitive manner. forestry. etc. with the growing emergence of ubiquitous computing and communication environments. mining. and operating in field areas like forestry.environments for search and rescue operations. sewers. etc. agriculture. floor. Moreover. The potential applications include: − Field and outdoor (agriculture. 1. safety.2. orthesis − Exoskeletons for increasing human capabilities in factories or construction.

tele-medicine companion) servants and personal companions 1. modular robotics) − education Regarding professional service robots. mobility assistance. domestic robots or toys. the common idea of developing service robots is systems that operate symbiotically and in close co-operation with people to make them work in the real world in cooperation with people.3 Entertainment/Education Robots (Toys) Entertainment has the advantage that the metric of fun/amusement is radically different from the other two areas. feeder. but to 1-2 exceptions. Today robotic toys typically have a time of use that is in the order of weeks. The market is already well established.2. In the future. there are at present no major providers of such technology in Europe. pool cleaners.− − − − − lawn mowers. In general people pay significant money to “have fun”. massage). fitness. Three kinds of toys can be seen: − pet robots − entertainment (mobile robots in entertainment parks. manipulator. Cars are an excellent example of people paying extra to have a stylish model or extra gadgets. 7 . the introduction of adaptive behaviours and more advanced customisation will result in increased use and corresponding increases in prices. tennis ball collectors. assistants to disabled and elderly person (wheelchair. transfer machine. fallen leaves harvesters and crushers home security personal exercisers for training and rehabilitation (sports.

autonomous vacuum cleaners. such as autonomous lawn mowers. Humanoids are mentioned as a technological challenge more than a real application. Since the introduction of the autonomous vacuum cleaner in year 2000. figures 2 and 3 indicate the present size/value of the domestic and professional robotics market and its prediction for the next 3 years (numbers from UN World Robotics 2003). there has been an exponential growth in service robotics for private use in homes (domestic applications). The growth estimates indicate a clear potential for significant new industrial sectors. Figure 1 indicates the status and the roadmap of service robotics. Figure 1: Service Robotics – Status and Roadmap From a quantitative point of view. Some 220 companies (about 70% of these are young start-ups) develop and distribute service robots thus forming a new breed of innovation-driven high added-value industry.3 million service robots for personal and private use (lawn mowers. the market has also seen other significant products. the market has grown to more than 600.7 billion expected from 2004 to 2007.000 units shipped per year.000 service robots were used in professional applications world wide in addition to more than 1. At the same time.2. The market is at present experiencing an exponential growth with an increase of more than 400% per year. 8 . A report of International Federation of Robotics (IFR) indicates that by the end of the year 2003 some 21. THE BACKGROUND: OVERVIEW OF THE MARKET We mentioned in the introduction the massive market represented by service robotics. Over the last 5 years. robot toys) with strong future forecast: a turnover of 6.

Figure 2: Present value and prediction for the next 3 years for domestic service robotics Figure 3: Present value and prediction for the next 3 years for professional service robotics 9 .

These figures closely approximate those of the UNECE and IFR studies (Source: World Robotics 2004 published by IFR/UNECE). medical. Startling projections of drastic market growth based on scant research is nothing new to nascent technology markets. Recent research by the Japan Robotics Association (JRA). According to the JRA (Figure 4). the service and personal robotics marketplaces together will equal the size of the industrial robotics market (the combination of manufacturing and bio-industrial) by 2005. reaching $5. United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) indicates that the nascent personal and service robotics market will exhibit exceptional near term growth and will surpass the size of the much older industrial robotic market at the end of 2005 (Figures 4-5). Figure 4: Worldwide Robotics Market Growth The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) estimate that the personal and service robotics market will roughly double between 2002 and 2005. To derive data for the personal and service robotics market. 10 .4B in 2005. while sales for toy and entertainment robots will exceed one million units. For example. window cleaning and other types) is expected to reach over 800.000 units. the Japan Robotics Association expects the personal and service robotics market to grow from $600M in 2002 to $5.Other existing quantitative studies indicate a market on the verge of dramatic growth. The number of personal and service robots sold is expected to increase ten-fold between 2002 and 2005 according to the UNECE and IFR. and expand even more quickly after that.2B in 2005 (Figure 5). and will be twice the size of the industrial robotics market by 2010. In fact it is the rule rather than the exception. welfare and home markets. For example. from a recent study of the Japan Robotics Association (JRA). data for the service and personal robotics market can be derived by combining the public sector. one often must extrapolate from existing studies. Sales for domestic robots (vacuum cleaning. and almost 4x its size by 2025. But some assurance as to the validity of estimates can be had if the various studies are in basic agreement. lawn mowing.

