Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Last post . . . .

I'm the guy on the right.

I am discontinuing this blog because the format of  The Robot Report now enables long and short articles whereas in the past, long articles went here and short ones there.

PS: There are many very worthwhile articles in the archives of Everything-Robotic and they are staying online and available for your reading and research.

PPS: I'm the guy on the right.

Thanks for being readers - and please follow me on The Robot Report.

Frank Tobe
Editor/Publisher, The Robot Report

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Robot Report's 2014 Holiday Gift List

By Frank Tobe, Editor and Publisher, The Robot Report

  • Product: mamaRoo robotic rocker
  • Manufacturer: 4moms
  • For: babies 0-6 months, gift for soon-to-be parents, baby shower gift
  • Availability: Amazon
  • Comment: A pioneer in duplicating the human parent motions of rocking, dancing, cradling and driving, the mamaRoo robotic rocker sets the standard for smart baby swings. Competitors are adding smart features to their baby swings to catch up but 4moms is definitely the leader of the pack in their use of robotics and slick engineering. Even has built-in nature sounds but can also use any MP3 player as a plug-in.

  • Product: MiP Balancing Robot
  • Manufacturer: WowWee
  • For: Kids 8 and older
  • Availability: Amazon and Walmart
  • Comment: This is a fascinating robotic achievement. It is equipped with gesture sensing technology: any hand motion controls MiP. MiP is short for "Mobile Inverted Pendulum." It is controlled from its app on smartphones or tablets. It also has an immersive personality and responds to praise or mistreatment. All the while this 10 inch little robot is balancing on two wheels. It has a game mode as well as dance, boxing, battle and stack modes.

  • Product: Mini Quadcopter X4 FPV
  • Manufacturer: Hubsan
  • For: kids of all ages
  • Availability: Amazon
  • Comment: This mini quadcopter is a low-cost palm-sized drone that has blue lights as it flies. There are many providers of mini's but I like this one. It uses a joystick and has an acrobotic mode for doing flips. It has a camera that transmits a real-time video signal to the user. This makes it possible to fly by first-person-view (the FPV in its name). It runs for 7+ minutes on a 30 minute charge.

  • Product: Furreal Get Up and GoGo Walking Pup Pet
  • Manufacturer: Hasbro
  • For: young girls 4-6 years old
  • Availability: Amazon
  • Comment: This robotic pet responds with barks, tail wags and head tilts when you talk to her. She'll sit when petted. Her leash has a controller so that you can take her for a walk. With a free app, you can watch her interact with the app activities as you play. The pup will respond to the bubbles and hair dryer in one of the apps. 

  • Product: MiniDrone Jumping Sumo
  • Manufacturer: Parrot
  • For: 8 years and older
  • Availability: Amazon
  • Comment: This robot jumps over 2-1/2 feet and always falls back on its wheels. Controlled via your smartphone or tablet, this jumping Sumo has a wide angle camera and streams live views on the pilot's screen. The software enables programming a travel plan with tricks and sounds to liven up an already fascinating minidrone. Wheels can be pushed in for navigating in tight areas and pulled out for a wider base.

  • Product: Zoomer Dino -- Boomer
  • Manufacturer: Spinmaster
  • For: young boys 6 years and older
  • Availability: Amazon and Target
  • Comment: This is small (9" high and 14" long) two-legged balancing mobile interactive dinosaur with sounds and responsiveness and a trainable personality. You can use the controller or your hands to direct the robot. You can train him to dance, chase, chomp and roar. It has a proximity sensor to detect when you're nearby.

  • Product: Aisoy1 social robot for education
  • Manufacturer: Aisoy
  • For: kids 8 and older
  • Availability: RobotShop
  • Comment: This educational robot can speak, hear, be emotional and see. It's primary goal is to teach programming from scratch. It's neck, eyelids and eyebrows move and are able to express emotional reactions to various sensor stimuli. It can be purchased as a kit or fully assembled.

  • Product: Aquabot fish
  • Manufacturer: Hexbug
  • For: kids 4 and older
  • Availability: Amazon
  • Comment: These "fish" come to life in water and swim, dive and explore their environment. You can buy two versions of the fish in 10 different colors. You can also buy an acquarium or make your own. 

  • Product: i-Dog Robotic Music Loving Canine
  • Manufacturer: Hasbro
  • For: kids 4 and older
  • Availability: Amazon
  • Comment: This robotic dog moves and gyrates to the beat of any connected music device (iPod, tablet, smartphone). Simple but with an expressive face and 7 different multi-color lights and also an audio speaker.

