LiU welcomes employees of the future

“Don’t start the meeting without me – it’s warm in here, I want to get out”, says YuMi, interrupting Vice-Chancellor Helen Dannetun who is welcoming her guests from ABB to LiU and the new Studenthuset. 

YuMi in action YuMi in action Karl Öfverström

YuMi is the most recent addition to the LiU robot family – a small 14-axis robot from ABB with great potential and a loud voice. Fredrik Löfgren, student, LiU researcher and entrepreneur, has placed a box over YuMi with the text “Framtidens medarbetare” (or “Employee of the Future”). And now she wants to get rid of it.

“Oh yes, YuMi is a she”, Fredrik Löfgren makes it clear.

It doesn’t take long for YuMi to work her way out of the box, ask Fredrik to connect up her eyes, and then take an attractive photograph of the 20 or so people from ABB and LiU in the room.

Möte Linköpings universitet och ABBYuMi and Fredrik Löfgren Photo credit Karl Öfverström“YuMi can communicate with us almost as a human does, and can function in small spaces. What’s difficult here is to plan movements of the robot arms so that they don’t get tangled up, since it’s so cramped in here”, he explains, happy over his new robot friend he can experiment with.

Director of research at LiU Per Dannetun takes over and expresses LiU’s deep gratitude for YuMi, who will be a great asset in both education and research at LiU.

Big research programmes

“We are hosts for major research programmes such as ELLIIT, LINK-SIC and WASP, and we are so happy that the technical initiatives into autonomous systems have now been supplemented with work in the humanities and social sciences. ABB is an important strategic partner for us”, says Per Dannetun.

Host for YuMi at LiU is Professor Svante Gunnarsson, Department of Electrical Engineering. Together with Professor Tom Möte Linköpings universitet och ABBTom Ziemke and Michael Felsberg, Svante Gunnarsson in the background Photo credit Karl ÖfverströmZiemke, Department of Computer and Information Science, and Professor Johan Ölvander, Department of Management and Engineering, he is responsible for the use of the robot.

“We are happy to look after YuMi, and even before the summer break started we used her in a course for doctoral students and in a master’s project”, Svante Gunnarsson confirms.

Xiaolong Feng, global research area manager at ABB Corporate Research and previously adjunct professor at LiU, adds:

“We are working in three focus areas: research, new talents, and expertise development, and we are planning a test centre, where we would be happy to work with LiU”, he says, and continues:

“Letting people like Fredrik look after YuMi is exactly what we want. We want to be best, and it’s important for us to find young talent. Progress in the field is rapid, from the manufacture and development of robots and automation to complete autonomous systems. We need knowledge in software development, sensor technology, vision systems, and much more. In the future, robots will need to have a mobile platform and be able to perform more dynamically. Another area that needs work is safety. We have every reason in the world to continue our collaboration with LiU.”

Interested students

Möte Linköpings universitet och ABBSusanne Timsjö, manager robots and applications, Sweden at ABB Photo credit Karl ÖfverströmSusanne Timsjö, manager robots and applications Sweden, ABB, clarifies:
“We would be happy to profile a test centre here at LiU, and if you need more robots, just get in contact.”

Around 10 researchers from the three different departments describe LiU’s research in their field. It covers everything from innovative vision technology to collaboration between robots and people, design, sustainability and new business models. Most of what they describe is also closely linked to education at LiU.

Möte Linköpings universitet och ABBSofia Thunberg, FIA Robotics Photo credit Karl ÖfverströmSofia Thunberg is active in FIA, a student-run association working in robotics and automation. She described how students gather in the lab to teach robots how to play football, cook and dance, just to take a few examples. She was eager to see some form of student competition for robots like YuMi.
“Many international competitions are held that we can take as inspiration, and we really like competitions in FIA”, she said.

ABB Robotics immediately invited FIA to come on a study visit.

“I’m impressed by the degree of student commitment and the width of research. We are working to narrow our focus and deepen our collaboration with academia, not least at Linköping University”, said Susanne Timsjö.

Gustaf Flodström, R&D site manager at ABB Robotics agreed:
“I can see synergies at all levels within our new research organisation. Now we also have to challenge ourselves and set up collaboration in the areas we haven’t previously done so. The motor industry is still important for us, but we have other legs to stand on, and many new customers”, he says.

Möte Linköpings universitet och ABBYuMi with friends in Studenthuset. Photo credit Karl Öfverström
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Translated by George Farrants


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