Figure 5: Personal and Service Robotics Market Growth 11 .

EUROPE’S POSITIONING AND CHALLENGES 3. Samsung). However. They create a wide basis in qualification and knowledge. add up to large numbers and big market volumes. have developed a high quality offer in this domain. http://www. Although service robots are very diverse in their appearance and functionality. That is probably why Japanese industry was involved very soon in this domain.org) and professional organisations (EUnited Robotics.) are characterized by small to medium series numbers that. but at present the market leaders are American and Korean. Often. some application drivers may have a pioneering effect on their further evolution and overall commercial success. Aquaproduct. It is here crucial for Europe to build strategic alliances between the traditional companies and the technology providers to ensure a market leadership.. They are thus largely depending on typical robotics component suppliers 12 . Korean companies such as LG and Samsung are rapidly entering the market. Husqvarna. underwater etc. Nilfisk and OCRobotics. Traditionally Europe has very strong brand names in high-end white goods and domestic services through companies such as Dyson. the market is going to expand very rapidly. LG. inspection. domestic use and entertainment) we can describe very different market situations as far as Europe’s present competitive position is concerned: − In the professional market.1 Europe’s Competitive Status in the World Market If we divide the service robotics in three market segments (professional applications. robotics is a very active research domain. As much as 60% of all companies involved are from Europe. The entertainment sector has without doubt the most interesting market figures. it will be too difficult and may be already too late for Europe to enter into this market segment. These companies have dominated the mass-market segment and there is a rather limited history of a robotics entertainment industry in Europe.g. Through setup of joint platform it might be possible for Europe to maintain its leadership in a domain that is expected to have an economic value of at least 2B€ over the next 4 years. Therefore. European SMEs begin to invest in the domain of service robotics. as already being seen in USA and Korea. these service robots evolve from existing product lines through adding automation functions and autonomy. Out of the large number of possible product concepts and ideas in specific service robot applications. − − 3. Kärcher. iRobot.roboticsonline.3. the diffusion is gradually happening and Europe has a number of dominant suppliers in this domain such as Hefter. defence. For example.000 units of its world famous AIBO dog robot. Supply chain for a European service robotics industry The majority of service robots for professional use (cleaning machines.com) significantly contribute to improve the coordination of European research and innovation related activities. Miele. Typically SMEs develop and market such systems. Currently it is estimated that some 250 universities and research institutes offer education and research in robotics. Philips and Siemens. the following categories have been identified as being the most promising ones. repair. Based on this innovation and research strength and considering the growing market of personal and entertainment robotics.2 Guiding Vision & Objectives In Europe. security. due to a large variety of existing and anticipated designs. Robotic networks such as EURON (http://www. Companies in these countries have been faster to adapt their business models to be in line with the new market dynamics (e. Electrolux. Sony has managed to sell so far more than 200.euron. In the domestic sector. Other major Japanese companies. as expressed in relevant statistics. such as NEC and Sanyo.