  • Product: Zoomer Interactive Puppy
  • Manufacturer: Zoomer
  • For: kids 4 and older
  • Availability: Amazon
  • Comment: Teachable puppy, rewarded with belly rubbing, can learn its name and responds to that name, plays and chases and not always obedient. He will sit, lie down, play dead, protect you and even "pee".

  • Product: Rolling Spider
  • Manufacturer: Parrot
  • For: 8 years and older
  • Availability: Amazon
  • Comment: An update to Parrot's successful AR Drone, this drone can roll and fly anywhere including across your ceiling! Performs acrobatics; rolls anywhere including up walls. Has an embedded mini-cam and, with a connection to your smartphone or tablet can record your flights.

  • Product: Ollie - speedy app-controlled robot
  • Manufacturer: Orbotix/Sphero
  • For: 8 years and older
  • Availability: Amazon
  • Comment: This fast-moving floor robot can spin, flip and perform app-powered tricks. Can conquer most indoor and outdoor terrains. Takes some time to figure it all out but Ollie is more durable, faster and robust than a remote-controlled car.

  • Product: Chatsters Gabby Interactive Doll
  • Manufacturer: Spin Master
  • For: Girls 5 and older
  • Availability: Amazon
  • Comment: This chatty Gabby has a vocabulary of over 300 unique words and phrases and over 25 games and activities triggered from interactive accessories such as smoothie, cupcake, eye shadow compact, lipstick and mobile phone. At 11 inches tall, she talks, dances and plays games and activities through her touch-enabled eyeglass frames. Her eyes are animated and light up in different colors as she chats. Her glasses are touch sensors and if you tap on a corner you can answer her questions or give her makeovers. You can even text her!

  • Product: Mindstorms EV3 processor and kit
  • Manufacturer: LEGO
  • For: Kids 10 and older
  • Availability: Amazon
  • Comment: For robot enthusiasts with a technical bent, this EV3 kit is the latest version of LEGO Mindstorms. It contains motors, sensors and LEGO parts and plans to build and program a variety of robots. At it's core is an ARM9 processor. It has a remote control device or can be controlled from your smart phone or tablet. You can program and control these versatile productions.

  • Product: Robot & Frank - DVD
  • Manufacturer: Sony/Columbia
  • For: Kids and adults 13 and over (PG rating)
  • Availability: Amazon
  • Comment: Set in the near future, Frank receives a companion robot to improve his physical and mental health. With stars Susan Sarandon and Frank Langella, the story is hilarious and heartwarming and a good example of how and where service robots can help family members.

All of the above items are available in time for Christmas and can be found in The Robot Report's Amazon Store or directly at Amazon. Additional items can be found at Robotshop.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Rethinking iRobot, Samsung and Dyson robotic vacuum cleaners

By Frank Tobe, Editor/Publisher, The Robot Report

At a break in a conference in San Diego, I was sitting enjoying my tea, when up walked Rodney Brooks (of Rethink Robotics and Baxter fame) and said (with a mischievious smile):
Rodney Brooks
"I have a bone to pick with you! Robotic vacuum cleaners didn't just become mainstream as you said in your article. We have sold 12 million by now and are the biggest seller in Samsung's home (Korea)."
He went on to say that Dyson is a small player in the global vacuum marketplace and that Samsung has gone through many iterations of improvement yet iRobot's Roomba's still outsell them in their core market.

Brooks was referring to my two articles in The Robot Report where I commented about Samsung's and Dyson's new robotic vacuums. He wasn't really angry; just having fun. But I began to think about what he was referring to, considering whether I had said something incorrect or possibly hurtful. The second of my two articles had the headline: Latest robotic vacuum product launches change industry from niche to mainstream.
Samsung (left) and Dyson robotic vacuum cleaners
In those articles I said:
Should iRobot be worried? Definitely! Dyson has considerable experience in the higher-end vacuuming market - selling more than 10 million devices a year! Dyson generated nearly $10 billion in revenue in 2013 of which at least 40% is vacuum-related versus iRobot's $487 million. Consequently, if the new Dyson 360 Eye robotic vacuum is as good as other Dyson vacuum cleaners, there is much reason for iRobot to worry.
iRobot, over the past 10 years, has sold 10 million Roombas, mostly through online distribution methods. With the global consumer distribution channels that both Dyson and Samsung bring, it's conceivable that either (or both) could sell 10 million of their products in a single year!
In the two articles, I was attempting to describe the transition that often happens with unique consumer products as they switch from niche markets of early adopters to the massively larger mainstream household products market. And even though iRobot has sold 10 million Roombas over a 10-year period, that's just a fraction of the 50+ million global vacuums sold annually for $11 billion (source: TechNavio).

