Like it or not, robots are coming, and Israel is readying itself to become a world leader in robotic technology, if it isn’t already.
“Israel indeed has a good chance to become a leader in robotics,” said Zvi Schiller, a professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Mechatronics Faculty of Engineering at Ariel University and chairman of the Israel Robotics Association.
“The world of technology is changing from a one that was based on programming and communications to one that will integrate all that with hardware.”
Israeli ingenuity and know how in the field will be on display next week at the Fifth Israeli Conference on Robots. The event, set to take place in Herzliya, will include over 120 presentations by top robotics experts in the world, including Steve Dubowsky of MIT, Daokui Qu, CEO of Siasun Robotics and Automatization, Andrew Goldenberg of the University of Toronto and Professor Zexiang Li of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
Discussions and presentations will include how robots can be used in medicine, manufacturing, law enforcement as well as in the home.
Among those attending, promise organizers, will be a large contingent of industrialists and investors from China, who, according to Schiller, are eager to work with Israel on robot tech.
“Israel is one of the most advanced countries in the world in robot development and research, but we don’t have a lot of opportunity to deploy that technology because our economy is too small,” said Schiller.
“China is a major opportunity for us, and manufacturers there are very motivated to take advantage of our technology.”
In December 2015, a coalition of Chinese investors, together with officials from the city of Guangzhou — one of China’s biggest industrial centers — invested $20 million to build a robotics R&D center in Israel that will be dedicated to developing robot tech that China.
Several months prior, Israel and China signed a deal to establish the Sino-Israeli Robotics Institute (SIRI) in the city of Guangzhou, part of a new $2 billion industrial park that will apply the robot technology being developed by Israeli and Chinese researchers.
According to Zhang Jin, director of marketing at Siasun, China’s largest robotics firm, the world’s number one producer “faces a manufacturing crisis, as it has been relying on cheap labor that is now getting more expensive. “Based on this, we have chosen to formulate a new industrial production model, which relies on robots.”
As a university professor, Schiller has developed a sense of what students are looking for – and, like the Chinese, Israeli students are excited about robotics.
“Our students are excelling at robotics and have been winning many competitions around the world,” he said. “This is the generation that in a few years will build careers in robotics and lead Israel to new heights in this area.”