Viable Robotic Service to Humanity
With the conference theme stated above, the 13th International Conference on Advanced Robotics (ICAR 2007) will be held in Jeju, Korea, from August 22 to 25, 2007.
According to the General Chair of ICAR 2007, Dr. Sukhan Lee, Professor of the School of Information and Communication Engineering and Director of the Intelligent Systems Research Center at Sungkyunkwan University, ICAR is an international robotics forum with 26 years of history held biennially since 1981. It enjoys the tradition of disseminating state of the art technologies and emerging application trends and of providing great opportunities for professional interactions and networking in a friendly and culturally attractive setting.
While ICAR 2007 covers a broader scope of robotics and automation, Lee said that this year's theme put an emphasis on capturing the growing significance of robotics technologies for personal and professional services to humanity. To move the quality of service robots up to the level of a human-like personal assistant beyond the simple cleaning, information, pet, and toy services currently available, there is still required significant technological advancements and breakthroughs in the functional scope and dependability of sensor based mobile manipulation and robot intelligence.
Lee hoped that ICAR 2007 comes to address such technological advancements and breakthroughs that are required for moving service robots up to another level of performance and helping create substantial new markets in the near future.
In terms of the perspective on the future of the robotics industry, Lee, who is also serving currently as Vice President of IEEE Robotics and Automation Society in charge of Industrial Activities Board, foresees the continuing shift of significance to service robot and embedded robot sectors in the years ahead.
While industrial robots represent those installed in well-structured factories for manufacturing automation with assembly, welding, painting, material transfer functions, service robots represent those installed in such unstructured environments as homes, offices, hospitals, and public places for more personalized and/or professionalized services to humans such as cleaning, guiding, security, errands, transportation, entertainment, information services and medical and physical assistance.
The recently published UN-ECE/IFR statistics indicate that, although the overall market size of industrial robots is considerably larger than that of service robots at this moment, it is expected that the service robot market will grow in a much higher rate than that of industrial robots in the coming years.
For instance, there amounts to over 2 million service robot units installed in home and domestic side currently, which is expected to reach 7 to 8 million units in 5 or so years. Besides industrial and service robots, Lee said that the robotic functions developed can be installed in a variety of systems as embedded components to enhance the performance of and bring added value to the host systems.
Lee referred this particular sector of robots as embedded robots. Examples of embedded robots include robotic functions applied to intelligent vehicles and ITS for lane keeping, automatic parallel parking, collision avoidance, applied to high-tech instruments for sensor guided micro or nano-scale positioning and manipulation, applied to medicine for minimally or non invasive surgery, or applied to smart home and building for remote control and security measures. According to Lee, the embedded robot sector may become potentially very significant as a robot industry since the on-going ubiquitous computing and communication revolution lead our society eventually to a place of ambient intelligence embedded with a variety of intelligent functions for our daily life. Embedded robots will play a significant role for implementing ambient intelligence at the terminals of anytime, anywhere, any media networks, thus closing the on-going ubiquitous computing revolution.
With regard to the status of Korean robotics in the world, Lee said that Korea is doing pretty well, perhaps as one of the top 5 leading nations in the world, in terms of the number of papers published, in terms of the number of industrial robots manufactured and installed, and in terms of the number of service robot companies initiated. Especially, other advanced countries envy Korea of our ambitious national drive of intelligent robots as one of the economic growth engines with various government-led top-down research programs. This is very desirable for us as we ought to search for a new major industry of the future for our sustainable economic growth, Lee pointed out.
But, this also generates a tremendous responsibility to robotics researchers in Korea, including Lee himself, for leading Korean intelligent robotics effort to successful industrialization in the near future. Lee advised that we should establish a strong technological base in a step-by-step manner by accumulating breakthroughs in fundamental and applied research till the requirements of cost, price, and value inequality for commercial success can be met.