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From rovers to snake bots, see how Pittsburgh does robotics

We toured several robotics labs in Pittsburgh to get a look at the city's world-famous robotics industry.
By Natalie Gagliordi, Contributor
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Howie Choset's snake robot

One of the famed snake robots from the team of Howie Choset, head of Carnegie Mellon University's Biorobotics Lab. Choset's snake robots have deployed all over the world to assist with disaster search and rescue, archaeological excavation, nuclear inspection, and even the development of minimally invasive surgery.

The snake-like design is key to the robot's effectiveness in disaster search-and-rescue. According to Choset, this particular form factor provides more motive force to wiggle through tight spaces than would be possible with legs, which could become detached or unstable.

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Innovating the colonoscopy

A look inside the Biorobotics Lab at Carnegie Mellon University. Here, a student demonstrates how a shrunk down version of Howie Choset's snake robot is being applied to colonoscopy procedures. The aim is to use the snake robot's unique, modular design to perform minimally invasive colonoscopies.

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Autonomous floor mopper

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High-tech inspection

Carnegie Robotics worked with a provider of pipe and underground inspection equipment to develop this camera system that goes into sewers. The entirely bootstrapped Carnegie Robotics typically sells through a business-to-business relationship, partnering with other companies and helping to make their products autonomous through advanced robotic components.

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Carnegie Robotics production lab

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Astrobotic HQ

A spin-out of CMU, Astrobotic is developing space robotics technology for planetary missions. The company wants to be a logistics service provider for businesses, nonprofits, and research institutions that want to ship payloads of up to 265 kilograms to the moon. Its core development is the Peregrine Lunar Lander, which is designed to perform an autonomous landing with a target accuracy of 100 meters.

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The dawn of lunar logistics

John Thornton, CEO of Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic. Astrobotic is an official NASA partner via the Lunar CATALYST program. The company has 24 prior and ongoing NASA contracts, a commercial partnership with Airbus DS, a corporate sponsorship with DHL, 11 deals for its first mission to the moon and 130 customer payloads in the pipeline for upcoming missions.

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The CubeRover

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Bossa Nova's retail bots

Bossa Nova's shelf-scanning bots are being tested by 50 Walmart Supercenters. The main focus in on inventory optimization. The pitch is that these robots and the data they gather can help level the playing field between e-commerce and brick and mortar by providing data-optimized inventory tools.

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Near Earth Autonomy

Near Earth Autonomy is building systems for autonomous flight. Its innovation enables a range of unmanned aircraft (i.e., sub-meter to full scale) to operate across multiple applications. The company works with customers to provide flight-proven core technologies to address inspection and mobility needs. Here, the company displays a concept drone with autopilot technology that could one day facilitate autonomous drone deliveries.

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