US to compete with Japan in unusual bout

Giant humanoid robots set to face off in hi-tech tournament


In the world of giant robots, things may be about to get out of hand. MegaBots, a US company in the midst of developing a ride-in piloted robot has challenged its only real counterpart, Japanese company Suidobashi Heavy Industries, to a robot duel.

In what will be something akin to a video game coming to life, the Japanese company accepted the duel on the basis that the robots would fight in a melee knockdown battle, not just with MegaBots’ preferred paintball guns.

Both companies have machines in development that operate along similar principals. The robot’s pilots are able to control movement via a set of controls inside the machine, or through tablet devices. The sizeable machines don’t display much fine motor control, but do manage some industrial-sized mayhem.

Megabots aims to turn such robot bouts into a televised sport, which could well accelerate development if it manages to attract viewer interest and the sponsorship dollars that follow and its kickstarter campaign to bring the bout to life has already attracted a lot of interest.

The science fiction-sounding tournament is expected to take place sometime next year.


The Unmanned Rover System – URS – meets humanitarian needs around the world for a rapid a reliable delivery mode for key relief aid and supplies. URS is both manned and unmanned – empowering agencies such as the UN Refugee Agency, UNICEF and the World Food Program with new transportation options and tools to get urgent relief to those that need it most.


URS is built with a key objective of meeting the humanitarian and protection needs of communities displaced and affected by conflict regions while keeping relief workers a safe distance from roads and normal supply routes that are dangerous.

The Unmanned Rover System will deliver food, water and sanitation; health and medical supplies; non-food items and winter support; and shelter to key relief sectors.

Working in a collaborative environment with the UAE’s Masdar Institute, the URS will have:


– Remote control: this capability will allow the human operator to be off the platform for dull or dangerous relief aid missions

– Follow-me: an additional autonomous platform within a vehicle column or in support of a single relief aid vehicle can provide both additional sensor range and carriage capacity

– Return home: in an emergency or circumstance where the driver is incapacitated or unable to drive the vehicle, a ‘return home’ mode would cause the vehicle to return by fastest means to a fixed point

– Shuttle: the ability to shuttle supplies between a main base and forward base, or forward base and operations area, is a key need in relief aid operations


– Waypoint-follow: a logistics resupply route negotiated by an autonomous system would increase the utilisation of vehicles in a fleet, while also reducing the risk to humans engaged in relatively routine work for aid relief

– Driving: the URS can cruise on a straight and direct path to reach the destination, where as known cars, ATVs, SUVs etc. will have to circumnavigate many obstacles. As a consequence, the URS can reach the destination directly and quicker with lower risk


– Track operated: the point of gravity is exceptionally low and the Kevlar/rubber-made track provides optimum grip for precise power and speed control. The risk of roll-over or directional instability is reduced to a minimum. The URS does not need any ground clearance and therefore has almost no difficulties overcoming any obstacles

– Safety: the point of gravity is exceptionally low and the risk of roll-over or directional instability is reduced to a minimum.


– Installation special equipment: the URS is the perfect relief aid delivery vehicle for the carriage of supplies to personnel and refugees in cities unable to be reached by typical humanitarian relief vehicles

– Relief and humanitarian air drop operations: the URS is the perfect solution for airdrop operations. Due to the very low point of gravity and the balanced installation of the lift/tow points, the vehicle will always reach the surface stable and in an operation-ready position


Hermes Team

The nuclear reactor meltdown the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant in March 2011 is considered to be the greatest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. It is estimated that if the cooling system could have been turned back on within a few hours of the initial failure, then the catastrophe could have been greatly minimized. Now, imagine if a human could have entered the facility after the disaster and performed the required task. This wasn’t an option because any human would be harmed by the high level of radiation before even getting near the Power Plant. So, what if we could send a human-like machine immune to radiation and able to perform activities similar to a human? This intuitive idea is the core concept of HERMES (Highly Efficient Robotic Mechanisms and Electromechanical System) at the Biomimetic Robotics Laboratory at MIT.


State-of-art legged robots are intended to do human-like tasks. However, no such robots have been able to negotiate the debris and obstacles of the radioactive environment inside Fukushima with comparable performance to humans.

Taking the initiative to bring robots to the next level, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) created the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC), in which robot participants had to navigate a simulated disaster environment and perform human-like tasks, such as driving a vehicle, opening doors, and turning valves. These tasks that can be easily carried out by ordinary humans but are still a great challenge to be reliably implemented on machines.

In June 2015, the public saw the result of DARPA’s sizable investment towards the goal of leveraging robotic technology during the Robotics Challenge finals. The greatest authorities in the robotics field invested a great deal of time, money and brainpower during the three years in order to participate and win the competition. Although the robots demonstrated incredible motor abilities and autonomous reasoning like never seen before, the competing machines could still not outperform ordinary humans in conducting the required tasks.

