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Robotics firms aim to revolutionise the handling of hazardous materials

Posted on 02 Oct 2022. Edited by: John Hunter. Read 2521 times.
Robotics firms aim to revolutionise the handling of hazardous materials Picture credit: Extend Robotics

An innovative collaboration between two robotics companies is showing the potential of the technology to revolutionise how hazardous materials are handled safely in the future.

A key aim is to apply automation to manufacturing and industry enironments to take people out of hazardous or dangerous working situations.

Now, following a recent virtual reality (VR) experiment between Reading-based Extend Robotics and Shadow Robot, achieving that aim is one step closer.

This robotics partnership happened as part of the Value of Joint Experimentation in Digital Technologies for Manufacturing and Construction (VOJEXT) project. VOJEXT is a Horizon 2020 programme which strives to provide a new generation of user-friendly frameworks for collaborative robots (cobots) for the needs of the manufacturing and construction industries.

Extend Robotics has developed software solutions to make it easier for users to control robotics hardware remotely using accessible and affordable consumer VR technology like Oculus and SteamVR, while Shadow Robot have been developing dexterous robotics for around 25 years, recently with a focus on remote operation. The company specialises in building next-generation robot hands and systems with advanced dexterity to help solve challenging problems and provide a meaningful purpose for robotics.

Ethan Fowler, TeleOp technical lead at Shadow Robot, explained the reason behind the company’s involvement in this partnership: “We found that one of the things that we were lacking was depth perception; when you are trying to do a remote task, being able to tell how far away things are and make the robot hand reach that position, is extremely difficult. Extend Robotics has done a lot of work in improving those technologies — their volumetric streaming is something that looks extremely promising.”

The two companies believe their combined technology could have a big impact in the manufacturing and construction industries, particularly where there is a need to handle hazardous materials like spent nuclear fuel rods, where a high degree of dexterity precision is crucial.

Dr Chang Liu, founder and CEO of Extend Robotics, said: “This partnership will take the industry of remote robotic operations to the next level.”