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What's New In Robotics?  07.06.2019

Emmet Cole
by Emmet Cole. Last updated on Jun 07, 2019 7:16 AM
Posted on Jun 07, 2019 7:01 AM. 8 min read time

Good morning.  In this week's news mix: Rodney Brooks' new venture Robust.AI, 'Freemove' aims to turn all bots into cobots and a cobot dental assistant debuts.  We also admire Amazon's UFO-like delivery drone design, watch Bezos teleoperate a cobot, gawk at Cassie's new hovershoes, and much more!  

Cobots & manufacturing

Modern Machine Shop went behind-the-scenes with Boston, USA-based Veo Robotics, this week.  Veo Robotics has developed a system that, the company claims, can make any robot collaborative, including traditional industrial robot arms.  Dubbed 'Freemove,' the technology combines artificial intelligence and advanced vision technology and is expected to become available later this year.  

Freemove aims to make traditional robots collaborative.  Credit: Veo Robotics

Via Modern Machine Shop:

In fact, during my visit to Veo’s headquarters, I saw demonstrations involving standard industrial robots from brands I recognize. Existing robot safety standards, including ISO 10218, ISO/TS R1506 and IEC 61508, all recognize this system’s approach to realizing operator safety, and Veo expects to have a commercial version of Freemove for production facilities on the market by the end of the year.

Inspired by Google's TossingBot, researchers at UTS wanted to see whether they could implement a catching and tossing robot using a UR3 collaborative robot from Universal Robots, a Robotiq gripper, and an orange ping pong ball...

New Silicon Valley robotics startup Robust.AI, co-founded by robotics luminaries Rodney Brooks (co-inventor of the Roomba) and Gary Marcus (co-founder of Geometric Intelligence) has secured a “substantial” undisclosed seed round from Playground Global, among other undisclosed investors, according to a report in TechCrunch:

Robust.AI aims, firstly, to build the world’s first industrial-grade cognitive platform for robots. Secondly, it will aim to help companies in a wide range of areas, from construction to eldercare and domestic robots, toward the goal of making robots that are smarter, safer, more robust, more context-aware and more collaborative.

In a few year's time, could we start seeing collaborative robots working as dental assistants?  If research like that revealed in brand new video is successful, then yes... 

BMW's Munich plant is one of the most advanced auto manufacturing facilities in the world, producing up to 1,000 completed vehicles per day.  One of KUKA's LBR iiwa cobots is a key part of the production process, placing stacks of metal blanks near a human shop operator, who uses a fabricating machine to form them into reinforcement members.  The cobot then stacks the finished parts near two larger robots that position and weld them into place.

BMWHuman-robot collaboration at BMW's prestigious Munich plant.  Credit: BMW Group

Via Assembly:

Rüdiger Weber, a product and process engineer for the BMW Munich plant [...] foresees other manual assembly processes at the plant also changing to ones that utilize human-robot collaboration.  “Increasing [workplace] variables and competitive pressure make this human-robot collaboration and flexible solutions unavoidable,” concludes Weber. 

Chicago, USA-based Fusion OEM, recently launched Fusion Cobotics with the mission to help CNC machining operators in Northern Illinois leverage the incredible technology of cobots."  In new video, Fusion showcases a cobot application that uses a UR cobot and a Hand-E adaptive gripper...

In other cobot news:



By studying how the brains of people born with extra fingers cope with the extra workload (often enabling better than the average, 5-fingered performance at certain tasks), European researchers hope to unlock insights that could lead to the development of advanced robotic limbs.  

0001--tojpeg_1559579882409_x2Credit: Imperial College London

Via Imperial College London:

The international team of authors say the findings might serve as blueprint for the developing artificial limbs and digits to expand our natural movement abilities. For example, giving a surgeon control over an extra robotic arm could enable them to operate without an assistant.  Lead author Professor Carsten Mehring of the University of Freiburg said: “Perhaps we can tap into the brain resources demonstrated in this study to make this possible.”

A busy week for robot hands also saw Jeff Bezos trying his hand at HaptX, a haptic feedback system for virtual reality and (as shown in this case) teleoperation of collaborative robots...

Boston Dynamics' quadruped SpotMini bot, star of many a viral video, could be on sale "within months," according to a report in The Verge.    

jvincent_190605_3470_0004Credit: James Vincent / The Verge 

Via The Verge:

Spot is currently being tested in a number of “proof-of-concept” environments, Boston Dynamics’ CEO Marc Raibert told The Verge, including package delivery and surveying work. And although there’s no firm launch date for the commercial version of Spot, it should be available within months, said Raibert, and certainly before the end of the year.

In other headlines:

  • Robotics Summit & Expo: Your Guide to Day 1  (The Robot Report)
  • Ai-Da, the humanoid robot artist, gears up for first solo exhibition  (Times of India)
  • Robot Uses Gravity and Buoyancy to Generate Energy  (
  • Drone Technology Used To Better Prepare For 2019 Hurricane Season  (CBS Miami)
  • The Three Sisters’ Greatest Automation Asset: Confidence  (Asian Robotics Review)

Come back next week for more of the latest robotics news!  Until then, please enjoy...

Five vids for Friday

1.  As NASA and the German Aerospace Centre work on a game plan for getting the InSight mission's heat probe (a.k.a. 'The Mole') operational again on Mars, mission scientist/engineer Troy Hudson explains what they think went wrong and how the problem could be fixed.   

2.  Researchers at Trinity College Dublin, in Ireland have created 'Stevie II' --the country's first socially assistive robot and a major upgrade on their prototype first revealed back in 2017.  

3.  Amazon unveiled a stunning new delivery drone design at its re:MARS 2019 event this week.  (Amazon's blog has the details.)


4.  Video released Tuesday revealed everybody's favorite ostrich-inspired robot Cassie showing off on its brand new pair of 'hovershoes.'    (IEEE Spectrum has the details.) 

5.  Students at the British Columbia Institute of Technology in Canada have developed a prototype autonomous precision grape-picking bot.  


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Emmet Cole
Written by Emmet Cole
A freelance robotics writer since 2006, Emmet is an Economist contributor, and a regular contributor to Robotics Business Review and Robotics Trends. His writing on robots has also appeared in Wired, BBC Future, BBC Focus magazine, Space Quarterly, and numerous other outlets.
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