Innovation Meets Robotics: What is Needed to Realize Israel’s Immense Robotics Potential?
Many speak of innovation and the importance of fostering economic growth but few name the specific fields in which investment is called for. Robotics is one of the promising new directions thanks to its immense potential and novelty. The topic was explored from multiple angles by leading robotics researchers and industry professionals during a symposium entitled “Innovation Meets Robotics” organized by the Israeli Robotics Association (IROB) at Google Campus Tel Aviv on December 30th, 2014. The symposium was attended by over 100 participants, including MK Boaz Toporovsky, member of the Knesset Science and Technology Committee.
Professor Zvi Shiller, Head of the Robotics and Autonomous Vehicles Lab at the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechatronics of Ariel University, and Chairman of the Israeli Robotics Association, served as Master of Ceremonies of the symposium. In his presentation, Prof. Shiller described the crossroads at which robotics has arrived: “Robotics are already present in our lives and society is ripe for it,” clarified Prof. Shiller. “Now we need innovation to transform the technology into products”. Prof. Shiller reviewed the trends in global robotics over 2014, which included many significant purchases of robotics companies by enterprises such as Google, and presented immense growth forecasts for this field. Zooming in to describe the local situation in Israeli robotics, Prof. Shiller highlighted the existing successes such as Argo Medical, Mobile Eye, Friendly Robotics, Maytronics and Mazor. However, alongside these success stories, Prof. Shiller emphasized that robotics’ share of the Israeli industry is significantly smaller than its potential, due to: the field’s complexity (requiring the combination of hardware and software development and thus the need for several partners in every single project), a lack of incentivizing policy that would encourage investment in the field, and intellectual property challenges. To provide appropriate responses to these barriers, Prof. Shiller recommended a crowdsourced initiative to synergize multidisciplinary knowledge of the different partners and he called for the establishment of a national robotics institute to serve as a “sandbox” for ideas and products.
The symposium also featured: Dr. Yossi Vardi on innovation in the High-Tech industry; Yanki Margalit and Dr. Roey Tzezana who provided forecasts on the impact of robotics further into the future; Galya Racine on corporate driven innovation; Dr. Guy Hoffman on body language as the robotic User Interface; Arik Yavnai on organizational innovation; Gennady Berinsky on teaching innovation; Dr. Doron Eyal on ways to apply innovation and creativity in education and everyday life; Nimrod Rotem on the projected ramifications of digital production and MK Boaz Toporovsky who concluded that the time is ripe for a robotics breakthrough and that for it to occur in Israel and in order to leverage Israel as a leader in the field, robotics must be taught in schools from elementary through high school and a robotics institute must be established to promote the field.
This symposium served as the first in a series of initiatives to promote the field of robotics in Israel to its rightful, thriving position, leading up to the central event – a comprehensive Israeli robotics conference to be held in March 2016.
IROB founder and Chair. Professor at Ariel University and founder of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechatronics and the Paslin Robotics and Autonomous Vehicle Laboratory. Head of the Master program in Mechanical Engineering. His main research interests include model-based motion planning and control of autonomous vehicles, and the development of affordable assistive robotic devices.