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SME Robotics: the European Robotics Initiative

Samuel Bouchard
by Samuel Bouchard. Last updated on May 05, 2016 4:26 PM
Posted on Jun 03, 2007 4:08 PM. 2 min read time

sme robot

Just where are all the robots? In the 70s and 80s, people thought they’d be everywhere by 2000, helping us in our everyday tasks. Well, they are here, but mostly in large factories. Even there, they tend to be away from the workers to avoid accidents. But if industrialists and scientist members of the European consortium, SME Robots, are right, this situation is about to change.

Robotics at the service of SMEs
SME stands for “small-medium enterprise.” The goal of the project is to design a new generation of robots that SMEs (250 employees or fewer) can use. Currently, the cost of robots and their poor adaptability (complicated and long to program, hard to change task assignments, heavy, etc.) makes them impractical for SMEs. Three key innovations are needed to fix this situation:

  1. Robots must be able to understand instructions in human language –voice, gesture, image, touch, etc.)
  2. Robots and humans must share common areas and work together in complete safety.
  3. It must be possible to render robots functional within at most three days.

These robots will have to cost one-third the price of current robots. To achieve this, mass production is essential, making a modular approach necessary, so that we can have plug & play robots.

My supervisor (via Ilian Bonev) referred us to this highly interesting video, produced by SME Robotics, explaining the goal and challenges connected with this project. In it, we see two employees in a workshop who are imagining the perfect robot to help them. In the animations, we can see an adaptation of the German Space Agency arm (DLR).

GM, in collaboration with Laval University’s Robotics Lab, is pushing a human-robot collaboration that is pursuing essentially the same objectives.

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Samuel Bouchard
Written by Samuel Bouchard
Samuel is CEO and co-founder of Robotiq. His mission is to free human hands from repetitive tasks. He is also the author of Lean Robotics: A Guide to Making Robots Work in Your Factory. He lives in Québec City with his wife and four children.
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