Both Dyson and Samsung have upgraded the vacuuming function of their robotic cleaners to be equivalent to non-robotic cleaners. Consequently, they have endorsed what iRobot invented many years ago: a convenient robotic method of cleaning carpets and floors. But their endorsement comes at the expense of competition which is sure to happen in the years to come.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Industrial robot makers set goals to become Service Robotics providers

By Frank Tobe, Editor and Publisher, The Robot Report

"The future of automation lies in direct cooperation between humans and robots. In order for a robot to be able to work safely with humans, a whole new robot generation is required: the machines must be sensitive and compliant." -- Dr. Albrecht Hoene, KUKA Labs

All over the world of manufacturing, fenceless applications of robots and humans working together are enabling entirely new possibilities in modern factory settings. In small and medium-sized shops, plug and play easily-programmable robots are making inroads helping production workers use these new co-bots to offload some of their less-skilled tasks thereby freeing themselves to do more productive work. Workshops in collaborative robotics are springing up and industrial trade shows are featuring transition products into the world of service and collaborative robotics.

Volatile markets, product diversity, multiple variants and shorter product lifecycles mean that production must adapt quickly to new conditions, i.e. it must be versatile. Those new conditions have been given the term "Industry 4.0" in Europe and "Smart" or "Advanced Manufacturing" in the U.S. In many cases, these terms mean a move away from rigid full automation to flexible work-sharing between humans and robot.
"Using the robot as a production assistant makes production more versatile than ever before and enables entirely new concepts in manufacturing."
Industry 4.0 and Advanced Manufacturing are gaining momentum on many fronts. DARPA is investing in Military-service-affiliated Manufacturing Demonstration Facilities that will provide a lasting, shared resource to provide the manufacturing community with greater access to open manufacturing and research. These facilities will:
  • Serve as repositories of focused manufacturing knowledge and infrastructure
  • Independently demonstrate designs, manufacturing processes, process models and manufactured products
  • Curate and assess manufacturing models, qualification schema and material/processing properties data
In America, the Obama Administration is pushing Advanced Manufacturing on many fronts. Their new institutions are patterned after the successful Fraunhofer Institute in Germany. In fact, a team from the Fraunhofer IPA visited the US last year and met with and described their formula to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and consulted with the Advanced Manufacturing and Robotics and Cyber-Physical Systems directors -- all of which led to the Obama Administration's "Proposal to Establish a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation," NNMI, and this has led further to the launch of four new automation and manufacturing technology centers in the U.S. so far this year.

Major robot manufacturers see the writing on the wall and have developed (or are in the process of developing) roadmaps to transition to these new markets. Many will be showing their efforts at AUTOMATICA 2014 in AUTOMATICA's special focus this year on Service Robotics and SMEs.

AUTOMATICA 2014, being held next week in Munich, offers an opportunity to explore Industry 4.0 and Advanced Manufacturing, along with viewing first-hand the big robot manufacturers plans to move into the Service Robots arena in one big robotics and automation trade show and conference. I'll be there walking the floors, listening to exhibitors, and gathering information. Will you?

Are there any big ideas [about robotics] the mainstream is still missing?”

By Frank Tobe, Editor, The Robot Report

A The Robot Report reader asked a question that addresses a subject I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about — “are there any big ideas you think the mainstream is still missing [about robotics]?” 

When PCs became available in the early '90's, key software that people wanted was also available and could only be operated on PCs: 

  • Wordstar - for word processing - think MS Word
  • VisiCalc - for spreadsheets - think Excel
  • dBase - for relational databases - think Access or mySQL
These three softwares drove sales of PCs into unforeseen marketplaces and caused major disruption: 
  • Execs could type their own correspondence quicker than dealing through a secretary or pool thereby eliminating the need for that occupation. 
  • Everybody at work and at home could benefit by having columns of numbers added and cross-checked. Fewer bookkeepers were needed and calculator sales went down.
  • The concept of “relational” was never before understood as it was when you could instantly find something using a “key” linking multiple databases together to "find" your information instead of serially processing until you hit it. 
Rodney Brooks, of Rethink Robotics, iRobot and MIT fame, has been preaching that if you provide a cheap enough plug and play robot to small shops and factories, the workers themselves will find uses for them doing the drudge work they don’t like to do thereby making them more likely to be more productive doing the things they do like to do. Because of all the worldwide media attention in the last few years, including the financial media, business people are beginning to grasp Rod’s message. And, as occurred in the ’90’s, once they understand the concepts, they can visualize how they can use them and then they become willing to buy. 

