Robot Award 2007: Applications to Shift From Automobile to Medical, Food

Dec 25, 2007
Naoshige Shimizu, Nikkei Electronics
METI Minister Akira Amari awarding a testimonial of the Grand Prize to FANUC President Yoshiharu Inaba
METI Minister Akira Amari awarding a testimonial of the Grand Prize to FANUC President Yoshiharu Inaba
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Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) held "The Robot Award 2007" (Robot of the Year Award) ceremony to honor superior robotics developed this year December 20, 2007.

FANUC Ltd's technology that allows a pair of robots to recognize and handle small containers, etc on a conveyer using visual tracking and arm control capabilities won the METI Minister Award (Grand Prize), which is granted to a technology that wins the highest appreciation from juries. This technology primarily targets applications at manufacturing facilities of food and medical equipment.

FANUC's President Yoshiharu Inaba expressed his gratitude to the award granting and said, "Most industrial robots have been applied to automobile manufacturing thus far, but we will extend robot applications to the service industry and medical and food areas." In fact, many of the technologies that won First Prizes were for medical and food applications, providing great hope for the wider use of robotic technologies.

This was the second "Robot of the Year Award" following 2006. The METI selected 13 First Prize winners Nov 27, 2007, from which the winners of 5 special prizes including the Grand Prize were chosen later. Winner robots were showcased at "TEPIA" in Minato Ward, Tokyo from Dec 21 to 22. Other special prize winners were as follows.

The SME Venture Prize (Small and Medium Enterprise Agency Director-General Award) was granted to the "miuro" by a personal robot development venture, ZMP Inc. The miuro is a music player that can move autonomously. Featuring a speaker system, the miuro rotates itself and dances in accordance with music changing the rotating speed of its two wheels.

The winner of the Japan Machinery Federation President Award was Matsushita Electric Works Ltd's "Robotic Blood Sample Courier System." This system enables multiple robots to work in groups receiving containers of blood samples and setting them in automatic analysis equipment.

For the Organization for Small and Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation Award, the METI chose Harmonic Drive Systems Inc's mini AC servo motor. Its distinctive feature is a high maximum torque of 0.3Nm despite its small body measuring 17.5mm in diameter and 47mm in length.

The Jury's Special Prize was given to the "MR Image-Guided Surgical Robotic System" jointly developed by Kyushu University, Hitachi Ltd, Hitachi Medical Corp, Mizuho Co Ltd, the University of Tokyo and Waseda University. Its remarkable feature is the capability to operate surgical instruments in an MRI machine in spite of intense magnetic field environment.

Motors gain drive power using magnetic fields. Hence, under an intense magnetic field environment like that of an MRI machine, it becomes difficult to generate and control drive power. To prevent such negative influences, the system is geared to operate surgical instruments via wires with its motor located distant from the strong magnetic field.

Along with these winners of special prizes, the following eight technologies won the First Prizes.

- "Lego Education Mindstorms NXT" by Lego Japan Co Ltd
- The "small humanoid robot HOAP" by Fujitsu Ltd, Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd and Fujitsu Automation Ltd
- "Pharmaceutical Container Replacement Robot" by Tsumura & Co and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd
- "Endovascular Surgery Simulator - EVE - an ultra-precise robot patient for technical training" by FAIN-Biomedical Inc and Nagoya University
- "Fire-Fighting Robot" by Komatsu Ltd, IVIS Inc, I.DEN Videotronics, CyVerse Corp and Maurma Technica Co Ltd
- The "HG1T/HG1H small teaching pendant" by IDEC Corp
- The "OpenRTM-aist-0.4.0 RT middleware in compliance with international standards" by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) and the Japan Robot Association
- "ORiN open network interface for robot and FA equipment" by Denso Wave Inc