September 23, 2015      

RoboBusiness 2015 kicked off today at the San Jose Convention Center, bringing together more than 2,000 attendees from more than 20 countries.

The most popular feature of RoboBusiness is Pitchfire – the “Shark Tank” of robotics – a fast-paced event where 16 startups compete for $5,000, business coaching and much more. Each startup has two minutes to deliver their best elevator pitch in front of a live panel of venture capitalist judges and a packed room of attendees.

The 2014 Pitchfire winner, nLink, makes the world’s first Mobile Drilling Robot, which the judges agreed is a truly disruptive technology that will relieve construction workers from overhead work involved with measuring and drilling in concrete ceilings. Since RoboBusiness, nLink has acquired an industry partner and introduced its first commercial product this quarter.

So, which company will win bragging rights tonight? The 16 entrants come from numerous vertical markets, including consumer, rehabilitation, waste management, drones, and each brings something unique to the table. Here’s a sneak peek at each of the finalists:

AMP Robotics

While great strides have been made in waste diversion through numerous recycling initiatives and the introduction of automation, the recycling process itself remains costly and only serves a fraction of the waste stream. AMP Robotics seeks to address this imbalance with a low-cost robotics platform to fully automate the sorting process.

The platform draws from every aspect of robotics, incorporating state-of-the-art computer vision, path planning, and classification, yielding an exceptionally low cost, fast, and extensible system. In particular, the system does not rely on any fixed characteristics of the waste, and is instead trained by showing it thousands of images of its target waste. The system naturally learns to be robust to problems like dust, while being able to identify all classes of waste, from Construction and Demolition (C&D) to Municipal Solid Waste (MSW).


Autonomous Marine Systems

Autonomous Marine Systems Inc. is a marine data company changing the way the world explores and studies the oceans. Using our low-cost fully autonomous sailboat, we deliver persistent ocean intelligence anywhere around the world at 1/10th the cost of existing services, emitting zero CO2, and without risking human life.

The company is developing paid pilots for two large energy companies for fall 2015 for autonomous data collection in support of their offshore operations. Geokinetics, a seismic acquisition company, has signed a letter of intent committing to license 12 Datamarans at a value of $6+ million annually.


Auro Robotics

Auro Robotics is making driverless shuttles for last-mile public transportation and in-campus travel. The idea is to reduce operation cost by removing driver cost at sites such as large industrial sites, a university or company campus, Disneyland type theme parks, airports, residential colonies and pedestrianized city centers.

It is an electric powered driverless shuttle that doesn’t include a steering wheel, brake and throttle. The core technology is Autonomous Driving software with off-the-shelf sensors. The shuttles also include lasers, camera, radar and GPS for 360 degree vision. The shuttle’s top speed is 20 MPH and carries up to 8 people. Auro Robotics says pilots will start by July 2016.


Avatar Mind

The MyPal Robot is a friendly companion for young children. It has two versions, one shaped like a cute boy and the other a pretty girl. MyPal moves through wheels in the base. There is a six inch tablet on its chest that runs the Android operating system and enables the
android community to develop applications for MyPal. An important feature is support for natural language dialog designed for children. MyPal has four major capabilities:

Entertainment: MyPal is a playmate for the child that can tell stories, play games like tic-tac-toe, sing songs, dance, and much more.
Education: MyPal can teach children languages such as Chinese and English with its speech capability and provide educational programs on its tablet screen.
Social Networking: Through MyPal a child can video chat with his/her friends and access other social networking functions suitable for children
Parent monitoring: Parents can remotely control MyPal and monitor their child’s safety and activities on their smartphone


Dibotics

Dibotics has developed universal 6 Degrees of Freedom Sensor-Agnostic Localization technology, relying exclusively on the data originated from a single sensor: no odometry, IMU, GPS or multi-sensor fusion are needed. The sensor to be used depends on the application.

The technology robustness has been extensively validated in some 30 different real-life applications and environments from autonomous Drone flight without GPS, real-time 3D mapping, underwater navigation with standard Sonar to logistics and Defense industry, both in indoor and outdoor unstructured environments.


GaitTronics

Getting a frail patient to walk can improve clinical outcomes and reduce their length-of-stay in the hospital. However, current approaches to mobilizing these patients are very staff intensive, requiring up to four caregivers.

SoloWalk is a robotized gait trainer that address these barriers with three key features. First there is a powered lift that helps a patient get up from a seated position. Second, when the patient begins walking, SoloWalk?s powered robotic base follows them effortlessly. This is achieved using our patent pending control system that directly interacts with the patient, understands their intent and moves SoloWalk in such a way that it feels very light a easy to move. The third key feature is an automatic fall detection system. If the patient loses their balance, it is automatically detected by SoloWalk and the patient is supported.


GelSight

GelSight is a spin-out of the CSAIL department at MIT, commercializing a novel tactile sensor that turns touch into a high-resolution visual signal through the use of a proprietary coated elastomer. GelSight’s technology allows robotic grippers to do three things that would otherwise be difficult or impossible: assess the orientation of a grasped object, actively prevent slip and analyze surface features/texture of objects.


