The Importance of Teleoperated Robotics
Teleoperated robotics has risen to prominence in recent years (particularly in applications that involve the military, healthcare, space, and underwater exploration). These so-called âservice roboticsâ exceeded $17 billion in sales in 2019, and, according to the IFR (International Federation of Robotics), the rapidly growing market is expected to hit $55 billion by 2023.
Teleoperated robotics are primarily used in two scenarios: i) one in which it is unsafe for a human to operate, and ii) one in which it is too challenging to rely on a programmed robot to carry out complex tasks itself.
Now, Extend Robotics, a UK-based innovator in teleoperated robotics, has announced the successful trial of its VR-controlled cybernetic drinks server, known as R:O:B: (for ârobotically-optimised bartenderâ). According to the company, R:O:B: features near-perfect human-like dexterity and is capable of âpullingâ and serving a real pint of lager. And while this doesnât meet either of the two typical use cases mentioned above, such an achievement marks a big step forward for teleoperated robotics in general.
A close-up of the 'robotically-optimised bartender' as it prepares to pour a pint of beer
Image credit: Extended Robotics.
A Human-like, VR-controlled Robotic Arm
Extend Robotics says that its VR-controlled robotic arm features genuine, real-time, immersive, and intuitive control; plus, it has reachability of up to six degrees of freedom (or DoF). All of these qualities allow the teleoperated machine to be controlled easily and remotely by a human operator.
The robotic arm has been developed in-house at Extendâs headquarters in Reading, England. A video of the robot being remote-controlled by a human VR operator can be viewed here.
âAt Extend Robotics, our vision is to extend human capability beyond physical presence,â said Dr Chang Liu, founder and CEO of Extend Robotics. Liu went on to say that it is the mission of Extend Robotics to âdemocratise dexterous teleoperation at scaleâ over the next few years. This is by designing cost-effective robotic arms that are capable of remote operation using cloud-based software from anywhere in the world.
Extendâs products are developed around their proprietary VR-based user interface for immersive 3D perception and intuitive control, scalable data-driven AI for future autonomy, and cloud-enabled access from anywhere in the world with 5G. The company plans for its robotic arm to be fully compatible with third-party mobility platforms and end effectors.
An Affordable Alternative
Teleoperated robotics that is capable of human-level dexterity currently cost upwards of Â£500,000, with current developments in gesture-based VR control systems for collaborative robotics struggling to overcome the problem of limited dexterity at a high cost. Extend Robotics claims that its robotic arm product will offer an alternative, simple, easy-to-use-, plug-and-play solution thatâs highly dextrous at a low cost.
âOur latest cybernetic bartender robot demo is a great example of an âout of the boxâ teleoperated robot solution for the service and catering industry.
âWe also plan to develop VR-controlled teleoperated robots featuring highly accurate, smooth and consistent, human-like movements to improve safety conditions and boost efficiencies across a number of other sectors: from agriculture and healthcare through to the utilities and energy industry,â Liu says.