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Hannover. The HERMES AWARD is one of the world's most prestigious technology prizes. It is offered every year by Deutsche Messe AG in connection with the HANNOVER MESSE industrial technology fair. Each year's award recognizes a product which is characterized by outstanding technological innovation and which is on show at HANNOVER MESSE for the first time. "Anyone who is nominated for the HERMES AWARD is already a winner and is assured of maximum PR exposure. This year, for the very first time, there are three international companies among the nominees, which shows just how much weight the HERMES AWARD carries as a sought-after innovation prize presented in association with the world's industrial technology fair," commented Deutsche Messe Managing Board member Dr. Jochen Köckler.

Five nominees for the HERMES AWARD have been selected from among the applicants by an independent jury headed by Dr. Wolfgang Wahlster, the Managing Director of the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). The five innovative solutions developed by these companies will be profiled before a large audience during the heavily publicized HANNOVER MESSE Opening Ceremony on 23 April. Dr. Wahlster will then announce the winner, after which Germany's Minister for Education and Research, Johanna Wanka, will give a congratulatory address and present the award.

Dr. Wahlster made the following general observation on this year's submissions: "One trend we noticed this year was a strong human-centric focus among the Industry 4.0 and submissions. The emphasis was on empowering people in various ways, through simplified user interfaces, improved workplace comfort and safe human-robot collaboration, for example."

The companies nominated for the 2017 HERMES AWARD (listed in alphabetical order) are as follows:

AGS-Verfahrenstechnik GmbH, Stade, Germany: The nominated product is a technology for laying underground power lines. It involves pulling a plastic pipe containing the power line into a water-filled duct. Positive buoyancy eliminates tensile loading on the line, meaning the technology is suitable for laying lines in single runs of up to 2 km in length. Longer runs mean fewer cable junction boxes, which reduces the scale of the required earthworks. The laying process is reversible, so that lines can be replaced without any additional earthworks. The power lines can also be water cooled, thereby reducing the required clearance and facilitating very narrow cable corridors. This reduces the earthworks required and the impacts on adjacent land uses and infrastructure.

Augumenta, Oulu, Finland: The nominated product is an augmented reality (AR) software that generates virtual control panels for users of industrial and other systems. The technology is designed for use with smart glasses and is used to visualize 3D user interfaces and control panels on passive, flat surfaces. It enables workers equipped with smart glasses to see and interact with data and control information on a virtual screen using hand gestures. The viewable data is personalized to each user based on permissions and access rights. Authorized users thus see only the interface and data they actually need in order to do their job.

Linz Center of Mechatronics, Linz, Austria: The nominated product is a Salvagnini sheet metal bending machine that has been fully automated using material recognition software developed by the Linz Center of Mechatronics (LCM). The software virtualizes the entire design and production process. Using measurements and complex computer simulations, LCM determined the defining mechanical properties of a wide range of sheet materials and then compiled the data into a highly efficient software package. Sensors in the machine actuators detect within milliseconds how the workpiece responds to the bending force applied. The software uses this data to determine the material properties of the sheet. The machine thus automatically adjusts the degree of bending to the specific material properties of each sheet. The result: perfect batch-size-one production, with no rejects. The technology also supports large-series manufacturing.

Noonee AG, Zurich, Switzerland: The Chairless Chair is a wearable leg exoskeleton for employees in production environments. Weighing less than 4 kg, it is a hassle-free solution that enables users to sit wherever and whenever they need to. Users wear the device as they walk around and can easily lock it in the required sitting position at the push of a button. The Chairless Chair is simple to use and enables its wearer to switch quickly between standing, sitting and walking. It adjusts hydraulically to the wearer's height, build and desired sitting position. The Chairless Chair thus improves workplace ergonomics, supports posture and increases employee productivity.

SCHUNK GmbH & Co. KG, Lauffen/Neckar, Germany: The nominated product is an intelligent gripper module. Equipped with multiple sensor systems for maximum safety and powered by a decentralized control architecture, it is able to interact and communicate directly with humans and robots. The sensor systems are built into the gripper and enable it to grip, handle and assemble objects of all geometries. The sensors effectively envelop the module in its own safety "bubble." The module's jaws are able to measure gripping force and have tactile sensors, so their operation is highly adaptive and responsive. The sensor constellation also includes two cameras that enable the gripper to see its surroundings in 3D and help it to detect workpieces. The gripper is specifically designed for safe, barrier-free human-robot collaboration.