Two robotic start-up companies, one in India and the other California, received favorable media attention recently.
Gridbots Technologies, a start-up located in Ahmedabad, India, has focused their efforts on providing the power industry, particularly nuclear power companies, defense organizations and space agencies with robotics, AI and vision products. The company has grown to a team of more than 30 people. Pulkit Gaur, the founder of Gridbots, let me know about this recent event which made news in prime Indian media:
“Recently we utlised one of our “Stinger” robots to extract a 30 inch wooden log from a 12 inch pipeline within 72 hours of notification. The actual removal operation only took 5 hours. This power plant was on halt because of this wooden log stuck in their steam pipeline – the steam that turns the turbine that makes the power.”
The wooden block was stuck 33 feet inside an important high-pressure steam pipe 12 inches wide at a Tata-run power plant in Mundra. “We went inside the pipe and brought the 2.5-foot long wooden log out in less than five hours with the help of our Stinger robot,” said Pulkit. The Gridbots team had only to modify the Stinger with stronger grippers.
Fellow Robots, a Silicon Valley and Singularity University Labs start-up, has partnered with Lowe's and their subsidiary Orchard Supply Hardware, to provide two custom-built robot guides to be deployed in their San Jose, California store. The robots are equipped with 3D cameras for navigation purposes but also to scan and identify items that the customer wants. Then the robot can show them their choices on a screen and even autonomously guide them to the aisle where the item is located. Customers can also research items they want on the robot's touch screen.
The robots, called OSHbots, are connected to the store's inventory database and can let customers know if an item is out of stock.
“People can come in with a random screw and say Mr. Robot, I need more of these, and if we have it in the store, they can find it,” Director of Lowe's Innovation Lab Kyle Nel said. “The robots can speak in English and Spanish. OSHbots are a way to bring more shopping convenience and some of the benefits of e-commerce into a physical store.”
Guide robots are beginning to appear in hospitals, airports, supermarkets, museums and at events around the world. The OSHbots are the second to appear outside of academia in a commercial environment in the U.S. (Savioke introduced and is testing a delivery robot at a Starwood Aloft hotel in Silicon Valley).