Vietnam’s robots – what a surprise!

VietNamNet Bridge – Ho Vinh Hoang, 29, and his robots, manufactured by his Robot Tosy company, have astonished experts from developed countries at the largest automation exhibition, Automatica, in Germany.

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Robot TOPIO Dio at Automatica 2010 in Germany.

Vietnam is not on the hi-tech ma, but Robot Tosy’s robots impressed many developed countries at Automatica 2010 in June. Inexpensive and yet intelligent, at least seven partners from Japan, the US, Germany, and Poland want to become Tosy distributors.

Born in 1981, Ho Vinh Hoang became a leader of Hanoi Technology University’s team that won the National Robot Contest 2003 (Robocon) and he is now director of Tosy Robots.

Talking about Automatic, he noted proudly: “With a made-in-Vietnam line, from design to manufacturing, Vietnam has made a revolution in robot prices at the exhibition because Tosy robots are one fourth the cost of similar robots produced by developed countries.”

Hoang became passionate for technology when he was a child. He liked remote control toys and always disassembled them to discover how they worked.

His passion for technology grew with Hoang. He entered the University of Technology and opened a robot manufacturing company after graduation with the support of his family. While at university, Hoang researched and manufactured a ball robot that could roll, march forward, step backward, walk to the left and right and move across various terrains.

At Robocon 2003, Hoang and his team won with this ball robot, which further encouraged Hoang to invest in robot and creative toy manufacturing.

Hoang established Topsy, and his teenage dream was fulfilled. The first products were flying objects and boomerangs.

He then focused on manufacturing a robot named TOPIO, which can play table tennis with human beings. It has a head, two hands and six legs. It can hit the ball, calculate scores and express feelings upon losing or winning a game. Made of composite materials, TOPIO can move quickly and accurately, like a human. Four high-speed cameras help TOPIO identify the trajectory of the ball and accurately return shots. TOPIO knows how to hit an incoming ping pong ball when it has traveled only 20 cm from the opponent’s paddle.

The made-in-Vietnam robot TOPIO captured special attention at the International Robot Exhibition (IREX) held in Tokyo in late 2007. Local and international press agencies tried to make appointments with representatives of Tosy. Reuters, Nippon, Japanese newspapers and foreign press agencies in Japan filmed, photographed and reported on TOPIO’s demonstration at the exhibition.

Donkennedi, editor of Technology and Industry News, exclaimed that TOPIO was the most impressive robot at the exhibition. Representatives of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs arranged a meeting with Hoang on the last day of the exhibition, when the Vietnamese-produced robot was introduced as the new image of Vietnam.

Mass media representatives and organising boards of several technology trade fairs have invited Tosy’s TOPIO to perform, saying that TOPIO would be welcome in the US. One US company has even expressed interest in upgrading TOPIO.

Returning from Tokyo, Hoang and his co-workers continued advancements on TOPIO and other hi-tech toys. He has received hundreds of orders for Tosy’s products from many countries. Tosy has become more popular and Hoang has recruited many more talented employees who were members of teams at Robocon contests.

Hoang brought TOPIO and other products to Automatica 2010 in Germany last June.

Low-cost robots

1.25m high, 45kg weigh, Tosy’s TOPIO Dio was a big surprise at Automatica 2010. TOPIO Dio has three wheels and 28 joints and it is controlled via wireless Interne. This human-shaped robot is a friendly waiter and bartender for restaurants and hotels. It can replace humans to work in dangerous areas.

TOPIO Dio is a big surprise because it was totally designed and manufactured by a Vietnamese company and its price is equivalent to one fourth of similar robots in the world market. Other Topsy industrial robots like Parallel, Scara, Arm and TOPIO Ping-pong are also good and cheap.

Hoang said: “Tosy’s Parallel robot is priced $5,500 while a similar robot produced by Adept is $45,000 and $33,000 for a Fanuc robot.” During the four-day exhibition in Germany, seven foreign companies expressed their wish to distribute Tosy products in their countries.

Hoang said that Tosy will focus on manufacturing low-cost robots because the high prices for industrial robots is the hindrance for companies to use them widely. Once they are cheap, they can widely appear at factories. Industrial robot is a very potential market.

At the age of 29, Hoang has many ambitions. This young engineer wants to expand Tosy into mechanical engineering, casting and metallurgy.

Great expectations

To exist and develop, many companies must process for others, but Tosy hasn’t followed this trend. Hoang noted: “At the beginning, I was determined to create a robot and hi-tech toy brand of my own to bring Vietnamese image to the world and add Vietnam to world hi-tech map. That’s why Topsy only creates its own products, not process to others.”

This year Topsy has received orders from foreign partners to produce 700,000 Tosy boomerang UFO, including 100,000 units to Japan.

Hoang said to get Tatara Tomy, Japan’s leading toy distributor, as the distributor of Tosy Boomerang UFO in Japan, Topsy had to pay dozens of thousand US dollars for Tatara Tomy’s strict tests of products.

According to him, Tosy toys have overcome all strict technical and quality standards to go to Italy, Spain, Turkey, the UK, the US, Australia, France, South Korea, etc. Apart from Vietnam, Tosy brand is now protected in the US, Germany and in 50 other countries in the very near future.


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