What’s New in Robotics? 25.02.2022
Posted on Feb 25, 2022 10:59 AM. 8 min read time
News briefs for the week take a look at seafloor mapping of an ocean’s bedrock, AI-infused robots learning to sort trash, home vacuum that keeps an eye on the family, robot highway repair workers, new Hominis surgical robot, and remote control of factory robots by smartphone or browser.
Maritime robots map ocean bottom for bedrock
With seafloor-anchored windfarms and oil rigs proliferating, plus bottom-hugging transoceanic cables ever more frequent, mapping the ocean bottom has never been so critical to get right.
Brooklyn, NY-based Bedrock Ocean Exploration (founded 2020) is providing the answers, and their services are free. As Bedrock’s website proclaims: “Bedrock is committed to providing the world with a free, publicly available map of our world’s oceans, over 50x more detailed than the current best public map available.”
The privately-financed startup Bedrock, with $8 million in seed funding, is redesigning the marine survey experience from the ground up to pave the way for detailed mapping and interpretation of seafloor data.
Marine surveys of ocean floors are traditionally performed by large ships with crews of 60+ staff and heavy sonar equipment costing hundreds of thousands of dollars that “would generate terabytes of data stored on hard drives that had to be mailed somewhere for processing and analysis,” says Bedrock co-founder and CEO Anthony DiMare.
Bedrock’s electric autonomous underwater vehicles (e-AUV) can launch right from the shore or from a ship, and go out sixty miles before needing to return.
As DiMare sees it: More than 80% of the ocean is still unmapped, and much of what is mapped is in low resolution. Bedrock’s e-AUV, hovering 50 meters above the ocean floor can do a high-res scan of everything below…and mush more economically than the big research ships.
AI-infused robots sort garbage in China
Seems to be a lot of activity worldwide in automating garbage disposal. Robots, especially, are being enlisted to the task. And a mighty task it is: China, with the second largest population in the world, produced 235 million tons of garbage in 2020, down from 2019’s record of 242 million tons. By comparison, the U.S., with a much smaller population, produces in excess of 292 million tons, or 5 lbs. of garbage per day per person. Yeow!
Whether China or the U.S., that’s a ton of garbage disposal in search of a remedy.
Chinese startup, Dongguan-based Gongye Technology (2018), develops an artificial intelligence waste sorting robot PiCKiNG Ai is the “first intelligent solid waste sorting robot with a sorting efficiency of up to 95 items per minute, which is 2 to 3 times the average sorting efficiency of ordinary tasks.”
With only a modest investment of $1.7 million, PitchBook reports that the PiCKiNG Ai garbage-picking robot can sort through recyclables, mixed-waste, construction and demolished waste and industrial waste.
"The recyclable garbage collection industry [in China: 100,000 companies and 15 million workers] has so far had only poor equipment and relied on humans for garbage sorting, resulting in low quality work and a low degree of sorting accuracy," said Gongye Technology founder and CEO Mo Zhuoya.
Gongye Technology’s offering is as leasing service [Robotics as a Service, or RaaS] It says lease payments are about $620 a month.
Robot vac also watches house, kids & pets
Nowadays robot vacuum cleaners do much more than just vacuum. Some, like the Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra, with LiDAR, sonar, a vision system, and two-way communication, not only can spot a stain on a carpet and scrub it clean and grab up hair, but can also monitor the kids and pets—speaking with them when necessary—and 3D map the entire home.
Better yet, the Ultra comes with its own drive-in service station: a “new Empty Wash Fill dock that scrubs the mop, cleans the dock, and holds up to seven weeks of dust collected by the vacuum.” Its onboard filtration system that captures and stores for disposal 99.99% of particles as small as 0.3 microns.
A smartphone app offers home views in 3D, matrix, and 2D, along with options to setup cleaning zones and times for cleaning designated areas.
