August 7, 2012 > The Robot Report
The Robot Report
Tracking the business of robotics
Liquid Robotics Joint Ventures with Oil & Gas Technology Provider Schlumberger
New company, Liquid Robotics Oil & Gas, will be headquartered in Houston, TX and will initially provide Wave Glider platforms for surveillance; seep/spill detection; and communications gateway services.
Wave Gliders can operate offshore for up to a year without requiring a crew, fuel or a dedicated support vessel.
"By teaming with Schlumberger, we can greatly accelerate the availability and worldwide deployment of innovative oil and gas solutions," said Bill Vass, Liquid Robotics' CEO. "We are extremely excited about the new capabilities the unique Wave Glider platform will bring to offshore exploration and production - particularly in the areas of seismic, subsea and environmental monitoring," said Ashok Belani, Schlumberger's CTO.
Robot lawnmowers still a work in progress
Too expensive for most home use, not professional enough for industrial use, robotic lawnmowers have yet to become as commonplace as Roombas. But a new crop of consumer manufacturers is quietly making inroads by providing more bang for the buck.
John Deere's all-weather Tango E5, $2,500, can mow an area up to 20,000 sq ft, can program areas to be left alone, and, when it's battery runs low, can go to it's recharging station for a quick refill and then resume its work. It requires boundary wires and cut grass is left as mulch instead of removed. Not yet available in the US.
Bosch's new Indego 10, $2,100, can handle 10,000 sq ft. Unlike the Tango E5, the Indego mows in sequential rows, like a farmer does row crops. Only available in Scandinavia at present but is planned to be launched globally in 2013.
Friendly Robotics and their line of Robomowers, $2,000, and Husqvarna and their Automower line, $2,200, have been around for a few years but never hit consumer traction outside of Europe (Husqvarna has sold over 100,000 of their Automowers), partly because of their high price, mulching clumps, inability to handle high grass, need for staked border wires, and their random navigation methodologies.
Flexible, Intelligent Robotics Debuted In Materials Handling Marketplace
Symbotic, formerly CasePick Systems, is providing mobile robots that grab closed boxes of goods and brings them to a pallet-loading robot. Different from Kiva Systems, recently acquired by Amazon, which moves racks of open boxes to an order-picker who removes items and packs them into shipping boxes.
Vetex and Yaskawa Motoman will soon be offering a combined mobility platform and robot arm for location to location material handling.
Underneath them all are the sophisticated software packages that direct the navigation, safely and efficiently move the arms and grippers of the robots, and sense and recognize the materials being handled. Case in point: Universal Robotics (not to be confused with Danish Universal Robots) and their new Neocortex control software for 3D sensing of random objects. It integrates random 3D data, processes it and determines what it is and how it is to be handled, and then integrates that information into user systems, for example, into Yaskawa's Motoman 2-armed robots, or to robots loading or unloading pallets or to other software providing load sequencing or similar applications.
I wrote about material handling systems at MODEX 2012 earlier this year but many new products are changing the dynamic.
BOTTOM LINE: businesses are beginning to make long-put-off capital purchases to automate their warehouses and material handling and new sensing, software and robotic companies are emerging in the process, particularly those that can make sense of and use sensor data.
UAV's finding uses outside of military, space and defense
AeroVironment doing test for FCC of an aerial communications relay station which could be used in the event of a disaster. "Small UAVs can provide instant communications capabilities to preserve lives, property and resources," says AV VP Roy Minson.
World Surveillance Group's Argus Hybrid blimp-like aerostat/airship is a variation on the same theme: to stay on station and provide 24/7 streaming data or a steady platform for communications relay.
Bluesky, a UK military UAV provider, has launched a surveying wing to collect site specific images and data. "The integrated camera captures high res photogrammetric images that can be used to create map-accurate aerial survey data including height models," says James Eddy, Bluesky Tech Director.
Spanish startup Intelligenia Dynamics is working with the U of Granada to use quadcopters to autonomously scan buildings in order to construct 3D models of historical sites.
WinterGreen Research publishes new "First Responder, Border Patrol, Homeland Security and Security Robots" report ($3,700) reviewing 30+ vendors and including revenue projections to 2018.