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Robotics trends at CEBIT: How humans and robots will shape the future

Robots are becoming increasingly common, both at home and at work. What is the current state of the art in robotics technology? What are the most promising applications? And who, if anyone, is in charge of setting ethical boundaries? Among much else, this year’s CEBIT offers answers to all of these crucial questions as well as spectacular live demonstrations that showcase the fast-evolving capabilities of robotics systems.

06 Jun. 2018

At the cutting edge: robots that can learn and recognize human emotions

At CEBIT, the latest humanoid and collaborative robots (aka cobots) are showing off their skills in a series of live demonstrations. A stunning example is the 1.2 m-tall Pepper robot from Japanese company SoftBank Robotics. Pepper not only looks and sounds human, it can also listen and respond to human emotion. This makes it suitable for a number of human-centric applications. For instance, in the retail sector, where it can be put to work as a "smart employee" that can answer questions about specific products. SoftBank is at CEBIT with a software development kit (SDK) that third parties can use to develop Android apps for Pepper. Its showcase also features a live demo of how Pepper's new multi-chatbot integration enables it to help people find hotels and flights (Hall 17, Stand B44).

Asseco Solutions is also located in Hall 17 (Stand E16), where it is presenting Panda, a collaborative robot from Voith Robotics. Visitors to Asseco's stand can see Panda interacting with an ERP system – as an example of how the robot can be integrated into business processes.

Robots have been commonplace in factories and warehouses for some time. But up until now, they have generally been designed to perform just one specific task, and they have been physically separated from their human co-workers. The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT, Hall 27, Stand G52) is looking to change this with its ARMAR-6 service robot, which can work right alongside humans while safely wielding tools, such as hammers and drills. ARMAR-6 can also learn to use new tools, simply by watching. The current generation of ARMAR robots is being developed as part of SecondHands, an EU project set up to promote automation in manufacturing.

Helping hands for students and patients

What are the risks of integrating artificial intelligence into robotics? And what about the opportunities? These are the questions the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is seeking to answer with its HEART project. HEART stands for "Humanoid Emotional Assistant Robots in Teaching". At its CEBIT showcase (Hall 27, Stand E32), the Ministry is highlighting examples of applications where self-learning systems can be of benefit to humans. For instance, humanoid robots can be used as teaching aids and student advisors at universities.

There is also enormous scope for using robotics systems in the medical aftercare of patients. The German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) is using CEBIT to showcase its RECUPERA Reha full-body exoskeleton for stroke victims (Hall 27, Stand F62). The unit offers multiple control options for patients and their carers. For instance, by moving one arm the patient can trigger a corresponding movement of the other arm. "RECUPERA Reha represents a totally new approach to human-robot interaction – one that can lead to a sustained improvement in patient rehab practices," said Dr. Kirchner, who heads the DFKI's Robotics Innovation Center.

Robo coding for everyone and brains for artificial bodies

Anyone who has ever dreamed of programming a robot can do it – with no prior training – at this year's CEBIT. At the stand of the Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems (Fraunhofer IAIS, Hall 27, Stand E78), anyone can try their hand at using the institute's intuitive NEPO software. "Knowledge of the basics of artificial intelligence should not be confined to the experts," explained Fraunhofer IAIS project manager Beate Jost. "NEPO is our way of sharing our experts' AI expertise with the wider public." At the Fraunhofer IAIS stand, the humanoid robot NAO and the vacuum cleaner robot Kobold VR200 are standing by to receive their instructions from interested visitors.

The Robotics, Artificial Intelligence and Real-Time Systems faculty of the Technical University of Munich is working on a captivating human brain project. The Neurorobotics Platform aims to simulate brain models which are made up of neural networks and which control an artificial body. Interested visitors can see how it all works at Stand F82 in Hall 27.

Event highlights: a robotics genius, machine love and the world's only true metal band

One of the big CEBIT highlights this year is the keynote address by Marc Raibert, the founder and CEO of US company Boston Dynamics. On Tuesday, 12 June, the renowned scientist and visionary will share his unique insights in a keynote address titled "The Future of Robotics" (Hall 27, Grand Central Stage, 6 p.m.). Boston Dynamics has garnered worldwide attention with its walking robots. In 2019, the company plans to begin selling SpotMini, its revolutionary robotic canine that will also be making an an-stage appearance at CEBIT.

Tuesday will also see a live performance by robot band Compressorhead (5 p.m., Festival Stage). The world's only true 100% metal band, which weighs in at over three tons, will be jamming on real instruments at 5 p.m. on the Festival Stage.

What does it mean when humans fall in love with machines? It's a captivating question that Florian Krause from the Institute for Business Ethics at the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland) and legal expert Iris Phan from Leibniz University Hannover will attempt to answer on Thursday, 14 June. Their presentation is titled "Love and Sex with Robots" and starts at 3:10 p.m. on the Expert Stage in Hall 13.

Forecast points to over three million robots by 2020

According to a forecast by the International Federation of Robotics, over three million robots will be on active duty in factories around the globe by 2020. The automation trend is leading to significant productivity gains and completely new work models, especially in manufacturing industries that focus on human-machine collaboration.

International business consultancy IDC also sees major market potential for robotics solutions in the security, education and retail industries. "New systems with innovative abilities are driving the spread of robotics technology in Europe and opening up new applications in the health, insurance, education and retail industries," explained IDC's Managing Director Northern Europe Region, Wafa Moussavi-Amin. "It will be interesting to see how quickly Europe can catch up to the leading robotics clusters in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan and the United States."


At CEBIT 2018, everything is geared to generating business, leads and bright ideas. With its exhibitor displays, expert conferences and prime networking opportunities, CEBIT is a triple-punch event covering everything essential to the digitization of business, government and society. The innovations on display in the d!conomy section of the show give IT professionals and decision-makers from the realms of business, trade and the public sector the tools they need to streamline and futureproof their operations by leveraging digitization to the fullest. The event's d!tec showcase puts the spotlight on developers and startups and their disruptive business models, as well as on research institutes giving us a glimpse of tomorrow's game-changing technologies. The d!talk conference program features visionaries, lateral thinkers, creatives and experts from around the globe. The d!campus is the beating heart of CEBIT – the place where everyone gets together for relaxed networking, street food and live music. CEBIT presents the digital transformation in a totally new way, while retaining its core focus on business, leads and more leads. The first day of CEBIT 2018 – Monday, 11 June – is reserved for conference attendees and journalists, with the exhibition opening on Tuesday, 12 June. The exhibition halls will be open Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with the d!campus staying open till 11 p.m. on those days. Opening hours on Friday are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. CEBIT Events Worldwide give Deutsche Messe's customers even more ways of reaching their international clientele, e.g. in dynamic markets such as China, Australia, Thailand and Spain.


Gabriele  Dörries

Gabriele Dörries

Deutsche Messe
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