I see that happening now in labs, small shops and medium-sized businesses around the world. In business, it's becomming common knowledge that robotic assistance is needed to keep jobs, increase productivity and lower overall costs - manna for executives everywhere. 

Furthermore, I see movement from devices (appliances, tools, cars) to smart devices and then to interconnected smart devices and finally to fully autonomous robotic-like devices. This will require new definitions of what a robot is. Robotic-like devices already exist in many fields (finance, diagnostics, etc.). Progress is being held up by limitations in the software that it takes to perform artificial intelligence. But that field is progressing at an accelerating pace and being commercialized as rapidly (e.g., Stanford’s Andrew Ng is now chief scientist running Baidu’s artificial intelligence research labs in Sunnyvale and Beijing). 

The remainder of this decade has so many disruptive moments in store for it: 

  • The FAA’s regs on UAS and how that will play out in first responder situations and other applications
  • AI breakthroughs speeding up all the other developments 
  • Smart devices becoming robotic-like (appliances, cars, etc.) 
  • New marketplaces for robots (e.g., agriculture, construction, architecture, surveying, small shops and factories, search and rescue, healthcare, etc.) 
One can barely contemplate the disruption happening from 2020 on!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Our Relationship with the Uncanny Valley

By Rachel Greenberg**, AutomationGT 
Edited by Frank Tobe, The Robot Report 

Three humanoid robots (sitting) and their human counterparts. Photo: Gadgets & Gizmos Show
At present, the development and creation of humanoid robots accounts for only a small part of the robotics industry, yet humanoid robots capture the imagination in a particular way and as such, when many people talk about robots, they are really talking about humanoid robots. How and when and to what degree we choose to make our robots look more human demonstrates some interesting things about those of us who make, and those of us who buy, robots.

There is a well-known phenomenon in the design of human robots known as the “uncanny valley,” so named by robotics professor Masahiro Mori, and based on the Freudian concept of the “uncanny.” Generally, we tend to like things better as they become more like a living thing, as long as we still find it cute or goofy, really anything that makes it obvious that the robot isn’t too human. Professor Mori’s “uncanny valley” refers to the massive drop in user approval when robots get too close to looking human. However, on the other side of the valley, approval spikes again when we get to non-robotic humans of average appearance.

Prof. Mori's Uncanny Valley caricaturized by Carmen Rodriguez Peñamaria
Some researchers think that we respond negatively to these robots because they remind of us dead or diseased humans, both of which we have biological reason to avoid. However, if movies and science fiction are any indication, it’s evident that we are interested in bringing robots as close to humanness as we possibly can, regardless of the revulsion that many people feel. In part, we may just be interested in the questions and implications that this kind of pursuit of knowledge and development of technology would raise, but as a result we will likely end up producing robots that are fairly, if not totally, similar to human beings in some pretty remarkable ways.

The three biggest factors that appear to lead to a robot’s placement in the uncanny valley are physical appearance, movement, and speech. We tend to be repelled by robots that have false skin coverings, markedly human facial features and expressions, stilted movements, or stilted speech that may remind us of zombies. No matter how advanced we get with our humanoid robots, we can’t quite make it out of the uncanny valley. For an example, check out this video of the Geminoid DK. The Geminoid DK is one of the better examples of a robot that does a pretty good job of looking human, but as you watch it move, it’s easy to notice a bit of creepiness, even if it’s just for a minute, just because of some little motion or expression that isn’t quite right.

Until we have achieved robots that are perfect imitations of humans in appearance, movement, and speech, it seems that we will likely not be comfortable with the less perfect humanoid robots along the way. For now, we seem to be more interested in making robots that seem lifelike in only minor ways. We regularly see robots that are inspired by humans or some aspect of humans (like the industrial robotic arm, a design inspired by our own bodies), but we feel more comfortable with these human elements when they are for function, rather than form.