We anticipate that HERMES can be used in a wide variety of applications in real world scenarios. Ranging from firefighting and search & rescue tasks to space exploration, a ready-to-deploy version the HERMES robot can replace a person in any situation that a human responder may face danger in the line of duty. By using a full-body teleoperation strategy, HERMES can be remotely controlled by an expert and carry all the responder expertise and motor abilities to the disaster scenario without actually putting a human life in risk.

For the past two years, we have been working on the first version of the HERMES System, including the Human Machine Interface (Balance Feedback Interface and Motion Capture Suit) and the humanoid robot itself. All the hardware and software is developed and tested in the lab so the team can easily modify and improve the machine in the hardware and software level.



Tally Robot

The next retail revolution may not be a hot new brand or cool new concept store. Instead, consumers may soon be coming face to face with robotic retailers as technology that was once confined to the warehouse gradually puts on a friendlier face and moves to front-of-house.

US retail giant Best Buy has been trialling a one-armed robot nicknamed Chloe. Working in much the same way as a giant vending machine, customers interact with Chloe via touchscreen catalogues and instructions to order and pay for items. Once a selection is made Chloe zips off to pluck it from a shelf and hand it over through a chute.

While it’s not likely to work for impulse purchases or customers who fancy a browse around, Chloe can handle dozens of customers at a time if they know what they are looking for. The set up also means stock takes up less space since there is no need for customers to be able to pass by things or have them within reach, plus Chloe works 24/7, without a break. For retailers of small durable goods, this could point to a future of much lower floor space and staff costs.

More conventional retail environments could be set to benefit from robot technology too. A mobile machine called Tally from technology start-up Simbe is eliminating the most boring job in retail: the stocktake.

Tally can navigate its way around the aisles, counting as it goes. By identifying gaps in the shelves and spotting when items are running low, it can help retail staff stay on top of the shelf stacking and make sure the customer can get what they need. It can also pick up on when something is in the wrong spot, or has been mispriced.

While the technology is still in development, with functions to be added and refined, both Tally and Chloe point the way to a more automated retail future.

First edition of UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good set to open for entries to US$1 million contest

His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum


The Organising Committee of the first edition of the US$1 million ‘UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good’ has announced that it will start receiving submissions for the award from June 15, 2015. The award, which is open to individuals, teams, universities and companies from around the world, also offers AED 1 million for the winner at the national level. The winners will be honoured at a special ceremony in February 2016 before the fourth Government Summit.

The ‘UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good’ aims to encourage research and applications of innovative solutions in artificial intelligence and robotics to meet existing challenges in three key categories: health, education and social services. It also aims to promote public awareness about the positive opportunities offered by these applications and turn the innovative ideas into reality to develop services provided by the UAE Government.

On this occasion, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, said the UAE looks to artificial intelligence and robotics as a strategic and promising sector in view of the economic and scientific opportunities it holds, and its importance as one of the key areas of research and development in the biggest economies of the world.

His Highness said the ‘UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good’ is one of the main initiatives that supports innovation in this advanced sector, and is part of the commitment to implement the targets of the National Innovation Strategy launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to make the UAE one of the most innovative countries in the world by the year 2021.

His Highness Sheikh Hamdan said the award offers the first of its kind global platform for innovation, focusing on the practical side of this technology in areas of much relevance to the society such as health, education and social services. His Highness said the Award will play an integral role along with other government initiatives in the field of robotics, such as the Mohammed Bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge (MBZIRC) which was launched last February under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

“We expect that the national universities will play a major role in the success of this global event by encouraging students to be involved in research and development, and compete with the most advanced universities and research institutions in the world,” His Highness said. Such competitions will help share experiences and raise the level of innovation, particularly in the student community, His Highness said.

The Award will continue to receive submissions in the International and National competitions until November 1, 2015. Those interested in participating can register through the Award website ( along with submissions of their videos and proposals. The proposals will be reviewed by a judging panel of global experts following which 10 applicants from each category in the International and National competitions will be selected for the next round which will be announced on November 22, 2015.

The semi-finalists will then be brought to Dubai to present a working prototype and give a live demonstration of their ideas in front of the panel of judges, which includes high-profile experts and specialists in artificial intelligence and robots technologies. The members of the panel of judges will be announced at a later date.

Applicants must be able to demonstrate a working prototype for the final stage of the competition, offering a genuine service or solution to a real human need. They should suggest new ways of improving an existing service using robotics and artificial intelligence, or offer new kinds of services that could be implemented practically and economically through these technologies. In addition, the projects should be semi – or fully autonomous, as well innovative, futuristic and use the most advanced civilian technology available. They should also be safe, effective and economical.

