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2018 Engelberger Robotics Award Winner – Esben Østergaard



universe robot is a tool that helped people it's a fundamental paradigm shift in how robots are viewed the more people we can free up from wearing like robots the better for us to be able to have that type of success out of the gate was phenomenal and totally unexpected I think robots are fascinating because they are machines but they kind of resemble humans and I think it's deeply fascinating for people to try to understand ourselves through technology and I think that's what robots really do to people my main source of inspiration is simply talking to other people start with an idea and these ideas thrive in environments where a lot of people from different areas and different cultures meet I guess I was always attracted to robots during my childhood I did play a lot with Lego and when I got a Commodore 64 I spent most days programming that before universe Robo started industrial robots were these big machines behind fences that pristine in people's jobs or to repetitive work doing the same work 24/7 they were not flexible they were not easy to use and they were not a tool to help people do their work so what we wanted to do at universe robot was to make robots accessible to people change who could use robots change what robots could be used for basically make robots into this tool that help people become robot programmers rather than working like robots we could see that we needed a different kind of robot to fulfill the needs of the typical small and medium size manufacturing company and that's why we made these robots that are easy to use easy to move around safe to be around and can be programmed by a different kind of people I not been to automation school I'm actually a journeyman machinist and just if you understand just basic logic you can do an unbelievable amount with the universal robots it was the first time I've ever dealt with the collaborative robots so it it took about two days for me to actually figure it out and get everything programmed they become kind of a partner to a person that goes around and helps them with the drudgery we started seeing robots you know pop up you know in the 90s and stuff I never would have believed that I get to work with robots on desert it's awesome welcome everybody we have launched what we call you our Academy which is a training platform that allows the end customers to get free online training and using the robot so the Academy is lifting people up and increasing robot literacy and we started we had no idea how to build a company we basically just made a plan we went for it and of course the plan didn't work but the goal was the right one we wanted to have a production make the robot ship the robots and make money this way so the Danish growth foundation invested in the company they found a businessman looking for challenges and he also invested in the company I believe in this notion of doing good and doing well and doing well is of course making money doing good is doing something good for people we wanted to make robots into these tools that freed up people from working like robots and we could see that need in Denmark and actually globally so that's what we set out to do we launched a new concept we call Universe robots plus and this concept is that we open the robot as a platform so other you can see high-tech companies can add content of functionality to the robot it opens up a lot of doors to do a lot of things that we're just now beginning to look at no one is going to lose their job to a robot we're trying to put more value add to them to train them new skills whether it's a different operation or they'll become the robot supervisor in that area they'll be doing the inspections we still haven't reached even close to all the places we think we can use them we can see that the companies buying a lot of our robots they end up hiring more people so it's not just replacing people it's actually growing their business because it creates value and the value it creates is a new kind of value it's not just cost reduction it's actually more customized product higher technology product collaborative robots is kind of the hottest area in in robots so somehow we just started something that is of global strategic importance when we sold the company to Jared iron it was of course a big milestone so I started sleeping better at night because you know it was pretty stressful up until at that time with their money I bought a piano and then I went to work like I always have for me it was never about the money it was really about what robots can do to humanity or to people so I don't think it would make sense to start now and I still think that the world needs more technology and more and more robots I think there's a lot of good to be done still in robotics

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