Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has announced the winners of the 2007 Robot Award. The top honor of "Robot of the Year" goes to Fanuc's super-fast two-armed industrial robot system equipped with visual tracking functions, which is optimized for work on food and pharmaceutical manufacturing lines.

Here is a short video (via PingMag) that shows how fast the robot arms can work:

Additional prizes were presented to four other notable robots, including miuro (ZMP's innovative audio network robot that plays iPod music, dances and follows you from room to room), a robotic blood sample courier system (developed by Matshushita) that uses autonomous robots working together to transport blood samples at laboratories, miniature AC servo actuators developed by Harmonic Drive Systems, and an MR image-guided surgical robot system developed by Hitachi and several universities. (See the descriptions below for more details.)

The five prize-winning robots were selected from a list of 13 finalists named last month.

METI established the annual Robot Award in 2006 to recognize outstanding developments in the field of robotics, encourage further research and development, and stimulate demand.

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GRAND PRIZE -- 2007 ROBOT OF THE YEAR (Selected by Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry)

- Food/pharmaceutical handling system with M-430iA robot arms and visual tracking

M-430iA robot arms --


This robotic food and pharmaceutical handling system features advanced visual tracking functions and a pair of multi-axis robot arms that each can accurately pick up 120 items per minute as they move along a conveyor belt. The arms can work non-stop 24 hours a day, are resistant to acid and alkaline cleaners, and feature wrists with plastic parts that eliminate the need for grease. The sanitary design provides the cleanliness required of machines tasked with handling food and medicine. With a proven record of success in reducing manufacturing costs and improving quality, about 150 systems have been sold to manufacturers worldwide since October 2006. [More]

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SMALL- TO MEDIUM-SIZED VENTURE AWARD (Selected by Small and Medium Enterprise Agency)

- miuro

miuro -- ZMP Inc.

Miuro -- short for "Music Innovation based on Utility RObot technology" -- is a network audio robot that plays music from a docked iPod or from a wirelessly connected computer. Gyroscopes and acceleration sensors enable miuro to follow you from room to room and dance while blasting tunes through speakers developed by Kenwood. Miuro promises to help create a new market for devices that combine robotics and audio technology. To further develop the market, ZMP plans to begin selling a limited-edition model at the Apple Store in December 2007 and release a low-cost version next year.

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- Robotic Blood Sample Courier System

Robotic Blood Sample Courier System --

Matsushita Electric Works, Ltd.

Matsushita's Robotic Blood Sample Courier System consists of autonomous mobile robots working as a team to perform blood sample delivery and courier tasks at hospitals and laboratories. A group control computer assigns various tasks to individual robots who pick up blood samples, deliver them to automatic analyzers, and collect the samples after testing. An automatic battery charging system enables the system to work around the clock by preventing all the robots from running out of power at the same time. At present, 17 robot systems are working at hospitals and laboratories, where they are helping to improve the reliability and efficiency of operations. [More]

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- Mini AC servo actuators developed by Harmonic Drive Systems were recognized for their superior performance.

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- MR Image-Guided Surgical Robotic System

MR Image-Guided Surgical Robotic System --

Kyushu University
Hitachi, Ltd.
Hitachi Medical Corp.
MIZUHO Co., Ltd.
University of Tokyo
Waseda University

This endoscopic surgery support system uses a high-precision robotic surgical clamp that moves like a tiny (1-cm diameter) human hand, while magnetic resonance images (MRI) provide real-time navigation during surgery. Able to outperform the human hand and eye, this system brings an unprecedented level of accuracy and safety to endoscopic surgery. The system is still in the research and development phase, but its effectiveness has been confirmed in 8 liver cancer treatments performed between April and September 2007.

[Source: Robot Award 2007 (PDF)]