However, we do seem very interested in making robots more human in their intellect. There are lots of robots on the market now that in some small ways imitate humans in their behaviors and social abilities, though not in appearance. This seems to suggest that we want robots to be comprehensible to us as individuals that can act and react in seemingly natural ways, but become uncomfortable when they are intelligent but look too human. This drive to develop social robots suggests that we want robots with which we can develop maybe sentimental relationships, if not necessarily substantive relationships, and that to achieve this, it is more important that robots act human than look or sound human.

Some researchers suppose that our increased exposure to robots and to highly digitized faces in video games and movies may ultimately make us more comfortable with false human appearances, and as a result, it may ultimately be easier for us to accept robots that are near or in the uncanny valley. This may take some of the immediate pressure off of humanoid robot developers to develop perfectly human-looking robots, which will allow some leeway for experimentation and error as we work on the appearances of our social and interactive robots.

It’s apparent that we have a lot to figure out about ourselves and about humanoid robots before we accept them completely, but it may be an impossible task to ever push humanoid robots completely up out of the uncanny valley, or to jump over the uncanny valley altogether. It’s a daunting task to program a robot with enough capability just to be able to respond to people in a consistent way. It’s unfathomable how much care, detail -- and time -- it would take to create a robot that could be substantially closer to a human in all ways including appearance, movement, speech, and behavior.

The general progression of human technology tends to follow the pattern that if we can find a way to do it, we will do it, except in cases of obvious ethical or human consequence. And we live in an age in which technology progresses more quickly than we can readily adjust to it, and there’s no reason robots won’t follow this same pattern. Engineers will continue to work towards increasingly human robots and androids, and it will be fascinating to see how these robots will and won’t fit into the roles we designate for them.


Masahiro Mori   Photo: IEEE Spectrum

Additional resources on the topic of Prof. Masahiro Mori's theory of the "Uncanny Valley":

  1. Robots Podcast interview with Hiroshi Ishigura
  2. New Russian entrant into creepiest robot face contest
  3. Professor Mori at IROS 2013 describing how he came to develop the uncanny valley theory
  4. Masahiro Mori on the Uncanny Valley and Beyond


** Rachel Greenberg writes technical and marketing content for Automation GT in Carlsbad, CA. She is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, currently working out of the San Diego area.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Proletarian Robots Getting Cheaper to Exploit

by Frank Tobe, Editor and Publisher, The Robot Report

After laughing uncomfortably at the headline from The Moscow Times reporting about the recent Skolkovo Robot Conference, I parsed through the wording and found the intended meaning. But that process: from shock and incongruity, to amusement, through multiple second thoughts and a bit of research, to an understanding of the headline, is the same process I went through in relation to the conference in which I participated and spoke at.

My interpretation of that headline - removing any sense of political rhetoric - is that robots are getting cheaper and becoming more available to average consumers. This was one facet of the conference and exhibition, but not the main goal.

I’ve been to Russia four times on political consulting and speaking trips but have never seen or participated in anything like the Skolkovo Robotics Conference.

The host for the conference was the Skolkovo Technology Innovation Foundation, a partner in a newly chartered campus of buildings and people challenged with providing education, structure and inspiration for the incubation of Russian start-ups and spin-offs of all types and from all sources. It is government funded through 2020. MIT is collaborating with Skoltech for their Institute of Science and Technology, a private graduate research university. All are located in Skolkovo, a suburb of Moscow.

The campus at present consists of the building in which the conference was held, named the Hypercube, another under construction, and a third laid out to be constructed. The grounds are massive - perhaps 3/4 mile long by 1/2 mile wide. Even during the winter weekend of the conference, tractors, cranes and earth movers were at work moving materials, rocks and dirt from place to place.

Albert Efimov is in charge of all Skolkovo robotic activities which includes the recent weekend robotics conference. His other activities include attempting to inspire and educate Russian politicians, academics, business people, investors and prospective entrepreneurs about what the various Skolkovo entities are offering. Also he is charged with educating about how robotics offers the prospect for significant competitive change for Russian businesses and profits to their investors and entrepreneurs.

