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EXPO21XX: Where the Bots Are

You no longer need to contend with crowds, parking, lousy food, or noise to visit the halls of a conference center. EXPO21XX has created an online exhibition hall to showcase projects in more than 100 university robotics labs from around the world. Each university has its own showroom featuring videos, pictures, and text. You can wander for hours on your own schedule without leaving the comfort of your chair, stopping to view a video or to read a description of the latest robot or robotic system.

Robots are not the only virtual exhibitions at the website. EXPO21XX is a recognized leader in online exhibitions, with over 4500 individual international exhibitors and a number of online trade shows on consumer goods and services. The robotics exhibits feature more than 90 of the top university robotics labs from around the world, including labs from MIT, CMU, Oxford, ANU, Cambridge, and many German, Canadian, and Asian universities.

EXPO21XX has created an online exhibition hall to showcase projects in more than 100 university robotics labs from around the world.

Here are a few of the highlights from my wanderings in the virtual halls of the EXPO21XX robotics exhibit:

  • Socially intelligent animatronic robots by MIT.
  • Humanoids interacting with humans by Osaka University.
  • The first anthropomimetic robot by the University of Zurich.
  • Stair-climbing and rough terrain robots by the University of Michigan and MIT.
  • A robot with a biological brain at the University of Reading.

The MIT Personal Robots Group at the Media Lab is involved with a number of projects ranging from robotic flower gardens to embedding robotic technologies into familiar everyday artifacts such as clothing, lamps, and desktop computers. Their MDS Robot is a wheeled bot with a hand and wrist designed for object manipulation and expressive gesturing. The well-known Leonardo bot (named after Leonardo DaVinci) looks like cuddly Gizmo, the Mogwai from the movie Gremlins. Leonardo learns from natural human interaction and has 69 degrees of freedom, including 32 in the face. Leonardo is capable of near-human facial expression (constrained by its creature-like appearance), and is being used in social learning, teamwork, and social cognition experiments.

Leonardo Bot by MIT Personal Robots Group. Photo:

Osaka University is developing the Repliee Q2 bot, an upgraded version of its human-like Repliee Q1. Repliee has 13 degrees of freedom in its head so that it can make facial expressions and mouth shapes. Repliee Q1 has been used in experiments to interact with people by impersonating a TV interviewer. With omnidirectional cameras and microphones surrounding “her” — along with tactile sensors embedded under a carpet — she can recognize a person’s gestures, voice, and standing position.

Repliee Q2 (left) and Repliee Q1 (right) by Osaka University. Photo:

The University of Zurich Department of Informatics is working on the ECCEROBOT (Embodied Cognition in a Compliantly Engineered Robot), a three-year project funded by the EU with the goal to build and control the first anthropomimetic robot and to investigate its human-like cognitive features. Instead of just copying the outward form of a human, an anthropomimetic bot copies human inner structures and mechanisms — bones, joints, muscles, and tendons — with the potential for human-like action and interaction in the world. The hope is that this type of bot will exceed the limitations of non-anthropomimetic bots and acquire information about the environment in the same manner as humans.

Ecccerobot by The University of Zurich Department of Informatics. Photo:

The University of Michigan Mobile Robotics Lab is working on the OmniTread serpentine robot to traverse extremely difficult terrain, such as the rubble of a collapsed building or sand and rocks. This bot can pass through small holes and climb over tall obstacles.

OmniTread serpentine robot. Photo:

The MIT Robot Locomotion Group is developing bots for minimally-actuated dynamic walking on moderate terrain, quadrupedal locomotion on extreme terrain, fixed-wing acrobatics, flapping-winged flight, and feedback control for fluid dynamics.

Quadruped Locomotion on Rough Terrain (Little Dog)(left) and Flapping Plate (right).

The University of Reading is interfacing computers with growing cultures of neurons via electrode arrays to create biological brains that can control mobile robots. Project goals include understanding the function and developmental process of neurons and neuronal networks, and an understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying memory and learning.

And, of course, what’s a conference without the fun stuff?

Single electrode (left), Miabot Pro (center) and electrode arrays (right) by University of Reading. Photo:

Robogarage creates, designs, and invents unique and original humanoid bots (Ropid, FT, Chroino, and Neon) using a technology called SHIN-Walk to provide a natural walking stride.

Chroino by Robogarage. Photo:

Robogames sponsors contests between combat robots, walking humanoids, soccer bots, sumo bots, and even androids that do kung-fu. Some robots are autonomous and some are remote-controlled. They also provide a starter bot for educators, students, and hobbyists called RoboNova with 16 servos, a modular skeleton, and a programming interface.

Robogames. Photo:

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