10 Companies Fuelling Advanced Robotics
Society has always had an insatiable appetite for robots, whether they be the villains of sci-fi thrillers or cheerful personal assistants. This interest is now much more than just a curiosity, as innovative technology and funding has allowed robotics companies to take their concepts to the next level. The most recent trend is the birth of the consumer robot, which has been a long time in the making. A number of companies are merging the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence with Advanced Robotics to create humanoids that are entertaining, helpful and not in the least bit threatening. Well… Most of them, anyway.
1. Boston Dynamics
American company Boston Dynamics has been in cahoots with the U.S. military for years, creating brilliant but undoubtedly terrifying robots for use in the field. Their products include Big Dog, a quadruped robot designed to carry equipment, and Atlas, the towering humanoid. They might not be pretty, but they’re effective – all of Boston Dynamics’ robots have incredibly high mobility that means they can deal with all kinds of terrain.
2. Deepfield Robotics (Bosch)
Bosch startup Deepfield Robotics show that it’s not all about a marriage between robotics and AI. They’ve been a consistent pioneer of innovative robotics, using IoT-integrated systems to positively impact agriculture. This has allowed farmers to keep an eye on their crops without having to actually be present in the field, for example. The company has also created BoniRob, an autonomous multi-purpose robot that can navigate plant rows and the farm environment using sensors and GPS.
Founded in 1990 and named after Isaac Asimov’s series of short sci-fi stories, iRobot Corporation originally created robots for use in the military and police force. On the other end of the scale, they’ve also released autonomous cleaning machines for domestic use. These include Roomba, a hoover, and Braava, a floor mop. The company is now focusing mainly on the consumer market having sold the military aspect of the business, and has also manufactured robots for industrial applications.
4. BlueFrog Robotics
Responsible for creating the cute little house-bot BUDDY, BlueFrog Robotics are a French company that teamed up with Unity 3D to enable developers to create new applications for the social robot. BUDDY is compatible with Android, and is designed to suit busy family life. It also has IoT capabilities and could be integrated with connected homes.
5. SoftBank Robotics
SoftBank Robotics are a branch of the Japanese firm SoftBank Group, a multinational telecommunications company. In 2014, they partnered with Aldebaran Robotics to create Pepper, perhaps the most coveted social robot out there at the minute. The four foot humanoid is able to recognise human emotions and respond to them accordingly, analysing tone of voice, posture and conversation topics to work out how a person is feeling. Unlike most other robots, little emphasis is placed on Pepper’s functional utility – instead, the bot’s purpose is to make people happy. Last year, it was reported that 1,000 units were sold each month.
Aesynt applies advanced robotics and innovative to the healthcare industry. One of their many products is ROBOT-Rx. The multi-purpose machine automates medication storage and communicates with third party systems via IoT connectivity, which makes life much easier for pharmacists. Earlier this year, the company was acquired by Omnicell, a leader in medical supply management solutions.
Jibo is a crowdfunded project created by Cynthia Breazeal, a pioneer in advanced robotics and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Jibo is a helpful desktop assistant that uses Artificial Intelligence to gradually learn about its owner’s preferences, and then adapts to them. The avidly awaited bot is due for release next month. The willingness of investors to fund projects like Jibo is making it much easier for developers to create user-friendly, high quality units.
8. Lockheed Martin
You won’t find adorable AI assistants here – Lockheed Martin researches, designs and manufactures advanced technology systems for aerospace, energy and defence. Although the company’s interests stretch far beyond creating robots, they did make it to the finals of the 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge, creating a humanoid robot called Leo that was judged on how it handled a series of challenges. As well as this, they managed to get hold of one of D-Wave’s coveted quantum computers, and that alone makes them one to watch.
9. Rethink Robotics
There’s massive scope for innovative tech within production and manufacturing, and Rethink Robotics is one company that has recognised this. The firm creates adaptable, easy-to-use robots for use in the industrial sector. Their two current units are called Sawyer and Baxter, and use high quality software from Intera. Both models can be fitted with a range of different industrial accessories to perform precision tasks that existing industrial robots can’t.
10. Alphabet Inc. (Google)
It’s difficult to talk about innovative tech without mentioning at least one of the Silicon Valley giants. In 2015, Google revealed a surprise restructuring that created a new parent company called Alphabet, Inc., which acquired a number of Advanced Robotics companies in 2013. To make things even more interesting, the following year the corporation purchased two AI businesses – DeepMind and Jetpac. They also bought Boston Dynamics, but sold the company on, possibly in an attempt to distance themselves from military associations. Talks with Foxconn have let to rumours about Alphabet’s possible plans to create industrial robots, too.
Although advanced robotics has recently focused on social robots, it’s clear that there are so many more ways in which the innovative tech can be used. Robots are more than just amusing companions, they’re industrial workers, autonomous farmhands and military machines. As AI and IoT continue to expand, they will enrich advanced robots – which is part of a wider trend that is seeing the pillars of disruption coming together to fuel innovation. The task for developers right now is to encourage society to engage with robots, either by making them hugely efficient or incredibly cute… Ideally both.
For more on Advanced Robotics go to https://disruptionhub.com/technologies/advanced-robotics/