user interfaces. vacuuming aggregates etc. the environment will evolve into robots” said Alex Zelinsky from Australian National University. personal robot families) can offer ubiquitous access to edutainment. simple robot arms/grippers for manipulation. Robot companions It is widely recognized that robots that combine assistance in every day’s tasks (such as fetch-and-carry jobs. Typical operating environments are homes.. vacuum cleaners) in that these will come in customisable product families with scaled functionality. This means that low-cost mobile platforms. Low degree-of-freedom actuators could perform simple tasks such as directing light (active lamp) or watering flowers. They buy such components and configure and integrate them to systems. The robot companion’s functionality depends on catching the intent of untrained users. robotics lawn mowers. The overall design has to follow a fully modular approach to quickly adjust the designs to changing customer preferences. Application areas of robot companions could range from a helper at family homes to executing tasks in offices. public or office environments. identifying.) at acceptable cost and appealing appearance represents a bright business case. medium and long-term objectives: 1-5 years: − a robot that moves around in office-like environments − an efficient vacuum cleaner and floor cleaner − an upper limb orthesis − inter-operability / robotic modules to be coupled together 5-10 years: − a robot that moves around at home and can physically interact with the environment − a robot that is the interface between people and domotic networks − a lower limb orthesis − a micro-robot for endoscopic surgery − a reliable tele-presence system for maintenance and inspection − a component supply market for robot systems 13 . These market potentials have been well outlined in the last years so that large research programs and R&D efforts of large corporations are geared towards the development of convincing robot companion products. multi-media-support etc. Personal robot families Future consumer robot families will go beyond simple household robot designs (i. situation awareness in every day’s settings. This vision is an extension to the current concept of ambient intelligence in the sense that the environment will be physically interacting with persons. objects and ICT infrastructure. sensors. offices and public spaces. IT services and tele-presence. Furthermore. Taking into consideration the above.). transmissions). to account for individualization and the development of rapidly succeeding product generations. Mobile platforms (e.e. the Swatch wristwatch etc. elderly and mobility-impaired persons could stay longer in their homes as a robot companion could help achieve some independence from full time caring personnel. controls.(sensors. these mobile robots will allow adding and customizing different functional modules (multi-media interfaces. mobility in home environments. manipulating and grasping almost arbitrary objects. Low-cost arms embedded into furniture could assist in handling and cleaning operations. arms. by creating dependable support chains of service robot components enables these companies to seize new product opportunities and market share. Therefore. Ubiquitous robots and robotic networks “Instead of robots populating the environment. IT added value services. Very similar to other personal customisable product family such as mobile phones. public environments and in services.g. actors and voice. man-machine interfaces will be embedded into networks which will result in active home. mobility aid. a guiding vision for a technology platform like EUROP could be formulated around the following short. actuators. expressive heads equipped with sensors.

Large masses result in a significant inertia. Therefore research should aim at alternative gear designs both for servo drives as well as for novel actuator principles to be taken up by European manufacturers. current sensor systems have not displayed enough robustness at appropriate costs to be widely utilized in both industrial and everyday environments. regular wheels are not good enough. micro-fluids. to allow operation in cooperation with humans). Besides component functionality and performance data. Sensors So far. as for instance.g.g. silent and low-cost robot arms. Grasping Closely coupled to actuation systems and arms is the design of flexible grasping mechanisms. Such mechanically flexible robots can only have repeatability and performance similar to existing robots through use of sensory feedback in combination with new methods for control. and other various obstacles. This requires an entire new approach to design. Locomotion It is obviously a major technical challenge at least when looking at domestic house service robots. motor and electronics is at least an order of magnitude beyond present technology. lightweight. Then there is a large array of solutions between regular wheels and bipeds. new actuation principles may come into play. aspects of physical and logical integration within standard system architectures are of increasing importance. but for operation in everyday environments this is not a realistic option. However with the advent of service robots. Robot Arms Today. embedding sensors in robot structures as tactile and non-tactile sensing (e. Bipeds are the high-end of evolution concerning locomotion (and it took a couple of million years) and have significant power and stability disadvantages. Alternatives have been suggested for use in robotics such as piezo-electric actuators (micro-robotics). sensors. thermo-mechanical actuators. Optimised weight/payload ratio will generally be more efficient and in some cases the added mechanical flexibility is desirable (e. the use of new types of advanced materials. artificial skins) 14 .g. Initial prototypes exist in this area. In domestic houses with stairs. materials. At least a solution with 4 legs (or more) solves the stability/equilibrium problem. Yet the economic benefit would be very significant. electro-hydraulic motors etc. the weight/payload ratio for robot manipulators is typically of the order 50 to 100. Today end-effectors are typically task-specific and precision engineered mechanical systems that are a good solution for large-scale automation. The following RTD issues towards high performance robot components were identified: Actuators Today electro-magnetic servo-drives are the governing actuator for robots. direct drive) etc. A major breakthrough towards flexibility and robustness would emerge from the commercial availability of low-cost 3D sensors (at some 100 €). For industrial or office environments. only two major (Japanese) producers dominate both market and research activities in this field.20 years: − a mechanical maid − a general purpose assistive robot − a generic robot “worker” for industrial use 3. The RTD challenge lies into bringing these principles to the level of marketable robot actuators. micro-systems or robot networks. which makes it difficult to increase speed and at the same time such systems are not well suited for operation in the presence of humans. Robot gears are considered mature components with few open research questions. new actuators (e.2 Technological challenges Robots have always depended on the availability of typical key-components such as actuators. Thus the need for new designs of systems with a low weight/payload ratio (preferably in the order of 1) arises. Furthermore. electro-rheological gels. human-computer-interfaces. Today. However they represent a major bottleneck towards high precision. The level of integration needed in terms of mechanism. multi-wheeled robots such as Mars rovers and multi-legged robots such as hexapods and quadrupeds. but breakthroughs in software and control are still needed. steps. wheels are probably the ideal locomotion system (factories are often single floor and offices are usually equipped with elevators).

