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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
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    820

    Default Robot Town proposal.

    http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article...search-center#

    With this, Live Midtown, and Revitalization Fellows, Wayne State has been kicking ass lately.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Posts
    477

    Default

    Robot Town? Interest high for plan to create robotics research center in Detroit by 2014

    By Chad Halcom



    Is Motown soon to become Robot Town?

    That's the working title of a proposed robotics research consortium, laboratory/test center and possible local tourist attraction under discussion among industry leaders in Southeast Michigan. It could become reality by late 2014.

    Management at TechTown, the Wayne State University technology park and business incubator, has been coordinating discussions on the concept in recent months with local industry and research leaders and with the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center in Warren, among others.

    "The exploratory discussions right now are supposed to be helping to find some leadership roles for people or companies. There are members of the Detroit business community that seem ideally suited to this and have real interest," said Jim Overholt, the senior research scientist for robotics at TARDEC who conceived the idea of Robot Town last fall.

    "It doesn't have to be leadership all from one industry. It could involve people in intelligent communications, the automotive industry, city planners -- anyone who has the sense of that vision."

    Overholt first presented the idea at a meeting in Troy with various robotics industry leaders and experts about four months ago.

    Since then, he said, TechTown and the Michigan Economic Development Corp., along with Troy software technology and government contracting consultant firm 6 Zulu Inc., have held discussions with more than 70 businesses and research organizations about participating -- including about 50 from Southeast Michigan. Interest so far has been high.

    An initial team of project participants and a leadership structure could be in place within six months, Overholt said.

    After that, organizers could turn to development funding through federal grants, private investment or both. A preliminary version of Robot Town could be in place by October 2014 as a local showpiece for guests attending the Intelligent Transportation Systems World Congress at Cobo Center.

    Michigan won a bid late last year to host that event, which is expected to draw more than 10,000 global employees of the transportation technology industry.

    "It's early in the talk, so some of the details would be speculative," Overholt said. "Before we know exactly what makes up Robot Town, it's hard to get a sense of the governing structure or membership that will be needed."

    TechTown General Manager Leslie Smith is courting other potential participants, said TechTown marketing and communications director Nichole Christian.

    "Robots are such a part of our culture right now that however (project organizers) work out the finer details, there could be an aspect that fits well with the local entrepreneur (climate) and Midtown," she said. "We are interested in being a place for anyone that makes Detroit a hub for innovation, and we could help with some of its initial planning steps."

    Overholt sees Robot Town as a possible redevelopment, to turn a building or campus into a safe testing and research center for companies with experimental robotic systems and prototypes.

    Robots also would control some of the center's daily operations, like directing visitors or even robot-controlled urban farming, he said.

    In that way, the proposal has parallels with Robot Land, a 110-acre theme park and mixed-use development in Incheon, South Korea, scheduled for completion in 2013. Robots will hold performances and serve as clerks in retail shops. But Overholt said Robot Town removes the amusement park component and focuses more on production robots, public education and tourism.

    A key focus would be moving the American robotics industry past those predominantly controlled by remote human operators toward robots with supervisory or task-level control, or even full autonomy.

    "We're not at the stage where we know exactly what it will cost, but we are definitely receiving significant interest, and much less resistance than I expected from businesses and even from the city of Detroit," said Marty Tibbitts, president of 6 Zulu and its parent company, Bossgov Inc. in Troy.

    "There is significant traction for this, compared with some proposals for the city."

    The test center could also help with military procurement, Overholt said.

    By law, TARDEC can't oversee the project directly because it is a for-profit enterprise and most of its testing would have commercial applications. It would like to participate as a research partner with private industry and as a prospective buyer of robotics technology.

    "Some ideas have been percolating like this for a while. But there will be more emphasis on robotics in the current administration than in the past," said Jeff Burnstein, president of the Robotic Industries Association in Ann Arbor. "It's clear that our government sees it as a critical technology."

    Burnstein and Overholt both said a local test center could help the U.S. robot industry stay competitive with Asia -- Japan is considered the world's largest consumer of industrial robots with more than 250,000 active units, compared with around 200,000 in the U.S., and organizers said South Korea has begun to emerge as a global leader.

    Less than 10 percent of the RIA's member companies make robot technology for military applications, but Burnstein and Overholt said keeping the nation's robot technology competitive could serve economic and national security interests.

    North American robot supplier companies reported more than 15,860 global product orders valued at $993.2 million in 2010, a 39 percent increase over 2009 and the best year since 2007, according to Robotics Industry Association data.

    Burnstein said he hasn't seen Overholt's proposal, but local company interest in robotic research is on the rise.

    "In general I'd be supportive, and it'd be good if local organizations collaborated more on trying to make Michigan a premier automation research center," he said. "Other areas (of the country) are already trying to do this, and there's no reason why Michigan can't do it too."

    Midtown Detroit near the TechTown incubator seems like a feasible location for Robot Town, Overholt said, although other areas he has considered are downtown, the waterfront area of Detroit or near Detroit Metropolitan Airport and Willow Run Airport.


    Will RoboCop guard Robot Town?


    Robot Town has yet to develop a formal structure, set a location or blueprint -- but organizers say the project may already have a mascot.

    "They have definitely reached out to us," said Jerry Paffendorf of Loveland Technologies Inc., the startup company behind the online fundraising initiative to build a 10-foot cast metal RoboCop statue in the city of Detroit.

    Paffendorf said he was in contact earlier this month with representatives of 6 Zulu Inc., a Troy technology and government contracting consultant firm, about Robot Town as a possible statue site.

    "It's just discussion right now," said Marty Tibbitts, president of 6 Zulu and its parent company Bossdev Inc. "(But) the film is a story where justice prevails in the worst of times -- and it involves robots, which are cool."

    Jim Overholt, the senior research scientist for TARDEC who conceived the idea for Robot Town, said he was cool at first toward the idea but came around after discussing it with a friend.

    "The film does not exactly paint Detroit in a good light," he said. "But after considering it, you have a hero who dies and then experiences a rebirth through technology. He comes back better than ever and manages to keep his own humanity in the process. And that's really a story of Detroit, so maybe it fits."

    Chad Halcom: (313) 446-6796, chalcom@crain.com

    http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article...esearch-center

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Posts
    161

    Default

    Instead of "Robot Town" how about..Autobot City LOL

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Posts
    477

    Default

    There are only two large empty hulks that I know of left in what UCCA defines as Midtown that would be suitable for a research center.

    This one on Alexanderine between Woodward and Cass:

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    And the old NBC building on Baltimore between 3rd and the Lodge:

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    I don't think either of theses would make proper apartments/condos. A research/office facility similar to TechOne would likely be the best option:

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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    868

    Default

    Delta city , here we go

  6. #6

    Default

    When I first read this in Crains on Monday I wondered, "When the first Robocops will roll off the line?" Then I thought this might settle the controversy of where to place the statue.

    Nonetheless this is an excellent idea and news. Detroit has deep expertise in this field. While the interest may be automotive, such an industry is highly diverse for all forms of manufactured items.

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