Does Finland really embrace the robotics at its best? Until stumbling upon this over-sized vacuum bot in a shopping mall, I never asked myself this sort of question.

In recent years, I have been checking into robotics scene of Finland every once in a while, just to reassure myself that nothing much special is actually going on there. Was I right to have such a pessimistic and ignorant standpoint? Maybe, since most of professional companies involved in that were just subsidiaries of external major players, be that German KUKA Robotics or Japanese YASKAWA. Looking on their websites as a local student makes me feel only that the action is not here.

One relatively big event that caught my attention was the European Robotics Week 2014 held in Helsinki Museum of Technology. Even though most of the cutting edge information was shared on the seminar, the visitors could get a look and feel of modern robotics in a free-entry exhibition.

Most of the showcase was dedicated to robotics hands and automated assembly lines, with surprisingly little interactive exhibits. Still, occasional creative features were present, such as smarty-pants firmwhare flashed Nao bot (University of Helsinki) or funky multi-purpose bots from GIM.

Most of the showcase was dedicated to robotics hands and automated assembly lines

The aftertaste of the fair was such that the Finland is more of a “robot consumer” than of a robot maker. Here, the robotics is in use only when the business seems right rather than out of passion. This point can be further developed by speculation, since the country doesn’t have domestic servo suppliers nor the practice is widely adapted here. The material factors here are combined with the rational and minimalistic approach to the technology.

In my eyes, Finns are also good “power users” of technology, and they are keen in adding value to the existing state of art. Good example of solution oriented business is Blastman Robotics, a Finnish company that provides automated blasting solutions as well as other industrial machinery. Another example of innovative approach in the field is Zen Robotics, a domestic startup that combines computer vision and robotized conveyor line for industrial garbage separation. In my early days at Aalto University I was lucky enough to participate in Artificial Intelligence course that was co-lectured by Zen Robotics ex-member Tapani Raiko. I must say, the approach to problems there is on the level.