or explicit training has been part of the acquisition of new systems. In case of trouble between man and robot.3 Non-Technological Challenges New business models One of the main obstacles to ensuring continued economic growth is the lack of adequate business models for the changing economy. Computing and communication Breakthroughs in CPU power have been considered as the major technology push in robotics. New research. Such business cases can only be generated through adoption of new business models. As an example. the need for customer support might be radically different from those seen earlier.) will. especially in the in field of neuro-sciences (brain-like computing. Cognition For operations in poorly structured environment as found in many service robotics applications. haptic displays. Modularisation requires standards/practices to achieve configuration and assemblies of subsequent product lines. ITfunctions). security. 3. a support infrastructure has to be available. in the long term. and thus lead to a new quality of cognitive systems and artificial intelligence. DNA computing etc. Modular designs Incrementally developing product lines or modular product families will depend on modularisation.g. and maintainability in every day’s operating scenarios. typical interfaces for robot instruction will have to be developed such as robust gesture recognition. contribute to processing large amounts of sensor data. At the same time there are huge new business opportunities. Support infrastructure for service robots Traditionally robotics has been used in sectors where the skill level of users is relatively high. While multi-modal interfaces will be very much driven by the IT industries. Thus key components both in hardware and software should rely on a (standard) middleware for extension by evolving functional components or by added value components (e. As technology enters into such new domains there is sometimes a clash of culture and practises. particularly the system’s availability. reasoning about actions and higher degree of error diagnostics and failure recovery. reliability. so there is here an integration of technologies that have too different timescales to present a credible business case. or even systems for non-invasive brain access. there is a need to endow the systems with higher cognitive functions that allow recognition of context. This infrastructure should go from the hotline on phone to the intervention of a specialized technician. Dependability is a concept which not only involves robot safety but also its operating robustness. Design for dependability will be one of the most pronounced R&D challenges in service robot systems which will affect any aspect of service robot R&D from architectures to key component functionality and design. Technology is becoming more pervasive and is entering into new domains. In emerging application domains such an expectation might no longer be realistic. as this is witnessed by the fact that iRobot™ has sold more than 1 million vacuuming units over a period of 3 years. Traditionally people buy vacuum cleaners to last for 6-10 years at a price of 200€ or less. The new generation of autonomous vacuum cleaners has a technology life span that might only last 1-3 years. Such flexibility can only be achieved through use of more advanced techniques for artificial intelligence and cognitive systems. Closely linked to the establishment of dependable designs is the necessity of defining indicators or benchmarks which both measure specific performance data. but a refrigerator has a life span of 10 years or more while a web browser might be outdated in 12 months. An idea of fridges with built-in web browsers was also promoted for a time. Sensing systems supporting recognition of arbitrary objects with simple training techniques will be essential for domestic use. Such technician could be highly qualified to fix any kind of 15 . Intuitive multi-modal interfaces Intuitive human-robot interfaces should support an efficient transfer of knowledge and skills between users and machines. behaviours and a task execution given relevant test scenarios. In addition. recently there has been significant automation in white goods for areas such as vacuum cleaning.will be necessary for robots in human space sharing environments.

