ETRI Wins ‘iF Design Award’ for Mobile Collaborative Robot

ETRI research team has won a main prize at the German International Design Competition, one of the top three design award competitions in the world. This signifies global recognition of our research team’s technology.

Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) announced that its Teach Pendant software for the autonomous mobile collaborative robot (MOBY1)) won the main prize in the User Experience (UX2)) category at the ‘iF Design Award 20243)’, an international design competition in Germany.
1) MOBY: Equipped with the AI-based vision solution ‘IndyEye’ and the collaborative robot ‘Indy’. It’s a total robot platform that integrates autonomous mobility and manipulability.
2) UX (User Experience): refers to the comprehensive experience that a user feels and thinks while directly or indirectly using a product, system, or service.
3) International Forum Design Award 2024

ETRI, in collaboration with Neuromeka and the research team of Professor Seung-Heon Yoo from the Department of Art and Design at Korea University, has been recognized for its proficiency in the UX category with the ‘MOBY SW’, a teach pendant4) for a manipulator5) based on mobile robots.
4) Teach Pendant: A device used with industrial equipment or robots, including collaborative robots. It is designed for user convenience in industrial settings where monitors and mouse are not usable, and in automated equipment that doesn’t require special operations. It typically features only key buttons and an LCD in a compact form.
5) Manipulator: A mechanical device that provides movements similar to those of a human arm.

The award-winning work is the Teach Pendant application, a user interface software for autonomous mobile manipulators. This app has been highly praised for its user-friendly and intuitive design.

ETRI was responsible for the entire UX design and development of the Teach Pendant (MOBY app). Korea University took charge of the UX/UI design for the Teach Pendant app of the mobile manipulator, while Neuromeka developed the hardware and framework for the mobile manipulator.

A mobile manipulator refers to a combination of a wheeled mobile robot capable of moving around and a robotic arm designed for performing tasks. It describes a robot that is simultaneously controlled to carry out movement and manipulation operations.

The MOBY SW has significantly improved upon the inconvenience users faced with traditional teach pendant products, which required separate instructions6) for the mobile robot and the manipulator. It now allows for the movement and operation of both the mobile robot and the manipulator to be instructed simultaneously within a single software.
6) Instruction: The technique of humans conveying commands to robots, teaching new tasks, or performing possible operations.

ETRI researchers have explained that with the developed teach pendant, it is now possible to simultaneously set destinations and paths for the autonomous navigation of mobile robots, as well as instruct manipulators for object manipulation tasks, significantly enhancing user convenience.

In particular, there has been no teach pendant capable of integrating and simultaneously utilizing both mobile robots and manipulators among existing products. This makes the award even more meaningful as it represents the first development of a teach pendant for mobile manipulators in Korea.

The teach pendant developed by the researchers has been designed to enable the creation of maps and routes for the autonomous navigation of mobile robots, driving programs, simulations, and work programs for manipulators. This development is expected to effectively simplify the complex processes involved in automation implementation in the future.

Due to its specialized user-friendly interface and the provision of programs based on the Behavior Tree (BT) approach, even individuals not familiar with programming can easily program tasks for robots.

ETRI received recognition for the excellence of its teach pendant through a user study conducted with general users at Keimyung University’s Usability Evaluation Research Center, focusing on the robot’s Pick and Place tasks of moving and arranging objects at specific locations. It has been validated for its usability, proving that even non-experts can easily handle it without coding.

According to a report by the global market research firm IDTechEx, the mobile robot market is expected to grow at an annual rate of 18.9% over the next 20 years, reaching a size of 1,500 billion dollars (190 trillion) by 2044. The developed teach pendant is expected to be applicable in various sectors, including small to medium-sized manufacturing companies, as well as in the food and beverage, logistics, warehouse, market, and museum service areas.

In the automation industry, experts well-versed in vision, collaborative robots, and mobile robots are rare. The researchers believe that using the developed teach pendant can lower the entry barriers to these three robotic elements simultaneously, thereby securing a wider user base.

Dr. Jeyoun Dong from the ETRI Robotics & Mobility Research Secetion stated, “As robots are expanding into various fields, we hope that the user-friendly teach pendant will serve as a foundation for not only robot experts but also the general public to easily use robots.”

Professor Seung-Heon Yoo from the Department of Design at Korea University also emphasized the importance of integrative UX design research, stating, “Robots are quintessentially technology-intensive products that must also reflect the value of user-centered UX design. The approach that ETRI and Neuromeka have actively agreed upon and achieved together highlights this.”

ETRI has decided to transfer this technology to companies specializing in collaborative and mobile robots, moving towards full commercialization. Furthermore, ETRI plans to focus on enhancing features such as the mobile robot-generated maps within the app for the convenience of users.

The iF Design Award, hosted by the International Forum Design in Germany, is one of the world’s most prestigious design competitions. Along with Germany’s ‘Red Dot Design Award’ and the United States ‘IDEA’, it is considered one of the top three global design awards. It recognizes winners in nine categories: Product, Packaging, Communication, Concept, Interior Architecture, Service Design, User Experience (UX), and User Interface (UI).



About Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI)

ETRI is a non-profit government-funded research institute. Since its foundation in 1976, ETRI, a global ICT research institute, has been making its immense effort to provide Korea a remarkable growth in the field of ICT industry. ETRI delivers Korea as one of the top ICT nations in the World, by unceasingly developing world’s first and best technologies.

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