No, Abheek Bose does not believe that robots will take over and rule the world one day. Autonomous systems are becoming more and more intelligent and complex,“But robots will never possess many characteristics which make all the difference in life and are necessary to make important decisions sensibly; for example gut-feeling, passion or the welfare of others.“
Anyway, the 35-year old Indian, who graduated in his masters study of „Autonomous Systems“ at the H-BRS in 2005, is not so concerned with such horror scenarios. He is more concerned with the very practical sides of robotics: how they can be made useful not only in industry, but also in the household, in health care and in the play-room. For this purpose he has even founded two of his own companies in his home town Bangalore.
The foundation of his career was laid in principle by Lego: “Since I was seven years old I have always enjoyed building things and experimenting with technology.“ He was particularly keen on Lego Technic, with which he could build proper machines, and the film “Transformers“, in which robots, which can transform themselves into vehicles, actually do fight to rule the world. “Then, when I was about ten years old I managed to build a robot with Lego, which could then be transformed, with a couple of hand movements, into a car“, Bose remembers with a beaming smile. “From then on it was clear to me what I would do later in life.“
Bose made his way single-mindedly. At the age of 16 he was already concretely planning a career as robot engineer. After he had studied for a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in his home town, his father, a software specialist who had travelled widely in the world for his company, advised him to take his master’s degree in Germany. “They have excellent education and training of engineers there, he told me“, Bose recalls. He decided to study “Autonomous Systems“ at BRS-U, because it seemed especially multi-faceted to him. And in actual fact: “I learned all the important technical basics and developments. But not only that: as co-founder of the Robo-Cup-Team, with which we even took part in the 2004 World Cup for Robot Football, I also gained experience in team-building and management. Later that was extremely helpful for the foundation of my start-ups.“
After his studies Bose went back to India and worked at first for various software companies. “Modern robotics demands a multiplicity of skills and abilities; in addition to mechanical and electrical engineering, also programming and computer science. In these last two subjects I still had weaknesses, which I balanced out through doing jobs in the software area.“ Then his time had come: in 2009 he founded the company “Robots Alive“, which developed inexpensive robots. Out of that in 2013 came the spin-off “Applied Robotics“, which was dedicated to robotic applications for mobile platforms like smart-phones and tablets, i.e. for the consumer market.
However, at the moment both start-ups are on ice, and their twelve employees have full-time jobs elsewhere. Bose himself has been working for six months for the big robotics company „Systemantics India“, where he has been gaining experience and making contacts. „It became apparent that we needed international cooperation partners, in order to be able to put our ideas at Robots Alive into practice at acceptable prices. We are still looking for them, for the moment aside from our other jobs, before things can continue.“
Bose still seeks advice now and then from both his former favourite professors at the H-BRS. “Back when I was studying I not only talked shop about technical details with Prof. Plöger and Prof. Prassler, but I also used to get advice from them,“ he says. Recently he was back at his former Uni for an alumni conference after ten years, and actually met Prof. Plöger in person. Likewise he met several former fellow-students at the meeting, with whom Bose founded the Facebook-Group „International Alumni Hochschule Bonn-Rhein-Sieg“.
The Indian engineer, who has since got married, still has lively memories of the celebrations in Rhineland culture, at Karneval and at the music festival Popkomm, for example. He also remembers a students’ celebration, when he cooked the Indian speciality “Tandoori Chicken“ for everyone, “But I didn’t make it as spicy as we’re used to in India.“
Abheek Bose likes to be creative, but none the less stringent. That is what he tries to put across to the next generation of Indian engineers, when they gather for so-called “Meet-ups“, at which professionals from science and the practical world explain to students and lay people how robotics works. Because not everyone in India has Lego at home, to teach themselves.
by Jan Berndorff, Science Correspondent
We asked Abheek Bose for a video statement during his stay at H-BRS in September 2015: