Expo 2020 Dubai: meet the man with 152 robots at his command

Machines perform functions such as greeting visitors, making security patrols, and deliveries

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If you pay a visit to Expo 2020 Dubai, you are almost certain to stumble upon a friendly orange robot called Opti.

There are 50 of the motorised mascots rolling around the world fair greeting visitors and offering up nuggets of information, including directions and jokes.

Occasionally they even gather in packs to perform flashmob-style dance routines to Kanye West's song Stronger.

It's the first time anything remotely like this has ever been done
Arash Masomzadeh, Opti

One of the biggest success stories of the Expo, the robots' design and their level of interaction with the public has broken new ground, said Arash Masomzadeh, the group director of robotics for Terminus Group, the Chinese artificial intelligence company who created Opti.

"It's the first time anything remotely like this has ever been done. Terminus took 2D and 3D drawings of Opti from Expo, and we brought their mascot to life as a technological and AI-powered machine," Mr Masomzadeh said.

"Expo 2020 will always be remembered as the first international mega-event that allows users to interact with different types of robots that perform different types of functions for daily activities."

The robots have artificial intelligence, which enables them to get in tune with their environment. After being stationed on a site, they learn to block out certain noises and, after a certain amount of time, they can focus in on individual people talking to them.

However, before we start to worry about 50 Optis taking over the world, Mr Masomzadeh reassured us that the robots are not autonomous, or self-learning.

"All of this is done in the back-end, whereby we look at the user interaction, and then guide the robot on how best to direct the user and how best to give them the answers that they're really looking for," he said.

"They can not do much without humans teaching them what to do."

Roaming robots

A visitors interacts with one of the security robots at Expo 2020 Dubai. Photo: Expo 2020 Dubai

There are 72 other robots roaming around the Expo site – all of them designed to improve the visitor's experience of the world fair.

There ares several security patrol robots, 30 attendant or concierge-style indoor robots, and two types of delivery robot – one of which is a kiosk that carries maps for Expo visitors, and the other is a delivery platform robot that distributes free ice and drinks.

Opti's main purpose in life is to charm, Mr Masomzadeh said.

"The primary role of Opti is to welcome visitors and encourage fun engagement.

"It's more geared towards the children, so it's at child's level and they also do different facial expressions for the kids to stand next to and take photos.

"Opti really is an introduction to robotics for the general public, which is the aim of this Expo."

Watch: Opti flashmob dance at Expo 2020 Dubai

Updated: October 14, 2021, 8:27 AM