At RoboBusiness this week in Boston, Pitchfire – a Shark Tank-like pitch and question session – presented 14 start-up companies who pitched their wares to 5 judges. Two honorable mentions and one winner were chosen at the event.
SoftRobotics Inc, a Boston-based start-up (not to be confused with SoftRobotics, a Los Angeles area software and systems developer), presented their new soft gripper, a rubbery octopus-like 4-armed gripper that folded over whatever it was picking up. Although limited by the weight of the object being picked up, the pneumatic and hydraulic gripper seemed to adapt quickly to various sizes and shapes, and was able to softly grip and then lift its object. It won Honorable Mention.
Zen Robotics, a Helsinki-based start-up that provides a complete conveyor and robotic waste sortation system also received Honorable Mention. Zen Robotics also won a spot in the 2014 Global Cleantech 100, which recognizes the 100 promising and innovative companies most likely to make a significant market impact over the next five to ten years across 17 sectors, including Energy Efficiency, Biofuels & Biochemicals, Smart Grid, Transportation, Water & Wastewater and Recycling.
The 1st Place Winner was NLink, a Norwegian start-up focused on the construction industry and integrating a robotic drilling and measuring system for ceiling work. It relieves workers from overhead work involved with measuring and drilling ceilings. Ceilings are the most ergonomically difficult place to drill holes in concrete, yet one in which every office building with a drop-ceiling requires thousands of wholes drilled. Hence this solution of a mobile platform with a robot arm with a drill end effector. The system is driven by laser marking software from the CAD construction plans. It’s primary goal is to reduce work-related musculoskeletal disorders. This is a textbook success story waiting to happen: it provides a robotic solution to a serious and costly industry problem. We need more solution/start-up companies like this one.
The other start-ups included therapy robots for stroke victims and autistic kids, an unmanned marine surface vessel, a new type of actuator for exoskeleton use and as a gripper, a new type of mobile pick and place system, an aerial collision avoidance system of software and sensors, a data capture system from drones and a new robotic vacuum cleaner.
Pitchfire was emceed by Silicon Valley Robotics Director Andra Keay.