By She Huimin
On October 21, the first day of World Robot Forum 2016, experts in the robot industry from all over the world came together and discussed the strategies and trends, news and the forefront. What are their opinions?
New markets, great potential
All attendees agreed that robots were emerging as a fast-growing industry.
"In 2015, the sales volume of industrial robots in the whole world has been up to 248,000, creating a new record, among which, the year-on-year growth of that in Asia is the largest." According to the prediction of Vitaly Nedelskiy, the president of Russia robot association, the application of robots in the future will be further increased, and the quantity of industrial robots is expected to be up to 2.6 million in 2019 from 1.63 million in 2015. "The using density of industrial robot in the world is 69 sets per 10,000 people, and the current density in China is 49 sets, which means that the market potential is enormous."
"Since the invention in 1959, the robot has been widely applied in many fields, especially in the automobile industry, as well as the rapid application in rehabilitation therapy, national defense, space exploration and exploration of natural resources." Ding Han, the Head of Mechanical Science and Engineering College of Huazhong University of Science and Technology, also takes an optimistic attitude towards the market prospects of robots.
The difficulties of developing the robot are also clearly mentioned. "The development of the robot industry is not same to the development of internet, so the existing investment pattern, which requires for high returns, is not suitable for the robot industry in consideration of the long-run and huge-investment support in robot industry, which means that there may be no return after 15 years of robot study." According to Prof. Zvi Shiller, the president of Israel Robot Association, the development of robots is involved in multi-subject system, requiring for integrating software, hardware and other different knowledge, and there are many difficulties in the development process, requiring not only the large-scale R&D team and the long-run R&D cycle, but also the longer time for market entry. So he suggested developing the robots from small and simple products and promoting the R&D based on the actual demands. "For example, invent the robot to help the elders, the disables and other vulnerable groups need to be helped and relieve their pains", said Prof. Zvi Shiller.
New technologies: away from old pattern
Robot industry is one industry featured with colorful imagination than that in reality. The robots in all kinds of fiction movies are clever and ingenious, but they are still logy in reality. The experts in the robot industry believe that there will be a brand-new technological revolution for robots with the further development of artificial intelligence and deep learning.
"The difficulties for the development of industrial robots in the future is the technology instead of the costs of robot body", said Prof. Wang Yu, the Dean of Robot Research Institute of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, "Human being can achieve the good cooperation of hands and eyes due to the deft hands and sharp eyes, but it is difficult for robot to achieve such cooperation via the programming. Therefore, it is necessary for robots to achieve the complex operation via the sensing and autonomous learning in the future."
According to Xi Ning, the chair professor of robot and automation in University of Hong Kong, the application of robots has been developing towards intelligence. For example, the robots have been widely applied in automobile industry. In the past, when changing the design of one auto part, the programmer has to spend one week for re-programming, but now, thanks to the programming pattern developed based on the CAD (computer aided design) model, it is available for finishing the same programming tasks in 2-3 hours by inputting the CAD model of the part to be changed into the computer, which can change the manual programming to the automatic programming. Moreover, he also indicates that the more important for the service robot in the future is the ability of understanding the human language, and achieve the programming of robots via the human language directly.
"There are huge differences between the robots applied in the physical world and expectations. Most industrial robots applied at present can only work in the structured environment, and service robots can only carry out simple tasks, while special purpose robots can carry out the special work via the remote operation and control." According to the suggestion of Ding Han, the study shall be carried out from three original parts - structure, sensing and control, and study the theory of mechanism and dynamics of soft robots, the natural interaction between human beings and robots, the operating system, swarm intelligence and other academic frontier for supporting the sustainable development of robots in the future.
New strategy: having a head start
As one of the most popular industries in the modern society, the industrial development of robots has been included into the national strategy by America, German, France, Japan and Korea as well as China. In view of the great role of robots in the further development of human society, the head start in the robot industry means the conquering the strategic peak in the future competitiveness, which has been the consensus concluded by all countries.
"The definition of robot should be redefined, since the modern robot is totally different from the industrial robot in the past". Qu Daokui, the Chairman of China Robot Industry Alliance and CEO of Shenyang Siasun Robot & Automation Co., Ltd, mentions that the robot is changing our production mode, and brings the revolution in manufacturing industry, health industry and other fields.
Qu Daokui mentions that the Robot Industry Development Plan (2016-2020) issued in the spring of 2016 presents a clear target and roadmap for the development of robots in the following five years. Plan pays special attention to the construction and perfection of the whole robot industrial system in China, aiming to improve the competitiveness as well as achieve the comprehensive upgrade and breakthrough of the whole robot industry chain.
The pouring investment in the robot due to the strategic importance results in the "robot R&D fever".
"One word to describe the study of robot in China is 'hot'"! According to Zhao Jie, the Director of Robotics Institute of Harbin Institute of Technology, thanks to the pouring support and investment from government and enterprises on the robot in recent years, there are thousands of robot enterprises in China and the population of workers engaged in robot industry has been grown exponentially. "Many capitals seek for cooperation with us, but I have to remind them that the robot industry is featured with huge investment, slow returns and high risk. The realization of robot industry shall depend on the settle-down instead of cash burn or speculation," said Zhao Jie.