Integration across traditional commercial barriers. In these new markets it can be expected that there will be new roles for SMEs and for integration of a variety of components. Such marriages across technological and business areas have so far been relatively rare. there is a general view that “robotics is replacing the workforce to reduce cost”. high volume markets.g. Science fiction writers and Hollywood films heavily bias the public view of robotics. Consequently the entire business process from conceptual design to end-user application will have to be carefully re-evaluated. cost < price < value. the domain experts might have the sales and support structures in place. Only through a concerted effort can this general view by public be changed. new products and services will not be able to generate longerterm values. but the new and emerging areas might be in market segments that traditionally have been dominated by use of technology with a limited complexity. but there is a need to acquire key competencies from technology experts. due to their superior mechanical accuracy. As an example. In this case. 16 . As part of this. However in many cases this is not recognized and the press has in general a negative view of automation. Unfortunately the view promoted is unrealistic and often destructive or unethical. in the car industry the main drive behind introduction of robots has been harmonisation of quality. which potentially could generate an entirely new industrial sector. a key to acceptance and success is the simple relation that the cost of the product must be less than its price that in turn must be less than its value to the customer. In addition robots take away dangerous and dull jobs and thereby they save human lives or remove tasks that may cause sickness if performed by humans. as some of the new application domains are in areas in which there is little interest in ownership of some of the core technologies. Yet. in most cases the labour cost issues is secondary or non-existing. For such new application domains. there exist some technology related ethical issues that must be considered. e. however entry into new markets might dictate such changes. Robots enable production of cars with a consistent quality. Without respect for this simple relation. as for example seen in Korea. Acceptance of service robots in society For technologies such as robotics. Need to develop robotic solutions in emerging market segments Robotics has so far primarily been applied in high-tech. the domain experts will want to be in charge of the systems integration.failure on such a complex system. There is thus a significant need to communicate to the public the real value of robotics. At the same time.

There is often an increased interest in topics such as design and holistic topics such as product development.1 Opportunities Quality of life A factor that is strongly influencing Europe is quality of life. By definition. It is here crucial to have systems with a significant energy density and short recharge times so as to minimize downtime. Quality of life is here in many respects tied to a sense of autonomy. Throughout Europe people have come to expect a high degree of personal safety and of protection of personal values and way of life. it can be used to generate interest and at the same time provide a basis for education of a new generation of engineers. OPPORTUNITIES AND THREATS In the previous chapter. which has created significant wealth and also a strong social system. A number of other application domains such as the car industry are investing heavily in the new energy technology. which has increased quality of life. etc) which is ageing. Greying population At the same time. circuits) into materials and to create new light-weight. railways. The combination of systems engineering and “fun” can be utilized as a catalyst to demonstrate how robotics is a confluence of many different disciplines. In the same way. People will necessarily want to be offered ways to spend their time doing quality activities. people are gradually having more time for leisure that calls for new types of entertainment in particular for retired people. But our action will happen in a global context that we have to deal with. and so it requires a large amount of monitoring and maintenance. motorways. from universities to big industries. The whole European robotics community. can do their best to solve technological and nontechnological problems to access the vision we have. 4. A significant potential lies in creating robot structures which follow these new principles: To “grow” structures instead of removing material for manufacturing robots. There is thus a clear need for a new generation of aids for everyday activities that will enable these people to remain autonomous for as long as possible while enjoying quality time doing their favourite activities. 17 . At the same time. all of Europe is experiencing a significant ageing that will result in the next 15-20 years in more than 45% retired people and a longer life span. In addition. During the last century there has been a steady economic growth in Europe. Citizens do not like that others dictate their time and daily routines. Concurrent development of new technologies Because robotics is a holistic topic. it aggregates results of many technological developments. due to a lack of interest in purely technical educations. we can mention energy and new materials.4. power plants. Professional service robots offer significant advantages in this area. Here robotics can play a crucial role. Infrastructure Monitoring and Maintenance Europe has a large amount of infrastructure components of high capital value (viaducts. to embed microsystems (sensors. we described the parameters we can tune. whatever these may be. Today many countries are experiencing a decline in admission to engineering educations. robotics must consider the full scope from basic mechanical design to control and intelligence so as to provide an acceptable solution. As examples. It is unlikely that this will be replaced any time soon. Robotics is an attractive science and technology discipline An important aspect of robotics is that it is “fun”. An ageing population will challenge society in a number of ways in terms of our healthcare and pension systems. currently novel materials that embed actuation and sensing properties are under research (“adaptronics”). there has been a move towards political stability throughout Europe. actuators. In education. Other industries will perform developments that will be very useful for robotics. Many of the new application systems will require some degree of mobility and there is here a need to use fuel-cell technology as part of these systems. This context is made of opportunities that will help us and threats that will make our work more difficult.

