|Engineers want to develop agile robots that can move in dynamic environments / Photo Credit: Ociacia (via Shutterstock)|
Engineers want to develop more agile robots that can move from one area to another without colliding, according to Ron Miller of American online tech industry media platform TechCrunch. However, this is a challenge when robots move in dynamic environments. Boston-based startup RealtimeRobotics declared an $11.7 million Series A investment to address this problem.
SPARX Asset Management led the investment along with some strategic investors such as Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Omron Ventures, and Hyundai Motor Company. Existing investors like Toyota AI Ventures, Scrum Ventures, and the Duke Angel Network also participated. Realtime Robotics CEO Peter Howard said that the firm’s solutions are rooted in advanced research on robotic motion planning.
He told TechCrunch, “We are based on research work done at Duke University in 2016 in the field of work called robotic motion planning, which is basically how a six or seven degree of freedom robot finds its way through space without hitting anything.” It’s a difficult problem to address considering that robots interact with humans and other robots. It’s not possible to precisely predict a robot’s movements in a dynamic setting.
Hence, RealtimeRobotics formulated a two-part solution called RapidPlan and RapidSense to resolve the problem. It is described as “allowing people and multiple robots to work collaboratively and cooperatively within the same work cell, without the need for expensive safety systems or time-consuming programming efforts.” This involves the combined capabilities of propriety hardware and software to help robots move safely.
However, the solution is still in its early days. Presently, RealtimeRobotics is collaborating with 13 customers “on proof of concept projects.” Those customers will serve as OEM’s and sell the product on behalf of RealtimeRobotics. Howard explained that major robotic companies and automotive firms, who also want to avoid collisions with self-driving cars, are working with the technology.
He also considered tapping into other industries such as agriculture, food service, and construction. Howard justified, “Anywhere where people are currently employed principally for their motor skills, you can think of as a market that’s fairly ripe for [this type of technology].”