Battlefield bots • TechCrunch
Greetings from The bowels of the Moscone Center West. As I’m writing this, Kevin Hart just walked off the stage and Serena Williams headed into a crowded house. No exaggeration: I tried to make my way to get a seat in the few rows at the front assigned to the TechCrunch staff, but I couldn’t physically get past the crowd. One powerful punch starts Wednesday morning.
I’ve had quite a bit of time to wander the halls here, mostly researching hardware and robotics companies, as usual. It’s always fun to see the kinds of microcosms that develop at events like this, and to identify gatherings that point to broader current and future trends in the startup world.
I am happy to say for my own education that robotics companies, in particular, have been well represented. I’m not sure this is something I would have been comfortable confirming five or so years ago. Combined with all the different ongoing market indicators, it really does look like we have comfortably entered a new era of robotics and automated investing.
Yesterday I hosted the equivalent of a two-hour marathon, which featured 30 startups giving two-minute shows. Honestly, it was a little stressful, but I’m looking forward to unpacking some of these shows in the coming weeks. One definitely deserves a mention in this week’s Actuator, because I finished speaking with the CEO and outlining the company late last week – Touchlab.
touch lab The winner of the Highlights Contributors Sessions: Bots event was in July, so this event has been long overdue. One of the things that is particularly interesting to me is how the company’s outside focus has shifted in that short time. The Edinburgh-based company originally put us on its robot skin. The applications are pretty clear there – effectively adding another layer of sensing to complement existing sighting systems and the like.
This is still the core of the startup’s game, but Touchlab is also beginning to implement its own technology into an automated system. It demonstrated an elderly care robot that is essentially a ready-to-use TIAGo++ robot, equipped with its own sensor technology. Eldercare makes sense, as a highly sensitive pressure sensor is needed to interact with human patients – the elderly in particular.
“We have a layer of software that translates skin pressure into the suit. We also use haptic gloves,” co-founder and CEO Zaki Hussein told me. “Currently, our skin collects much more data than we can currently transmit to the user via haptic interfaces. So there is a little bottleneck. We can use the full potential of the best haptic interface of the day, but there comes a point where the bot feels more than the user does.”
Tactile sensations are translated into a wearable suit worn by a worker wearing a VR. I’m interested in exploring the remote playback case a bit more. There is a strange kind of stigma around this technology in a category where everyone seems to be constantly chasing complete autonomy.
RIF . bots (pronounced “riff”), one of the other entries in Battlefield 200, operates in a similar space. Specifically, its building systems are designed to simplify the disinfection of medical equipment within a hospital. Co-founder Kevin DeMarco told TechCrunch:
The main challenges facing the sterile treatment industry are the lack of experienced surgical technicians, device-level traceability, infection traceability, and cost traceability. Medical device manufacturers are interested in knowing how their equipment is being used and degraded in the field. Tool-level data will also help them decide where to send salespeople. Hospitals care about device-level data because it will help them work more efficiently by improving device-level tracking and device screening. Currently, most hospitals only track at the stair level, but the industry wants to be able to track at the device level.
I’m starting to sense an emerging topic here – another healthcare robotics company since my time in the show stage. Kyle’s headline really says it all here: “Ketakim develops a robot to automate drug development.” The company has developed what it considers a “robot chef” designed to trigger chemical reactions. He tells TechCrunch:
The production of chemical products is strictly regulated and standardized. [But] The development phase between discovery and production is still done manually and no important data is extracted. With data, we can help companies develop new lifesaving drugs faster, which of course means higher revenue and better profit margins for them… the data [from OnePot] Reliable, clean and immediately usable.
Based in Montreal jasper It takes a unique approach to a market dominated by companies like Seamless, DoorDash and Uber Eats. The company’s play revolves around the deployment of a proprietary chain of robotic ghost kitchens designed to dramatically speed up food delivery. The robots side comes through the kitchen, allowing minimal or no staff in the food preparation process.