Harvest CROO Robotics

The increasing harvest labor shortage is a problem that must eventually be solved by automating the harvesting process. Several organizations are working on a solution. However, all of the known potential competitors are developing machines that would require growers to radically change the way they grow strawberries. Harvest CROO is taking a different approach that mimics the way the best human harvesters work. Key features include:

– Lower harvest costs
– Set harvest rate that will not fluctuate
– Eliminate rejections due to being short weight by weighing packages of berries
– Increase yields by eliminating over packs by weighing packages of berries
– Work at least 20 hours per day, including weekends
– Avoid picking during the hottest part of the day when berries bruise the easiest


inViaRobotics

inViaRobotics is developing the next generation of automation solutions for e-commerce fulfillment centers. The Mercury robotic platform is designed from the ground up to pick items and deliver them to designated shipping boxes as well as restock items from bulk storage.

With a 10-hour battery life and high payload capacity, Mercury will allow warehouses to run efficiently with minimal human intervention. Our patented design allows us to move quickly and reach high shelving all while using very low cost hardware. The Pegasus robotic platform works alongside Mercury to efficiently service orders by moving the shipping box or tote closer to the current pick location. It can also deliver the box/tote directly to the shipping area when the order has been completed.


krtkl

krtkl offers a new robotics development platform that provides professional-grade hardware at maker-friendly prices. By combining ARM, wireless, and and FPGA on a $40 to $100 board that’s the size of business card, makers, startups, and all engineers can now afford to build high-end, commercially viable connected robotic and computer vision systems with fully capable and scalable hardware.

Think of it as “Raspberry Pi for Robots.” With full support for ROS, OpenCV, ArduPilot, and other vital open-source robotics ecosystems, no a dditional knowledge is needed to get that next robotics project off the ground. The board is going live via Indiegogo in September 2015.


Luvozo

Across the U.S., tens of thousands of assisted living communities are facing challenges, including insufficient staff and monitoring, as they try to provide the best care for their aging residents. Luvozo is addressing this problem and changing the way residents interact with their senior living community with Sam, an affordable and on-demand robotic concierge service that enhances caregiver resources to provide frequent check-ins and non-medical care for residents.

This combines a self-driving robotic platform with trained off-site professionals to supplement staff for additional monitoring, socialization, and quicker call bell answering. The system creates the following benefits for community operators:

– Increases resident check-ins and interactions per day
– Enables object delivery and hydration schedules via Sam’s delivery mechanism
– Reduces cost creep
– Reduces call bell response time, one of the leading complaints among assisted living residents


Perception Robotics

Perception Robotics has developed a rubber “skin” that can be molded into any form and is inherently inexpensive and durable. The sensor skin provides robots with the ability to “feel” what they are touching, thus enabling them to take on complex material handling tasks. When combined with a low-cost, basic vision system and our proprietary haptic algorithms, this sensing solution can be used for a range of applications in the industrial robotics market.

The company’s first product is a bin-picking system; other products will include grippers equipped with our tactile sensor skin as well as “safety skin” for collaborative robots. Perception is also working with NASA-JPL on a gecko-inspired gripper that will enable it to expand into applications that require the gripper sticking to (rather than grasping) an object, e.g., glass manufacturing.


Robots.io

Robots.IO develops IO – industrial robot simulation software for transferring complex manual processes into simple industrial robot solutions. This is software for the modern world, where fast development, iterative testing and sharing resources with a community of developers and users helps quickly shape ideas into reality.

The IO plugin allows for development of intuitive robotics apps in a matter of hours through a visual programming environment ? once ideas have been tested they can be converted into code and distributed as Apps. We build on the proven Rhino3D and Grasshopper CAD platform, so we just focus on robotics. The difference in development time is several orders of magnitude, opening up the possibility of SME?s to automate processes that would previously have been to expensive to consider, or for R&D to tackle processes too complex due to multiple variables.


Sadako Technologies

Sadako Technologies has developed a disruptive waste sorting device based on computer vision and advanced robotics. Designed to be installed in waste treatment plants (WTP) that process solid urban waste, it’s able to recover up to 200 tons of valuable material per year. Wall-B is based on in-house developed computer vision software (for target material detection) integrated with robotics (with an own developed suction grasping system) resulting in a very cost-efficient, flexible and easy-to-install equipment for the customers. Wall-B is supported by open source and proprietary machine learning code.


Skyborne Technologies

Skyborne Technologies is developing two tilt-rotor drones. The Cerberus is a unique design that allows the vehicle to pitch at any angle whilst remaining stationary. This removes the need for a gimbal (and additional operator) because the camera can remain fixed to the body. When the vehicle is pitched up, the camera has a field of view above the drone; perfect for infrastructure inspections that existing multi-rotors cannot perform without a hardware re-configuration.

The next model, the Chimera, takes advantage of the tilt-rotor design and lifting surfaces to increase the range and endurance from 20 minutes up to one hour. The same tilting features are available, which makes the drone perfect for long-range missions which require hover envelope flight along the way. No control surfaces are required for this model, making the concept incredibly simple and aerodynamic.


CorePath Robotics

CorePath Robotics, founded in 2015, creates user friendly and flexible off-the-shelf robot solutions primarily within milling, welding and plasma cutting. Its vision is to bring flexibility into these processes and let floor shop personnel teach robots just as they would for simpler robotic tasks such as handling. CorePath Robotics is based in Odense, Denmark and is a spin-out from the University of Southern Denmark.