Dubai: “Wait, let me get my swag on,” says Opti as he covers his eyes with sunglasses and waves hello. The one-metre-tall orange-coloured robot is the official mascot and guardian of Mission Possible — The Opportunity Pavilion — you can find him around the walkways of Expo 2020 Dubai, dancing with his buddies and cracking a few jokes.
With a history of 170 years and countless inventions under its belt, the world expos are no stranger to life-altering innovations. The first X-ray machine, touchscreen, TV broadcasting and the telephone all started their journey at one of these world fairs once upon a time.
Mohammed Al Hashmi, Chief Innovation Technology Officer of Expo 2020 Dubai, told Gulf News: “Expo 2020 will deploy more than 150 Terminus robots to interact with visitors during the six-month event, each of which include advanced 5G communication capabilities, as well as AI-driven object mapping and detection.”
The Beijing-based international artificial intelligence (AI) service provider, Terminus, is also behind the Tala-bot, a coffee table on wheels that helps you order from your favourite restaurants once the QR code on it is scanned. No matter where you are, food delivery from Talabat’s state-of-the-art cloud kitchen, set up in the Jubilee Park, is guaranteed in a contactless way. It’s all about getting things done faster and better, a message the exposition upholds through its Mobility sub-theme.
Another crowd favourite is a one-armed robot server from the future, and quite the capable chap. The Estonia Pavilion’s Yanu can take your order, pour your choice of beverage and handle the payment all in one go. Congratulations, you have just met the world’s first contactless robot bar.
The friendliest robot in town, Opti is a treat for young visitors. This little guy participates in Expo parades and flash mobs, stands upright, moves freely and operates safely for 24 hours straight.
Along with Opti, there’s a patrol bot which ‘protects’ the site as well as the dedicated Expo 2020 Metro Station. Facial recognition, SOS button, thermal camera, are some of the functions this robot is capable of. It also reminds you to stay in your lanes, observe social distancing along with other Covid-19 protocols that are to be followed on site.
These are the workhorses of Expo 2020, deployed to carry goods and other material around the site. The robots can be configured to perform several different roles; for example, they can be fitted with racks to carry reading material, maps or visitor guides. Another configuration converts the robot into an intelligent mobile container that can distribute drinks and other refreshments around Expo. It can even be used to replenish pavilions with supplies, such as water, by returning to a supply centre to be reloaded.
Terminus’ smart robots are designed to be eco-friendly with two distinct body parts — the upper part with devices and the base. The upper devices are installed with various functions such as sterilisation, logistics and guidance while the base functions for general use. Because of this division of labour, users can save costs and maximise functions with reuse.
Victor Ai, founder and CEO of Terminus Group, told Gulf News, previously: “As the first World Expo held in Middle East, Africa and South Asia, Expo 2020 Dubai is known as one of the most important exhibitions in the history of the Expo and the largest cross-cultural event. “It is indeed a great pleasure for us to be an Official Premier Partner and provide smart technology services for visitors, therefore sharing the same vision of exploring the boundaries of artificial intelligence. Our robots are capable of contactless delivery, advice, guidance, all-inclusive mobile services, outdoor services, 24/7 emergency alarm capabilities and more.”
Dubai, a test bed for innovation
Apart from the Terminus fleet of robots, the Group will also apply its AIoT technologies to the futuristic intelligent city of District 2020, the future site of Expo 2020. Having signed a long-term lease with the organisers, the firm will regularly assist in software and hardware upgrades of the smart city. With sustainability in mind, the concept for District 2020 will also incorporate carbon reduction by Terminus.
On the future of robotics in the country, Al Hashmi said: “The UAE, and Dubai in particular, have always been a test bed for innovation and adoption of future technology. Over the decades, Dubai has been a technology pioneer, most recently through its advanced telecommunications infrastructure, which is the first in the region to make 5G network services commercially available.
“Dubai was also one of the first governments in the world to adopt an e-government strategy and framework to improve services to its citizens and residents. Today, everything from vehicle registration to residency visas are managed online. I am convinced that Dubai and the UAE will continue to pioneer the use of ground-breaking technologies, including many more robots, for the benefit of the nation and all its people.”
— With inputs from Zaynab Kamran, Gulf News intern