Notes from Barcelona

By Jeff Burnstein, RIA President

I recently returned from the 40th ISR in Barcelona where RIA presented its annual Engelberger Robotics Awards.

Shoppers crowd Barcelona's beautiful pedestrian-friendly streets.

Shoppers crowd Barcelona's beautiful pedestrian-friendly streets.

 It was a very interesting few days.  Here is some of what I learned:

*The International Symposium on Robotics continues to attract devoted followers, a good sign for all of us in robotics.  More than 250 people attended this year’s event, a remarkable accomplishment considering the present global financial situation.  Professor Luis Basanez of the Technical University of Catalonia and everyone else involved with the event should be congratulated.

*Trade shows in Europe, like those in the U.S, are likely to be smaller this year than in the past.  The MAQUITEC 2009 show that accompanied the ISR conference was reportedly down by more than half this year over previous years.  It was mostly a machine tool show, though some major robot vendors participated.  

*Everyone I spoke to is worried about 2009.  Yet, there was widespread optimism about the future of the robotics industry once we emerge from this crisis.  Enormous opportunities still exist!

*Tourism, shopping, eating out – these things are not dead!  Barcelona looked very busy to me as I walked around the tourist areas near my hotel.  Consumer spending is a key element in turning the global economy around, so this was a hopeful sign.

*For those of you who haven’t been to Barcelona, it’s one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities I’ve ever had the privilege to visit.  I definitely hope to return when I have more free time to explore the city and other areas in Spain.

*Sometimes it’s better if you don’t speak the local language.  I speak no Spanish, so always had to find someone who spoke English to help me out.  I would often just ask these people to pick something for me from the menu – each time I did this, the results were superb!

*Sometimes not speaking the local language can be a real problem.  Our cab driver, despite having the address of the location for the Engelberger Award Ceremony, tried to drop us off blocks away.  Fortunately, Don Vincent and I had been to the site earlier and knew this was the wrong place.  We finally convinced the driver, who ultimately took us to the right location, saving us many blocks of walking and anxious moments!

*The importance of the Engelberger Awards to the recipients cannot be overstated.  Dr. Robin Felder, this year’s winner for Leadership, shared with me at dinner how long he has hoped to win this award and what it means to him.  I know Professor Hirose, this year’s other recipient, also shares that view.  It’s great to see the high regard in which this award is held throughout the world.

A special thanks to Rich Litt, RIA Chairman, and Don Vincent, RIA’s Executive Vice President Emeritus, for the outstanding job they did in presenting this year’s awards.


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