10 cool robots at this year's RoboBusiness Conference

This year's conference in Santa Clara is all about empowering businesses to develop a better robotics strategy. More than 2000 attendees will mingle with industry experts. But the real draw, of course, will be the bots.
1 of 10 Greg Nichols/ZDNET

Cassie by Agility Robotics

Among the coolest bots at this year's RoboBusiness Conference, which takes place September 27 & 28 in Santa Clara, is Cassie by Agility Robotics.

Launched commercially in February 2017, Cassie, by Agility Robotics, is a bipedal robot designed as a robust R&D tool for ground mobility applications. The bio-inspired design builds on lessons from ATRIAS, which was the first robot to reproduce human-like walking dynamics. Providing the general mobility capabilities of a human is important because Cassie takes a "platform-first" approach. The vision is for Cassie and her successors to address a broad market of human-scale ground mobility. Future versions of Cassie will be the base platform for diverse fields of use such as curb-to-doorstep delivery, security, and inspection.

2 of 10 Greg Nichols/ZDNET

iPal by AvatarMind

AvatarMind's iPal Companion Robot is designed as an educational and entertaining friend for children, a companion for the elderly, and as a concierge/greeter for retail and hospitality. This follows the task-agnostic trend we're seeing in service robotics. For children, iPal provides interactive language learning and educational programs. For elders, iPal is a constant companion that supplements personal care services and has the potential to provide security with alerts for many medical emergencies. In retail stores, iPal can greet guests, entertain them and tell them about products, while at hotels, iPal can provide guests with personal service.


Freight by Fetch Robotics

Freight by Fetch Robotics is an autonomous mobile robot used in warehouses and logistics facilities to convey items from one part of the facility to another. Use of these robots allow companies to process orders faster, increase efficiency, and lower costs. In addition, incorporating Freight robots into warehouse workflows allows associates to focus on higher value tasks.

4 of 10 Greg Nichols/ZDNET

Swift by IAM Robotics

Warehousing employers are facing increasing pressures on cost and delivery time from the exploding e-commerce industry (ahem ... Amazon). For employees, these changes are demanding increased pick rates and hours. According to IAM, many in the warehouse workforce still spend up to 90 percent of their time just walking from one item to the next. The result is unhappy employees with turnover rates harmful to business.

IAM's Swift Product Suite addresses these concerns by letting robots do both the walking and picking, freeing workers to focus on more value-added activities. IAM's intelligent autonomous material handling technology enables its robots to navigate through human-friendly environments, identify the location of objects, and pick individual items or bins at human-level speeds and accuracy. With Swift, companies can outperform their competition by providing a faster order fulfillment for their customers.

5 of 10 Greg Nichols/ZDNET

Mars Rover with Harmonic Drive technology

Harmonic Drive designs and manufactures high-precision servo actuators and gear components. How high-precision? Well, it's good enough for NASA. Currently, Harmonic Drive is working with Motiv Space Systems to develop the Primary Robotic Arm for NASA JPL's Mars 2020 Mission. This five degree of freedom robotic arm has a reach of more than two meters and a payload capacity of 45 kilograms. The arm will deploy multiple science instruments for surface exploration. Additionally, it will retrieve core samples from the surface and place them in the rovers caching system.

The bot will be on display at RoboBusiness. In a room full of robot-loving nerds (I count myself one!) the out-of-this-world platform is sure to draw crowds.

6 of 10 Greg Nichols/ZDNET

Jackrabbot (JR) by Stanford University

Jackrabbot (JR), developed by engineers at Stanford, is a multi-sensory platform mounted on a Segway system and powered by GPUs. JR is one of a new breed of visually intelligent, socially amicable and interactive robots. It doesn't run on highways -- its natural habitat are places filled with humans and it is designed to roam on the sidewalks of campuses, shopping malls, airports, train stations, and other general public spaces.

Impressively, JR is designed to understand humans and predict human intentions accurately as well as to learn human social conventions and basic social etiquette. For example, it has learned how to keep an appropriate distance from others, how to share resources like sidewalks, and how to take turns. It understands the ways people signal each other to coordinate movements and negotiate other spontaneous activities, like forming a line.

7 of 10 Greg Nichols/ZDNET

CIRRIS by ULC Robotics

The CIRRIS XITM and the CIRRIS XRTM robots by ULC Robotics were developed to allow gas utilities to extend the life of large diameter cast iron pipeline infrastructure. Specific? Absolutely. But those pipelines are expensive to replace and difficult to manually repair, making them prime territory for robots.

The systems, which are taking on one of the most challenging and sensitive pipeline environments - live gas pipelines - represent the next evolution of robotics in the gas industry. The CIRRIS XI Inspection Robot internally assesses the condition of cast iron pipelines and collects critical pipeline integrity data that, before now, network operators were previously unable to obtain. The second robotic system, the CIRRIS XR Repair Robot, repairs leaks and prevents future leaks from occurring through the injection of sealant into the joints of the cast iron gas main. To minimize disruption to the public, both of these robots can carry out their work in live gas mains.

8 of 10 Greg Nichols/ZDNET

VTOL UAV by ULC Robotics

Also by ULC is this commercial-grade fixed-wing UAV. Like the company's other bots, this drone was developed to meet the inspection needs of electric and gas utilities. Designed and built from the ground up by ULC's Aerial Services and engineering teams, the VTOL UAV is a powerful and versatile platform with a 10-foot wingspan and a sensor payload capacity of 10 pounds for conducting fully-autonomous aerial inspections and assessments of a variety of utility structures and properties, including electrical transmission lines, gas transmission pipelines, and right of ways.

One trend in bots these days is versatility, and that extends even to bots that are task-specific. In order to collect specialized data, a variety of sensor and monitoring payloads can be integrated into the VTOL platform, including radiometric thermal cameras, high-resolution DSLR imaging systems, LiDAR, gas leak detection sensors, and other advanced systems.

9 of 10 Greg Nichols/ZDNET

SmartBox by UnitDoseOne

UnitDoseOne is a modular and scalable robotic hospital pharmacy that prepares doses of drugs in individual sets for hospital patients. It's essentially a set of robots that fully automate pharmacy and drug dispensing operations. The idea is that the current system is inefficient, insecure and error-prone, putting patients at risk. UnitDoseOne introduces revolutionary solutions to pharmacy automation, like advanced image recognition for the drugs introduced to the system.

10 of 10 Nils Lund Pedersen

UR5 by Universal Robots

Universal Robots' UR5 robot arm is a lightweight, flexible, and collaborative industrial robot that lets customers automate repetitive and dangerous tasks with payloads of up to 5kg. the UR5 is ideal for picking, placing, and testing, tasks that are common in biotech and electronics manufacturing, for example. With a wide working radius, the collaborative robot is supposed to put everything within reach, freeing up employees' time so they can focus on other stages of production. The latest development with the UR5 allows it to avoid collisions while continuing to perform the task it was set out to do, an important consideration for any robot that works around humans.

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