Except for already well-positioned companies such as LEGO.low inertia materials for new robot arms. which calls for a new degree of safety. There is a need to generate similar structures in Europe. It is expected that these technologies can be more or less directly applied in robotics as well. There is here a need to build strategic alliances so as to ensure that there is early involvement and access to new mechatronic components. The early introduction of nonreliable or non-safe robotics could kill for a long time the market of service robots in Europe. over prototype development to commercial exploitation. Today there is limited support for start-up companies that want to exploit new ideas and generate new products. In addition. Often there is a lack of venture capital for the early phases of business development. and in most cases they have no interest in all the required paperwork to enter a product into the market. the work is quite scattered and similar research works are probably performed in parallel in different laboratories. If it is new. it is important to provide the required infrastructure that promotes and assists start-ups as it is unlikely that the entire economic growth is going to happen within the established industrial structures. 4. In new robot applications. Because service robotics is not a major theme of national or European programs.2 Threats Late introduction in markets that have already been monopolized by non-EU major players Japanese industry has already massively invested in the market of toy robots. This implies that it is relatively difficult to influence the design of new components and access to such components might happen relatively late in the R&D process. Venture capital and other support structures for start-up companies The set-up of new products and industries also points to another challenge. European consumers are very demanding from innovative products. The support must cover the entire innovation process for the initial idea. For big industries trying to strategically position themselves in service robotics. Safety will be another very important issue. European industry can still take a leadership thanks to its experience in white products and the quality of its research but it has to perfectly coordinate its efforts to be competitive. Lack of a components industry in Europe There is a European reliance on mechatronic components fabricated elsewhere. reasonably priced. they have the feeling to be left out to take many risks alone. a lot of service robotic initiatives are running. 18 . More than 200 laboratories and research centres are working in this field. There is here a clear need for assistance. To ensure significant economic growth. there is a risk on direct interaction with the human. American and Japanese industries have already a significant market offer in vacuum cleaners and other domestic applications. not only this robot will be rejected but robots in general. In the USA. Inventors have no or limited patience for the set-up of production systems. Too often the innovation process is broken due to undue optimism and too much bureaucracy. there is a need to have the system operate side-by-side with the human users/operators. by the production of safe components. it will be adopted. This risk can be minimised by the development of safety standards. there is a much stronger access to risk capitals and associated support sectors that drives forward new industries. etc. It is necessary that Europe organises its positioning in the field of service robotics to concentrate efforts and efficiency of all concerned partners. Consequently. there is a lack of adequate. The risk of destroying the market with non-reliable or non-safe robotics Japanese customers enjoy new technologies no matter if the high-tech gadget is complicated to use or not totally efficient. Lack of strategic positioning Today in Europe. and by careful attention to the development of safety-oriented control software. If a service robot is not reliable and does not fulfil the service it is supposed to bring. Large scale manufacturing of mechanical and electronic systems is almost entirely performed in Asia today. services for handling practical matters such as IPRs. It will naturally be important to carefully monitor R&D efforts in related fields to generate joint momentum and to avoid overlap in efforts. it will be very difficult for European industry to get a significant part of this market.

However. at a young age. choose to go to top-league universities or to international companies in the USA. 19 .Brain drain The economic growth in Europe has in many respects been due to superior education. Such a system can only be achieved through public-private partnerships in which strong research environments are created and at the same time third tier programmes are established more widely to ensure that the best ideas are actually picked up and commercialised. This change requires to setup state of the art facilities for research and also associated systems for remuneration of good work. the major creativity or rather the remuneration for creativity is often higher in particular in the US and there has consequently been a steady brain drain from Europe to the US. The level of education of the average citizen is high and the workforce is in general highly skilled. The best brains will often. There is a significant need to change the system so that Europe becomes the area of creativity.

20 .5. they concentrated the efforts of their research labs and companies towards this goal. In the coming years. CONCLUSIONS Europe has great opportunities: − Big companies are ready to play a role in the future market of service robotics − SME’s and research labs are able to develop the missing technology − End users begin to be convinced of the interest of robotics in everyday life What is missing is − organisation of cooperation between all the actors involved − investment to build the first products − standardisation to turn competition between actors into general profit When Japan and Korea decided to build a humanoid robot. Europe has to focus its developments in a same way on some well chosen specific objectives as the ones proposed in this report.