Sarcos Defense today said the U.S. Office of Naval Research has awarded it a contract to develop an upper-body variant of the Sarcos Guardian XO exoskeleton. The Salt Lake City, Utah-based company said the remote-controlled Guardian DX wearable robot will be adapted to attach to a variety of mobile bases, such as wheeled or tracked vehicles that can operate at height. These include boom lifts, scissor lifts, and bucket trucks to address maintenance and logistics needs, it said.
The company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sarcos Robotics, which makes advanced robotics and other electro-mechanical systems designed to save lives and prevent injury. Sarcos Robotics won a 2020 RBR50 innovation award. Led by former U.S. military officers, Sarcos Defense conducts research and development and rapid systems integration of Sarcos commercial products to meet specific mission requirements.
The Guardian DX contract comes a week after Sarcos Defense announced that the Air Force Technology Accelerator Program (AFWERX) awarded it a contract to develop artificial intelligence to enable “human-scale” dexterous robotic systems. The AFWERX contract, on behalf of the Center for Rapid Innovation (CRI) at Air Force Research Labs (AFRL), would help systems such as the Guardian DX robot move through positive reinforcement and imitation machine learning (ML) technologies.
Sarcos said its Cybernetic Training for Autonomous Robots (CYTAR) system advances its vision of robotic systems that augment rather than replace humans by reducing the system operator’s cognitive load for basic tasks, yet still relying on people to manage more complex tasks.
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Guardian DX builds on experience
Using more than 30 years of technology development, from prosthetic arms and humanoid robots to powered, full-body exoskeletons, Sarcos said it desgned the Guardian DX defense robot variant and the Guardian XT commercial robot variant to perform difficult tasks in dangerous environments while keeping the operator safe and out of harm’s way, said Sarcos.
“The Navy is very focused on improving readiness rates,” said Steve McKee, lead for the Naval Enterprise Sustainment Technologies Team (NESTT). “A key factor in achieving this objective is the deployment of new technologies that improve the turnaround time for maintenance activities, while also increasing the safety and effectiveness of our workforce.”
“We are very excited to work with Sarcos Defense to productize the Guardian DX robot because it addresses a significant gap that the Navy has identified,” he said. “Additionally, in my role as NESTT lead, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues from the Marine Corps, Air Force, and Army regarding the Guardian DX robot, and it appears it can address a number of readiness and sustainment needs across the Department of Defense.”
“Similar to our teleoperated Guardian GT robot for heavy, dexterous work, but designed at human scale, the Guardian DX robot can be teleoperated to perform intricate tasks that require human-like dexterity,” stated Ben Wolff, chairman and CEO of Sarcos Robotics. “Examples of such tasks include the use of portable sensors for non-destructive structural testing and inspections, the use of portable power tools for grinding, cutting, and welding at height, as well as lifting and manipulating heavy components weighing up to 200 lb.”
“Because the Guardian DX robot is kinematically equivalent to the upper body of humans, operators are able to manage the Guardian DX robot intuitively at typical human speeds by relying on their reflexes, instincts, and judgment to perform complex tasks in unstructured, often hazardous environments that historically have only been able to be completed by people directly,” he said.
Sarcos said it expects to begin shipping the Guardian XT commercial variant to industrial customers in late 2021.