Singapore shifts to new growth industries: Robots and space tech

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Singapore TeLEOS-1 satellite
TeLEOS-1, the first Singapore-made commercial earth observation satellite

With Singapore’s traditional export industries such as electronics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and engineering services under pressure due to shrinking demand from important export partners such as China and Europe, the small city state has set its focus on new growth industries in the high-tech sector: Space technologies and the development of humanoid robots.

The move comes shortly after six made-in-Singapore satellites were launched into space from India on December 16, seen as a milestone for Singapore of conquering the final frontier. The satellites were built by teams from defense manufacturer Singapore Technologies Electronics, Singapore-based space technology firm MicroSpace Rapid, the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University. The biggest is the 400-kilogramme TeLEOS-1, the first Singapore-made commercial earth observation satellite to orbit in space.

The launch was the first large success four years after Singapore put its first home-grown micro-satellite, X-Sat, in space, while some smaller satellites have also been launched previously. But the latest development is seen to heavily boost Singapore’s space aspirations, which were laid out in 2013 when the Office for Space Technology and Industry under the Economic Development Board was inaugurated, whose mission has been defined to plan and execute economic strategies to grow Singapore’s nascent space and satellite industry. It assists the newly set-up Committee on the Future Economy which has been tasked with reviewing Singapore’s economic policies and developing economic strategies for the future, which will also touch upon future automotive technologies, green energy, modern lifestyle products and services.

With regards to space technology, it is a move in the right direction and a very promising niche to occupy, experts say. So-called orbital commerce, an industry segment that encompasses mobile and broadband communications via satellites and satellite-based monitoring systems grew 27 per cent from 2008 to $314 billion in 2013 as per latest available figures by US-based non-profit research organisation Space Foundation. The recent successful landing of the re-usable rocket booster Falcon 9 by US space company SpaceX gave the industry another boost.

According to the Singapore Economic Development Board, there are more than 1,000 professionals employed in the space technology industry in the nation, and this is expected to grow by 300 professionals over the next five years. Building on this core engineering pool, not only the space technology industries are expected to benefit, but also other industry clusters such as aerospace, information technology, high-tech manufacturing and solar energy.

Know-how could flow into high-end research and development such as weather forecasting, global positioning systems, remote sensing, cable and satellite television and data networks, while Singapore expertise could also be facilitated in commercial space flights and the operation of space stations. It is a strategy to groom and broaden a knowledge economy that could also be a role model for oil-rich Gulf states in the need to diversify.

Nadine robot
A humanoid robot called Nadine (left) was developed by scientist Professor Nadia Thalmann at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

Another good example for high-tech development in these clusters was the recent presentation of a “social robot,” developed by scientists at Nanyang Technological University. The humanoid robot, called “Nadine” and modeled as a doppelganger of its creator, University Professor Nadia Thalmann, is powered by intelligent self-learning software looks almost like a human being and is able to speak and express “feelings” by smiling or taking on a happy or sad expression depending on the conversation. It is meant to be deployed as personal assistant in offices and homes in the future, or as hotel receptionist or in other environments where basic personal services are needed

Another robot is EDGAR, developed at the same university and optimised to project the gestures of its human user. By standing in front of a specialised webcam, a user can control EDGAR remotely from anywhere in the world. The user’s face and expressions will be displayed on the robot’s face in real time, while the robot mimics the person’s upper body movements. EDGAR can also deliver speeches by autonomously acting out a script. With another, integrated webcam, he automatically tracks people he meets to engage them in conversation, giving them informative and witty replies to their questions.

Edgar robot
Robot EDGAR

With further progress in robotics from cross-disciplinary research in engineering, computer science, linguistics, psychology and other fields, such robots could be used for more advanced task, for example in healthcare services and education, and eventually on space flight missions. One other interesting application could the deployment of humanoid robots as proxies for business meetings all over the world to save time and travel costs, suggests Associate Professor Gerald Seet from the School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at Nanyang Technological University, who spent the past three years developing humanoid robots.

