9 March 2012
Last updated at 08:51 ET
A robot that can serve drinks and food was one of the many innovations on show at what is described as the world’s “largest” tech trade fair
Robots everywhere, driverless cars, new eco-solutions, screens that “read” feelings, and smart museums and stadiums – just some of the “City of the Future” technologies at this years’ Cebit trade fair in Hanover, Germany.
Many of the devices on show sound like the stuff of science-fiction. But even if most are not yet ready for release, their developers are at least able to show off working prototypes.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Systems and Device Technology is at the event holding live demonstrations of a system that creates a connection between cars and traffic lights.
The system is designed to eliminate accidents by forcing cars to slow down when they approach a traffic light that is about to change to red.
The institute’s Oliver Sawade said that the technology could be used on the road within five years.
This car shrinks by up to 50cm (19.7in) to squeeze into tight spaces
“Your car will be able to come to your place once you call it, without a driver,” he added.
“And when you arrive at your destination it will be able to go to the garage by itself.”
Metres away the German Robotics Innovation Centre is showing off a vehicle that can shrink to squeeze into tight parking spaces.
The EO Smart Connecting Car also saves space by avoiding the need for an engine in a bonnet or boot. Instead its engineers have put small engines in each of its four wheels.
The vehicle can also be folded or connected to other similar cars to create a “train”. The centre’s Timo Birnschein said that the innovation would allow those taking part to share and save energy.
“With newly developed technologies, vehicles can be mechanically and electrically docked together in order to transfer data and electric power from one vehicle to the next,” he said.
“It is thus possible to steer several vehicles at a time and to drive in the slipstream. This way, traffic jams can be reduced and large quantities of energy can be saved.”
A range of robots are also strutting – or in some cases grinding – their stuff at Cebit.
Britain’s Engineered Arts’ singing “Robothespian” attracted attention for its rendition of Singing in the Rain and Star Wars impersonations.
The android is being marketed as an educational guide. Its developers now plan to link up the machines’ brains via the cloud so they can share information between each other.
Tobit’s pole dancing robots are designed by the British artist Giles Walker, and use old car motors to gyrate to music
The Karlsruhe Institute’s Armar robot offered a vision of the future in which domestic droids carry out chores. The machine’s grip is sensitive enough to allow it to take milk and cartons of juice out of a fridge, and it can learn how to clean or empty a dishwasher by watching its owner.
Germany’s Tobit Software’s engineers are obviously thinking along very different lines. Their booth is decked out as a club with one of its creations acting as DJ while two others pole-dance to the beats.
Visitors with a robo-fetish can pick up one of the dancers for about 30,000 euros ($39,500, £25,000).
The IT2Green project offers a more sober – and perhaps more useful – take on technology.
It is designed to transfer data from company and government servers to employees’ computers overnight. This then frees up capacity to carry out more sophisticated operations in the day.
Researchers say Shore is 94% accurate at classifying gender
The innovation has already secured state funds. The Fraunhofer Institute’s Dr Phil Lutz Stobbe said care had been taken to ensure the transfers were secure to avoid data exposure.
“We expect these projects to work within the next two years.” he said.
Another technology demonstrated by the institute is able to “read” faces.
A computer’s camera films people’s expressions and then uses algorithms to work out the age, sex and even what mood they are in.
The software – known as Shore – can cope with any background, changes in lighting conditions and other objects that appear in its sightline.
After eight years of development one of its creators said it could also distinguish one person from another.
“Even if someone leaves the camera’s field of vision they can still be recognised,” said Tobias Ruf.
“The Shore software has a short term memory that lets them be recalled when they reappear in its view.”