Dubai: How Expo 2020's 162 robots were brought to life in under 6 months

Dubai Expo will go down in history as the first international event where different types of robots were used to enhance the experience of visitors


Mazhar Farooqui

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Arash Masomzadeh. Photo: Supplied
Arash Masomzadeh. Photo: Supplied

Published: Thu 16 Dec 2021, 5:07 PM

Last updated: Thu 16 Dec 2021, 5:19 PM

Anyone who has been to Expo 2020 Dubai would have certainly come across an adorable orange robot called Opti.

The famous Expo mascot greets visitors, shares information, gives directions, tells jokes, and often breaks into synchronised dances, much to the delight of the children and adults.

Arash Masomzadeh, the general manager of the robotic division at Terminus Technologies, the Expo Premier Partner behind the Optis, said the AI-enabled, fully autonomous mascots were created under six months.

"The expo management gave us the concept in the form of drawings and animation. It took us less than six months, during the pandemic, to bring Opti from the drawing board to robotic reality," said the long-time Dubai resident.

In addition to 50 Optis, 102 other programmable robots perform various tasks at the world fair at Arash's command. These include 22 security patrol robots, 30 concierge-style indoor robots, and a further 50 that carry Expo maps, distribute free drinks or take part in the back of house stock replenishment.

In another first for the region, ten fully autonomous secure delivery robots are also deployed for Talabat, the region's largest food delivery service. These robots deliver food from the Talabat cloud kitchen to eight Talabat operated kiosks throughout the Expo site, performing last-mile autonomous deliveries making this Terminus – Talabat collaboration the first successful deployment worldwide.

"This is the first time so many autonomous robots have been deployed at a mega international event. This could have been possible only in Dubai, which is always at the forefront of embracing new technologies," said Masomzadeh, who is currently in advance talks to roll out their latest development -- robotic dogs.


The handy four-legged device can jump over uneven surfaces and be programmed to follow a specific route. "It could be utilised in patrolling hazardous areas, countering terrorism, clearing explosives as it can go to any place that is too dangerous to send officers," said Masomzadeh.

He said robotic dogs could also be deployed at construction sites, factories, or other commercial settings involving dangerous situations.

Made of environmentally-friendly materials such as polymer plastic, carbon fibre and aviation aluminium, the mechanical canines can travel at 1.5 metres per second and are equipped with 360 panorama cameras that capture 3D visuals in real-time. "Saudi Aramco has also shown keen interest in these robotic dogs," said Masomzadeh.


He said the security patrol robots at the Expo could detect overheating in Expo structures and gas leaks. "For now, they are primarily used as roaming surveillance platforms to identify social behaviours like flouting of Covid-19 safety measures like not wearing masks and overcrowding. They also have thermal cameras to detect abnormal body temperature."

Masomzadeh said the Dubai Expo would go down in history as the first international event where different types of robots were used to enhance visitors' experience.

All robots are weather proof and can operate in ambient temperatures that vary from -10°C to 55°C.

When their battery gets low, they return to their charging point and autonomously dock and recharge with no human intervention.

This enables AI-powered machines to work around the clock with no need for human assistance or on site supervision.

Masomzadeh said their company has also developed the world's most efficient robot sanitiser for large scale spaces, which combines UV disinfection as well as atomisation of disinfectant for airports and hotels. "It can fulfil multiple disinfection tasks. We are in discussions with some UAE based entities to launch them in the near future," he said.

"Dubai has an insatiable hunger for new technology. The other day we showed our latest robots to some government officials and they came back to us asking for more. This is a reflection of the visionary leadership of the Dubai which is always going to be the first in the world to adopt new technologies," he said.

Terminus has signed a long-term lease at District 2020, a human centric smart city, created by retaining 80 per cent of the Expo 2020 Dubai environment to support industry and technology growth in the UAE as it advances towards an innovation-driven economy.

The high tech firm will set up a Research and Innovation Centre for the region as well as its first International Headquarters outside Asia at District 2020, according to the official website of Expo2020 Dubai.

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