Robotics and Work Partner story
Professor Emeritus Aarne Halme:
Robotics and Work Partner Story
Research and education in robotics started at Helsinki University of Technology in the 1970s. The pioneer was the Control Engineering Lab led by professor Antti Niemi. At that time, the subject was industrial robotics. After the mid-1980s, a significant change happened in the research and development activity of robotic technology worldwide. Activity was gradually directed from industrial robots to robots capable of automating tasks in society outside of production lines. In the new Automation Technology Lab, established in 1986 and led by professor Aarne Halme, the research and education were directed to this new field, called service robotics.
An essential feature of service robots is the capability to move, because jobs cannot in most cases be moved to the robot like in factory lines, so the robot must move to the job. This caused the need to develop abilities for the robots to locomote, navigate and perceive the environment. The jobs are also difficult to define precisely beforehand, which led to finding new programming and automatic problem solving methods known as “artificial intelligence”.
The research and education activities in this new field of robotics supported the fast digitalization of Finland’s important work machine industry. WorkPartner project was part of Tekes national SMART program to boost up R&D activity in Finnish industry. WorkPartner robot acted as a demonstration platform for various new technological solutions. It was built from scratch at Helsinki University of Technology including all imagined features using the latest technologies.