Smart helpers for humans
Robot Valley (‘Robotdalen’) specialises in robotics for industry, logistics and healthcare. The umbrella project has directly introduced around 150 small businesses in its home region in Sweden to the benefits of robotics, while additional EU funding has raised Robot Valley’s profile and established links to similar clusters across Europe.
“The Giraff allows family, friends and caregivers to visit the elderly in their homes via the internet, just as if they were face to face."
Maria Gill, registered nurse and project manager, ICT in Elderly Care
The national and international robotics equipment-makers involved are working closely with users to test new developments. The project is already half way towards its initial target of creating 30 new operations or companies within the robotics field and 30 new products, among them innovative robots for helping the elderly and disabled with everyday tasks.
A business focus
One of Europe’s leading robotics centres, Robotdalen, as it is known in Swedish, covers an area some 100 km across and brings together researchers, developers, manufacturers and academia working in the field of robotics. It was launched with backing from the Swedish government agency Vinnova and will run until 2013. Additional funding granted to the project from the European Regional Development Fund will enable the generation of at least five new products and five new operations or companies during the financing period that ends in 2010.
Work focuses on developing mature solutions that are easy to programme and use. Most are aimed at industrial clients, but the project is increasingly looking at the promising healthcare market. Some of its latest robots are designed to maintain a good quality of life for elderly or disabled people, by keeping them socially connected and empowered.
Sorting, surveillance and self-help
Recent commercial developments from Robot Valley include the SensActive, a machine that picks up items from unsorted bins using laser scanning and an algorithm to calculate the geometry of objects. A large mining truck that can be operated remotely underground was also launched as a product in 2007.
GroundBot is an 80 cm-wide surveillance robot shaped like a rock. It can move autonomously or be controlled remotely, and has already won orders from the US military. On the healthcare side, the Giraff is a robot that allows people to communicate with friends, family and health professionals via a mobile robot fitted with a two-way communications monitor. There is also a compact table-top robot to help the disabled to feed themselves.
Some 150 small and medium-sized local companies have taken up robots, after the project's experts undertook feasibility studies and showed them that robots can be highly efficient and cost-effective. Robot Valley has also introduced a €20 000 scientific award to encourage Europe-wide networking in this field and the recruitment of more robotics graduates.