Robotic avatar may see commercialization soon

Robotics development is one thing. Can strength-multiplying robots win over the market?
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer

Elon may be talking about robots, but commercialization of next-gen robotic systems that will actually find a foothold in the real world is closer than many would have expected just a few years ago. Sarcos Robotics ("Sarcos"), a veteran in the robotics sector and an important bellwether, has just concluded real-world use cases of its upper-body avatar, the Guardian XT highly dexterous mobile robotic system.

The Guardian XT is an upper-body variant of the company's robotic exoskeleton, the Guardian XO full-body, battery-powered industrial exoskeleton. Exoskeleton technology has come along before, but the use cases have been predominantly medical. Commercial human strength augmentation -- which many very rudimentary machines allow for in the hands of users but which still exists largely in the realm of sci fi when it comes to robotics -- could transform industries such as construction and manufacturing.

Sarcos has been working on these systems for years and is poised to become the first company to bring robotics to the job site for human augmentation. That's a big deal because it could change how workers operate across several sectors. When forklifts and cranes are replaced by humans in exoskeleton suits or operating teleoperated robots, efficiencies will balloon.  

For the recent field demonstrations, Sarcos worked with a leading electric utility construction services company. Demonstrated activities included successfully conducting at-height tree trimming operations around active powerlines to showcase the Guardian XT's ability to reduce occurrences of powerline-related fatalities and injuries. Sarcos worked with sustainable materials science company to conduct nondestructive testing (NDT) and inspections of at-height, in-process pipes at a chemical plant with the goal of improving inspection efficiency and reducing potentially life-altering injuries. Finally, Sarcos teamed up with a multi-national oil and gas industry company to conduct field construction activities. 

"These first successful product demonstrations to potential customers utilizing the Guardian XT industrial robotic avatar system in the field are a major achievement for Sarcos as we prepare for commercialization by the end of next year," said Ben Wolff, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Sarcos. "We look forward to continuing the dialogue with these initial partners and obtaining their feedback in order to deliver best-in-class robotics solutions that increase productivity while eliminating the need for their employees to operate in dangerous environments."

This is all good news for industries that are prone to some of the highest workplace injury rates in the world. Overexertion and falls are among the most common workplace injuries, ranking third and fourth respectively according to the 2019 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index. The increasing versatility of strength-multiplying robots suggests a future where man-machine hybrids work more efficiently and safer.

Sarcos became a publicly listed company in April through a merger transaction with Rotor Acquisition Corp, a publicly-traded special purpose acquisition company. The Guardian XT, which is expected to be commercially available by the end of 2022 and will integrate Sarcos' SenSuit wearable controller, is set to play a key role in the company's growth plans.

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