“Eating good meals at home is expensive or time consuming… Food delivery is very inefficient – restaurants or ghost kitchens make meals for a few dollars and then pay someone to ship them across town,” CEO Gunnar Fruh told TechCrunch. “While most customers don’t realize it, about half of their dollars are spent on platform fees and delivery costs. By operating automated kitchens in or next to high-rise apartment buildings, Jasper eliminates labor and delivery inefficiencies to serve up fresh, delicious meals to residents at the expense of cooking.” Household. Jasper meals are painted onto porcelain, allowing their customers to cut down on up to a third of their household waste.”
Two companies focused on robots have made their appearance on the battlefield as well. Swap has been developed An electric mower specially designed for cutting vegetation around solar farms.
“Currently, there are two major challenges when cutting all plants in solar fields,” the company told TechCrunch. “The way it’s done is not sustainable. It’s done by equipment that runs on petrol or diesel, so obviously there’s a big carbon footprint there. There’s also a high cost of petrol and diesel itself. The equipment also goes through rough terrain, so there’s a lot of equipment failures.” And the costs associated with that. Because what we do is 100% electricity, it’s more sustainable. There are also much fewer parts, so it won’t break down nearly as often as often.”
One of the most unique features here are the hot-swappable attachments that give the company its name. In a matter of minutes, you can equip the system with a plow and have it go into town on a raft of snow. The robotic system is also capable of carrying a payload of up to 1,000 lbs. The robot debuted a few months ago, and the company claims it already has $9 million in contracts to deploy the robots to solar sites.
I Talk to Ally recently. The company is trying to solve a problem that many have tried to tackle before (which we’ve talked about a lot in these inches of the column): creating robotic systems that can be deployed effectively without any bots or programming expertise.
The company has raised $4.7 million in crowdfunding, along with $6.1 million in Series A. Impressive foodservice company Miso Robotics has signed a $30 million letter of intent to deploy Ally’s robotic arms in kitchens. The company develops both software and hardware components in its system. It also has a nice little background.
“My mom and dad had their own business,” Mitch Tolson, founder and CEO of Ally Robotics, told TechCrunch. “My mom had a banner company. Every weekend and nights during the week, I would install neon signs, weld tires, dig trenches, and electrical outs, all of it.”
I guess that’s all the disruption-related content I got for you this week, but here are some quick news stories from the week. he goes!
I (hypersensitive) Books about Cyberdontics’ $15 million increase. The idea of a robot running in my mouth isn’t one that I’m (a world-renowned dentist not a fan of) particularly interested in, but I also don’t hate the idea of reducing the hours it takes for a procedure like a root canal or crown down to a few minutes.
“If you have something like a root canal or a crown or any of those kinds of procedures, where you spend an hour or two in the dentist’s chair and you spend several trips to come back and fix it,” CEO Chris Cirillo told me, “The idea that you can literally put this robot in Your mouth for less than a minute and you can walk out the door after 15 minutes is a game-changing idea. For people who don’t really like the dentist, this is a really attractive way to get in and out faster.”
Kyle has Segment on Ambi Robotics’ $32 Million Funding Round. The company is one of a growing army of companies competing to automate fulfillment centers and warehouses. It recently signed a $23 million deal to bring its systems to US-based Pitney Bowes fulfillment centers.
Fun thing to close this week’s newsletter. I made a quick post earlier this week about the researchers who programmed MIT’s tiny cheetah quad robots. play soccer goalkeeper. It’s very challenging: teaching the robot to map the trajectory of a projectile, interact, and move its body in less than one second. paper notes:
Quadrupedal football goalkeeper is a difficult problem that combines high dynamic movement with accurate and quick manipulation of objects (the ball). The robot needs to respond to and intercept a potential volley using dynamic motion maneuvers in a very short period of time, usually less than one second. In this paper, we propose to address this issue using an RL framework that is free from the hierarchical model.
The best defense is a good attack. Subscribe to Actuator today.