Individuals, teams, universities and companies are eligible to participate in both the National and International competitions. UAE citizens and residents may choose to participate in either the National Competition or the International Competition while contestants who are not UAE citizens or residents are eligible to participate only in the International Competition.

The ‘UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good’ was launched by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan during the third Government Summit in February 2015, as one of the initiatives of International Council on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, which was formed in collaboration with the World Economic Forum during Global Agenda Council hosted by the UAE Government last year. The Council includes thought leaders from the largest universities and the most important companies and institutions around the world. It aims to offer advice on the best ways to use robots and artificial intelligence to improve human life and work on a global strategy for the use of robots in several key sectors.

To enter the UAE AI & Robotics for Good Award click here. 

Intelligent Wells

Intelligent Wells aims to re-think the way we design, build and maintain wells through artificial intelligence. If a well has the ability to sense, talk and think, it will give us real-time updates of the current condition of the water. An Intelligent Well will inform the users of the level of water and help ensure efficient use of the water in critical low water conditions.

Over 30% of the world’s freshwater is underneath the ground. This huge source of water is still not fully accessible by the people in need. As of today, over 783 million people don’t have access to clean water. The world has realised this issue and responded to this crisis. A growing number of water initiatives have evolved in the past decade and many organisations have put the effort to build wells. However, many of these wells are in disrepair.

Inconsistent checking of wells due to high labour costs, unavailability of adequate human capital and delays in laboratory tests have left the people in need of water still suffering.

It is essential to constantly monitor the quality of water and because the cost to do that is so high, a new version of wells will be able to eliminate the long process of hiring a well technician to go to the site. The information of the quality of water will be directly accessible through a system, which constantly monitors the well’s water pressure, bacteria and other dangerous materials, which could be found in the water.


Currently, NGOs face difficulties reaching the most remote areas to build wells. The drilling machinery is not only expensive but can only operate in places it can reach. By recreating a new drilling process that can reach even farther places and dig to deeper grounds, I believe my main objective of delivering clean water to all people, in all areas, all the time will be achieved.

Team Mozo

Mozo is a learning robot specially designed for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) that have Social Deficits and Communication Difficulties symptoms. 

It is an affordable robot-assisted therapy tool that can be used by autism therapists, educators and parents. It is controlled through a simple user-friendly mobile application. The mobile application teaches social and communication interactions and provides users with teaching skills that are of effective for children with ASD.

According to International Statistical Institute, a child is born with autism every twenty minutes. In 2014, the National Bureau of Statistics declared that two percent of UAE newborns are diagnosed with autism. 

One of the major difficulties autistic children face is social deficits. They may avoid eye contact, social interactions and resist or passively accept attention especially when frustrated or presented with a new situation or environment. They also suffer from communication difficulties. Some children may have good basic language skills, but have difficulty initiating or sustaining conversations. Some may use language in unusual ways, such as repeating a phrase, or parroting what they hear (also named as Echolalia).

Moza a soft fluffy teddy bear one-metre height. The teddy bear shape and bright color of the robot are to attract children’s attention. This attractive shape is highly effective in breaking barriers as a motivation for autistic children who have difficulty, shyness or discomfort interacting or practicing social skills with strange people. The size is so that it can be easily hugged by children. Through the mobile application, the user can make the robot hug the child or react to a child’s hug, as the robot has joints in its arms.


Under observation from a group of autism experts from the Zayed Higher Organization for Humanitarian Care and Special Needs (ZHO), Mozo’s features were designed and implemented to have a positive impact on autistic children. The application can be customised to provide therapy lessons and create profiles for every child with their own tailored therapy plan.

China’s robot exhibition CIROS 2015 highlighted the fast-growing demand for robotics in the world’s biggest economy

CIROS Robotics Show

The world’s biggest market for robotic machinery, China, held its first robot trade show over the summer. The China International Robot Show (CIROS) 2015, the nation’s first took place in Shanghai and was aimed at promoting further development of the industry and leading change in the manufacturing sector. The exhibition, which covered an area of 24,000 square meters, included industrial robot body parts, integrated application solutions and service robot technologies and products.

The show came at a time of surging demand for robots in China, thanks to the upgrade in manufacturing facilities across the country. Sales of industry robots hit 36,560 units in 2013, a spike of 60 per cent compared to the previous year.

China has been the world’s biggest market for robotic machinery since 2013, and demand domestically is growing. In 2016, China is expected to have installed more robots than any other nation globally, according to the International Federation for Robotics (IFR). The federation also estimates the number of robots in operation across the country will double to 400,000 by 2017 from 200,000 at present. Currently, China has 30 industrial robots for every 10,000 manufacturing workers, almost a double the number in 2013. 

The robotics industry worldwide is expected to create a market of trillions of dollars in the coming decade, especially as their use expands from the auto and electronics industries to military, aerospace, aviation, construction and healthcare.