Highlights From the International Robot Exhibition 2013

Check out some of the coolest things we saw at IREX 2013

2 min read
Highlights From the International Robot Exhibition 2013

The theme for this year's International Robot Exhibition (IREX) in Tokyo was "Making a Future with Robot." We're not exactly sure what that means, but we're definitely in favor of it, and here are some of the coolest things that we saw.

There's one caveat with our IREX coverage, and that's the fact that there was a bit of a language barrier going on most of the time. With the exception of some big international robotics companies, there simply wasn't a lot of information available on many of the robots that we saw. We're following up as best we can, but in the meantime, enjoy this highlight video and gallery that we've put together for you.



Fanuc's gigantic M-2000iA robot arm, which can lift 1,200 kilograms.


KUKA, meanwhile, was busy doing something else.


Need a car assembled on the show floor? Kawasaki's got it covered.


Robot arms don't get much more blinged out that being entirely chrome-plated.


High-speed dice sorting.


This robot has been set up to autonomously (and flawlessly) decorate nails.


Pig robot?


Cup Noodles on the attack.


Toyota giving a demo of their Human Support Robot.


Japan gets kids started early on powered exoskeletons.


Beautiful linkages in a robot hand.


Toyota's master/slave robot arm system.


HiBot's aquatic robotic snake frolicking in its own swimming pool.


Robotis' gigantic walking humanoid robot, grown out of their high-end hobby servos.


DARWINs dancing in traditional Korean outfits.


Everybody loves Paro. Everybody.

[ IREX 2013 ]

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Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.

"I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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