Tags: no tags assigned  

ECHORD (European Clearing House for Open Robotics Development) is a new EU-funded project aiming to strengthen the cooperation between scientific research and industry in robotics. ECHORD is coordinated by Professor Knoll, Technical University of Munich. The project's international orientation and its positioning in the existing robotics landscape are emphasized by the participation of the University of Naples Federico II (Prof. Siciliano) and the University of Coimbra in Portugal (Prof. Pires). Europe has a very strong robot industry and there is significant research potential as well as technological knowledge. There has been a long history of outstanding research and development in both robot manufacturers and research institutes. However, finding common ground between manufacturers and the research community, especially when it comes to defining the future direction of robotics research, has proven difficult in the past. This is one of the recurring themes on both sides, and a new level of cooperation is long overdue. Thus, ECHORD will act as a "clearing house" to streamline successful know-how transfers. It is truly open to those entrepreneurial research institutes able to carry out challenging robotics development in cooperation with manufacturers which are interested in focusing on research and technology development, and it will ultimately increase European competitiveness in robotics.

In the context of ECHORD, small-scale projects, so-called "experiments" will be conducted, which will use state-of-the art robot equipment. The first call for proposals for experiments is planned to be published on Sept 28, 2009. The proposers of experiments, typically research institutes, will be given the opportunity to buy equipment from a qualified equipment list from European Robot manufacturers at special prices.  A call for equipment  is open from July 15 to August 24. More information can be found here. The research institutes will perform research and development with relevance to industrial applications. This will initiate knowledge transfer between industry and academia.

Scenarios and research foci

Three scenarios for likely future robot use have been defined to outline the scope of research work to be performed in the experiments. These scenarios make it possible for all stakeholders to get a clear picture if and how their proposed work and envisaged results can be embedded into a coherent vision of robotic applications. Thus, they describe the application context from an exterior view.

For breaking down the application-driven scenarios into concrete, four research foci have been identified. The research foci guide the research work. They were so chosen as to provide a complete coverage of the relevant aspects of all the scenarios.


The set of research topics and subjects in the field of robotics is virtually unlimited. Thus, ECHORD uses a clear thematic research orientation which is reflected in scenarios.

Three scenarios have been identified which are both scientifically challenging and commercially relevant. They represent comprehensive sets of challenges in an illustrative way, so that robotics experts can easily relate their own research to them. The scenarios build on each other.

The first scenario of ECHORD is the human-robot co-worker. In this scenario, the traditional idea of a robot performing pre-programmed action will change drastically, in that a robot co-worker interacts with a human towards achieving a common goal.

The second scenario is the hyper-flexible cells scenario. This scenario envisages not only one or more highly dexterous and cooperative robots, but also the hardware and software integration of the robots with an automatic warehouse system and the other devices present in the cell.

The third scenario is the cognitive factory. This future scenario will embrace both the first and the second scenario and take the classical concept of the flexible manufacturing systems to a new level. Cognitive factories will, to a large extent, configure themselves and be fault-tolerant. They will contain autonomous robots jointly participating in the production process with their human counterparts

Research foci

Within the scenarios, different research foci have been identified. The research foci are reference points for the expected scientific progress of experiment proposals. They bring together mechanical design and controller technology from manufacturers with the knowledge and experience in sensing, cognition and behaviour control of the research community.

The first research focus is on human-robot interfacing and safety. Here, the main goal of the experiments is to show that safe human-robot cooperation is possible, taking all kinds of sensor failures and inconsistencies into account.

The second research focus is on robot hands and complex manipulation. Here, the experiments will have to show the improvement of laboratory setups towards practical usability as well as promising breakthroughs in the areas of sensors and sensor-guided manipulation.

The third research focus is on mobile manipulators and cooperation. Here, mobile manipulators will have to solve concrete problems in dynamically changing environments with moving obstacles and interaction with humans.

The fourth research focus is on networked robots. Here, two areas are possible: One is networked industrial robots, where we expect demonstrators that can only be built in collaboration between industry and academia, with industry providing controller architecture and academia contributing knowledge in advanced real-time networking technologies as well as service-oriented architectures. The second area concerns more loosely coupled systems, where experiments with mobile robots are expected that establish new showcases, e.g. in the area of search and rescue with robots, new applications of robots in urban areas, and robot systems for monitoring tasks.