The event, as epitomized by The Moscow Times headline, contained all the confusion and mystery of Russia with some even more confusing facts: Russia doesn’t really have or use that many robots.
  • The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) tabulated 232 robots were sold into Russia in 2010, down 13% from 2009.
  • Of the 232, half were used for welding in the automotive and metalworking industries.
  • When added to existing robots, the overall total stock of robots as of the end of 2010 in Russia was just 1,058.
  • Very few service robots were produced in Russia and 100% of them were for the military, defense, rescue or space agencies.
  • Russia is the 3rd lowest in robot density globally. The bottom five are Croatia, Iran, Russia, India and Ukraine.
  • For reference purposes, the top five are Korea, Japan, Germany, Italy and Sweden. The US is 7th. 
Russia doesn’t presently have an academic system that supports and encourages entrepreneurship - which is why the Skolkovo project is so important.
  • Academics don’t push for the publishing of papers.
  • Nor do they encourage patenting or spin-offs.
  • One story I was told was about a professor who, when shown a new American robotic invention, said that his group had invented that 10 years ago. But when asked why he neither published it or spun it off as a commercial enterprise he said, "Why? We're academics!"
  • In the March 1st Moscow Times, in an interview with the owner of a large farming conglomerate, the owner was quoted as saying that he has a hard time finding qualified agricultural college graduates because many Russian universities lower their entrance qualifications to be able to fill quotas and get government funding. Consequently their graduates are under-educated and unqualified for technical positions.
When reviewing these facts, my first thought went to a memorable quote by a University of North Carolina associate professor, Terry Sullivan:
"When the only sure thing is change, The only real hope is imagination."
Albert is charged with inspiring Russians to imagine a future with robots and join with him at the Skolkovo Institute to make it happen. His official foundation title of Project Director of the Information Technology Cluster doesn't include his unofficial function as Chief Robot Technician.

Albert has his work cut out for him. I think he learned from this conference, as did I, that his next event needs a different set of presenters. His audiences need to meet and talk with successful robotic start-up CEO's and CTO's. Winners inspire others to be like them - to win. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

2nd International Skolkovo Robotics Conference to be held March 1-2 in Moscow

By Susan and Mike McFarlane, RobotGuide
Edited by Frank Tobe, The Robot Report
Technopark "Skolkovo", created in 2010, provides innovative companies participating in the project to
support the development of technology assets, contributing to their establishment in the Russian and global markets.
“Robotics holds a priority place on the Russian Communications and Media Ministry’s list of the most promising IT development lines, which is reflected in the IT Development Strategy prepared by the Ministry and approved by the Russian Government at the end of 2013. Our objective goes far beyond promoting research in this field. What we’ve got to do is to draw the attention of the wider public to robotics proper," said Mark Shmulevich, Deputy Minister of Communications and Mass Media.
In 2013, as part of the Moscow International Forum Open Innovations, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen and French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault took part in a discussion that centered on what governments can do to support innovation. 
Mr Medvedev said, “We have approved a Strategy of Russia’s Innovation Development to 2020 and expect that its implementation will result in innovations adding about one percentage point to our economic growth, starting from 2015. We suggest that innovation activity should be regarded as a positive-sum game, where all participants derive the maximum gain precisely from a strategy of cooperation. There can be no isolationism here, because it leads nowhere.”
Finnish Prime Minister Katainen suggested that hyper-connectedness means that Microsoft has become the symbol of Finnish innovation. Microsoft understood what it was doing when it bought Nokia – investing in a very important sector.

The three nations supported innovative development within their countries and see the importance of working with strategic partners - including other nation states and businesses - in order to support the best innovative development and their growing economies.

Sustainable economic development is often at the mercy of politics, election cycles and alterations in federal investment, all of which effect how dreams can be realised. Those in the room all seemed committed to finding the will to sustain world-beating innovation utilizing their information technology advantage and large talent pool of well-educated young people.

Robohub's Hallie Siegel attended last year's event and summarized her visit and the event in a post entitled "Russia looks inward and outward at Moscow's 2013 Open Innovations Forum."

Thus the 2014 Skolkovo Robotics Conference takes on a special importance in the pursuit of those goals. The 2-day agenda includes an exposition of robotics pilot projects and addressses and round-table discussions by notable international guests and partners.

"The venture market in 2012 was $46bn in the US and $1bn in Russia with growth by 2020 to $75bn in the US and $5.5bn in Russia," said Mikhail Shekhovstov from J'son & Partners Research.

The main funding methods available to innovative companies in Russia today include venture capital, business angels and seed accelerators. Although crowd funding and crowd investment was discussed at the 2013 conference, it is not really present yet in the Russian investment market. Business angels also are only just starting to become a part of the funding toolbox in Russia.

The importance of inspirational Russian investors such as Yuri Milner, Dmitry Grishin and Dmitry Itskov, and the global investment community is not ignored, but all recognise that they are few and far between.

Source: The Robot Report's Global Map of Robotic Providers