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[caption id="attachment_27552" align="alignleft" width="300"] TeLEOS-1, the first Singapore-made commercial earth observation satellite[/caption] With Singapore’s traditional export industries such as electronics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and engineering services under pressure due to shrinking demand from important export partners such as China and Europe, the small city state has set its focus on new growth industries in the high-tech sector: Space technologies and the development of humanoid robots. The move comes shortly after six made-in-Singapore satellites were launched into space from India on December 16, seen as a milestone for Singapore of conquering the final frontier. The satellites were built by teams from defense...

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Singapore TeLEOS-1 satellite
TeLEOS-1, the first Singapore-made commercial earth observation satellite

With Singapore’s traditional export industries such as electronics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and engineering services under pressure due to shrinking demand from important export partners such as China and Europe, the small city state has set its focus on new growth industries in the high-tech sector: Space technologies and the development of humanoid robots.

The move comes shortly after six made-in-Singapore satellites were launched into space from India on December 16, seen as a milestone for Singapore of conquering the final frontier. The satellites were built by teams from defense manufacturer Singapore Technologies Electronics, Singapore-based space technology firm MicroSpace Rapid, the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University. The biggest is the 400-kilogramme TeLEOS-1, the first Singapore-made commercial earth observation satellite to orbit in space.

The launch was the first large success four years after Singapore put its first home-grown micro-satellite, X-Sat, in space, while some smaller satellites have also been launched previously. But the latest development is seen to heavily boost Singapore’s space aspirations, which were laid out in 2013 when the Office for Space Technology and Industry under the Economic Development Board was inaugurated, whose mission has been defined to plan and execute economic strategies to grow Singapore’s nascent space and satellite industry. It assists the newly set-up Committee on the Future Economy which has been tasked with reviewing Singapore’s economic policies and developing economic strategies for the future, which will also touch upon future automotive technologies, green energy, modern lifestyle products and services.

With regards to space technology, it is a move in the right direction and a very promising niche to occupy, experts say. So-called orbital commerce, an industry segment that encompasses mobile and broadband communications via satellites and satellite-based monitoring systems grew 27 per cent from 2008 to $314 billion in 2013 as per latest available figures by US-based non-profit research organisation Space Foundation. The recent successful landing of the re-usable rocket booster Falcon 9 by US space company SpaceX gave the industry another boost.

According to the Singapore Economic Development Board, there are more than 1,000 professionals employed in the space technology industry in the nation, and this is expected to grow by 300 professionals over the next five years. Building on this core engineering pool, not only the space technology industries are expected to benefit, but also other industry clusters such as aerospace, information technology, high-tech manufacturing and solar energy.

Know-how could flow into high-end research and development such as weather forecasting, global positioning systems, remote sensing, cable and satellite television and data networks, while Singapore expertise could also be facilitated in commercial space flights and the operation of space stations. It is a strategy to groom and broaden a knowledge economy that could also be a role model for oil-rich Gulf states in the need to diversify.

Nadine robot
A humanoid robot called Nadine (left) was developed by scientist Professor Nadia Thalmann at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

Another good example for high-tech development in these clusters was the recent presentation of a “social robot,” developed by scientists at Nanyang Technological University. The humanoid robot, called “Nadine” and modeled as a doppelganger of its creator, University Professor Nadia Thalmann, is powered by intelligent self-learning software looks almost like a human being and is able to speak and express “feelings” by smiling or taking on a happy or sad expression depending on the conversation. It is meant to be deployed as personal assistant in offices and homes in the future, or as hotel receptionist or in other environments where basic personal services are needed

Another robot is EDGAR, developed at the same university and optimised to project the gestures of its human user. By standing in front of a specialised webcam, a user can control EDGAR remotely from anywhere in the world. The user’s face and expressions will be displayed on the robot’s face in real time, while the robot mimics the person’s upper body movements. EDGAR can also deliver speeches by autonomously acting out a script. With another, integrated webcam, he automatically tracks people he meets to engage them in conversation, giving them informative and witty replies to their questions.

Edgar robot
Robot EDGAR

With further progress in robotics from cross-disciplinary research in engineering, computer science, linguistics, psychology and other fields, such robots could be used for more advanced task, for example in healthcare services and education, and eventually on space flight missions. One other interesting application could the deployment of humanoid robots as proxies for business meetings all over the world to save time and travel costs, suggests Associate Professor Gerald Seet from the School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at Nanyang Technological University, who spent the past three years developing humanoid robots.

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