Thursday, May 21, 2009

Robobusiness, Discovery and World Haptics Conference

I recently had the opportunity to represent Quanser and demonstrate a few of our leading edge Haptic Devices at three major conferences: World Haptics Conference, Robobusiness, and Discovery.

World Haptics Conference in Salt Lake City

Back in March, this 3 day conference hosted around 300 people and drew in students, researchers and industry experts from all over the world. Attendees were drawn in and quite impressed by our guided needle insertion HD2 demo. People commented on the large workspace and low intervening dynamics. They were also taken aback by the negligible inertia and low friction characteristics of the highly back-drivable HD2.

Haptics Professors from University of Ottawa, Georgia Institute of Technology, Naval Postgraduate School and other reputable institutions expressed interest in collaborating with Quanser on many fronts. Research initiatives and opportunities were uncovered in a diverse range of applications from excavation to eye surgery training. In speaking with individuals from leading medical device manufacturers, I learned about some of the challenges doctors face in performing surgery today. Haptic devices can not only be used for training future surgeons, saving them the mess and high costs of using cadavers, but can also be used to guide doctors in to complex surgical procedures. I learned that while speaking with people in the medical arena, it’s important not to get stuck using Engineering lingo like ‘haptics’. When discussing surgical trainers, Doctors may not be familiar with the word Haptics, instead, it is sometimes more effective to speak of muscle memory.

The Media Labs and RoboBusiness Conference in Boston
Patrick and I were at The Media Labs last month! Yes, we saw the MIT Lab which is focusing on “human adaptability”–work ranging from initiatives to treat conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression, to sociable robots that can monitor the health of children or the elderly, to the development of smart prostheses that can mimic–or even exceed–the capabilities of our biological limbs. We also saw the room in which Guitar Hero was first invented!

The Robobusiness conference was yet another eye opening and action-packed experience. Once again, our Telepresence system drew people in from every direction. Although we had quite a few reporters from different technology press come by our booth, the majority of the attendees included researchers and industry robotic experts. A technology leader from Motoman, who later delivered a talk on the 15 DOF Motoman SDA10, came by our booth and showed interest in visiting our facility to learn more about our Telepresence system. Other conference attendees included Barrett Technology, ABB, and iRobot. People were also very interested in learning more about our UAV/UGV platforms, namely, the Hi-Q board and QuaRC, our rapid control prototyping software.

Taking into consideration Baby Boomer demographic trends and rising medical costs, whether it be Telepresence Systems or Rehab devices, the market potential for Medical Robotic solutions is enormous. The key for Quanser will be to continue our tradition of providing revolutionary robotic solutions to University Researchers and Industry Innovators.

Discovery Conference in Toronto

A few weeks ago, I attended the Discovery conference in downtown Toronto. Almost 300 exhibitors and a few thousand attendees were on site at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on May 11th and 12th, providing a rare glimpse into the province’s future innovation economy.

At our booth, Mahyar, Pasha and I were presenting the HD2 guided needle insertion demo to an engaged and captivated crowd. Activity at our booth really picked up on the morning of the 12th and carried on throughout the rest of the day. Although many of the visitors were learning about Quanser’s innovate capabilities for the first time, it was humbling to meet so many top Canadian researchers and industry leaders who were either familiar or had worked with us in the past.

In addition to our booth, the Quanser ShakeTable I-40 could be found at the Let’s Talk Science booth. Let’s Talk Science is a Canadian non-profit organization committed to building youth interest and engagement in science, engineering and technology. This organization widely promotes the importance of science literacy in the development of an innovation culture and they are engaging science, engineering and technology professionals as science outreach volunteers and mobilizing them in communities and schools. In the midst of a global recession, governments are beginning to realize the importance of investing in our children’s futures. In the past few months, we are noticing a major shift in government resource allocation towards upplifting K-12 (Kindergarten to Grade 12) initiatives. Moving forward, I look forward to volunteering with LTS to put together outreach competitions for K-12 schools in the Greater Toronto Area. Our earthquake shaketables are currently being used by many Universities such as Berkeley and University of Southern California for similar outreach programs.

We also had the chance to meet with some of the people from the business development team of a local E-Learning company, DeckChair Learning Systems. They are an online education company that helps students learn better and achieve more. They’ve developed a unique application that identifies gaps in students learning, automatically creates individualized learning experiences for them, and measures their achievement. They help educators use learning technologies to improve student success, improve teaching, and save costs by offering an array of psychologist proven, adaptive learning technologies. Given our presence in over 2000 academic institutions and experience in providing pedagogical course curriculum, there may be some interesting collaborative opportunities left to explore with similar e-learning companies.

In addition to the opportunities uncovered, these 3 conferences have given us a clearer insight into the future of robotics in the arenas of engineering education, medicine and defense. Quanser’s strength and presence in the field of Mechatronics comes at a time when the world needs it the most. Left winded by the recession, the world is desperately searching for innovative leadership. Serving the controls and mechatronics community for more than 20 years, we find ourselves uniquely positioned at the hub of academia, research and industry, bringing tomorrow’s ideas, today.

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