Developed by Beijing-based Roborock (founded in 2014 as Beijing Roborock Technology Co.), the Ultra has AI present in the vacuum with “ReactiveAI 2.0 combining light 3D scanning and a neural processing unit to improve object identification and avoidance. LiDAR navigation, called PreciSense, is also present to ensure accurate mapping of your floor plan.”
For those willing to pay $1,399.99. the Ultra will be available during the second quarter of 2022 (see video).
Robot highway workers are efficient…and safe
Practical robots that perform practical jobs is what Ohio-based Pioneer Industrial Systems is all about. The company’s latest innovation, a highway crack-sealing robot is just such a reach for a practical tool.
The company’s Robotic Maintenance Vehicle or RMV is a truck chassis that can haul crack-sealing material with a custom robot that utilizes an advanced AI vision system that allows the truck to autonomously fill highway road cracks with sealant (see video).
The robot can be more efficient and accurate with its work than road workers, doing a more consistent job and using materials more effectively, which goes a long way in saving tax dollars and labor costs, reports Pioneer. Plus, reports the company, “Over 2,000 people have been killed doing [road work] over the last 10 years,” so safety is another valuable outcome that the RMV brings to highway repairs.
Automated and modular, the RMV The Robotic Maintenance Vehicle (RMV) or Robotic Crack Seale is a mobile maintenance platform utilizing smart AI vision that scans the road to accurately identify cracks in the pavement. The RMV is accompanied by a 6-axis industrial robot (FANUC) and custom sealant kettle to precisely dispense the sealant. Power supply for the RMV platform is a diesel engine.
Surgical robot garners $96 million plus FDA approval
Twin victory for Israel-based Memic Innovative Surgery (founded 2012) when its Hominis minimally-invasive surgical robot received FDA approval added to its $96 million in VC financing. Additionally, this February (2022), three U.S. facilities have already acquired the Hominis surgical system.
According to Memic, the new robot surgical system will now be used for single-site gynecological procedures, including benign hysterectomy. Interesting aspect of this new surgical robot, says the company, is that it’s “first and only FDA-authorized surgical robot with miniature humanoid-shaped arms with shoulder, elbow and wrist joints that provide human-level dexterity and 360-degree articulation.”
This mimicking of a human surgeon, with what the company refers to as its “biomimetic instruments”, is designed to replicate the motions and capabilities of a surgeon's arms, with shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints.
Beyond the Hominis system’s current applications and procedures, Memic is planning to further develop the technology for use in abdominal single and multi-port surgery, as well as other transluminal indications.
Browser-based remote control of industrial robots
For Seattle-based Olis Robotics (founded 2013), provider of robotics control software, the future of industrial robots is remote for monitoring, troubleshooting and operation.
Olis is a provider of a software product, Olis Connect, that offers a real-time operating system of tools for control, autonomy, and situational awareness of remotely operated robots (see video)
From factory floor, to decommissioning of nuclear plants, to offshore energy, to outer space, the revolutionary growth in unmanned technologies and AI has created a complex maze of robotic platforms and solutions with closed architectures. Silos, claims the company. The company’s name Olis, is silo spelled backwards.
Hardware agnostic, the company claims that its Olis Connect simplifies robotic operations in real-time. Olis says that its platform employs “machine learning, 3D environment monitoring, and assistive robotic control algorithms to increase remote robotic operational capabilities.
The young company must be doing something right; it has an impressive customer list, each of which is critically dependent on remote control of robots. For example, according to GeekWire, the U.S. Air Force engaged Olis “to lay out a plan for using its AI-driven software platform to control satellite-servicing robots; [Olis] is working with Tethers Unlimited to create a new kind of remote-controlled robotic system that could be used on the International Space Station or other off-Earth outposts; and has been selected by Maxar Technologies to provide software that will prepare operators on Earth to control a robotic arm on the moon.”
In February of 2022, Olis Robotics received Universal Robots’ UR+ Certification for operation of Universal Robots through web browsers.