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liquid robotics

by   -   December 12, 2016
Source: Liquid Robotics
Source: Liquid Robotics

In a move consistent with many other recent acquisitions of stars within the robotics industry, Liquid Robotics announced that they sold their company to Boeing’s Autonomous Systems for Defense, Space & Security division.

by   -   September 24, 2014


Sunnyvale-based Liquid Robotics continues their growth-by-partnering formula by striking another collaboration, this time with Boeing.

by   -   March 24, 2013
At last weekend’s Engadget Expand event in Fort Mason, San Francisco, Kickstarter‘s co-founder Yancey Strickler started off the show with a presentation of many of Kickstarter’s crowd-funding success stories. 17 projects raised $1 million+ in 2012 including Pebble, the customizable watch, Oculus Rift, a  virtual reality headset for video games, SmartThings, a platform and hub that connect household things to the Internet and your smartphone, and Form 1, an affordable plug and play high-res 3D printer. [As an aside, Stanford now teaches a for-credit course on Kickstarter.]
by   -   January 2, 2013


Today’s robotics industry could use some strategic guidance,
particularly in the area of healthcare.


It is clear to me that the next big markets for robotics are:

  • SMEs (robot workers and co-workers in Small and Medium-sized Enterprises)
  • Medical and healthcare (nursing assistance, surgeon augmentation, operating room assistance, therapeutic assistance, home care, remote presence, hospital automation)
  • Agriculture (robotically automated planting, weeding, harvesting, sorting and packaging)
  • Embedded systems within our cars, trucks and taxis
by   -   November 27, 2012


Why should flying robots have all the headlines! This year has been full of robots that swim, so here is a small collection, from swarms to explorers, from nanobots to humanoids. 

by   -   August 21, 2012
Sometimes a company is founded because it stumbles upon a niche that it can fill better than any other company. Such a company is RE2 (Robotics Engineering Excellence). Founded by Jorgen Pedersen as a contract engineering house to fill a need for unmanned systems engineering expertise within Carnegie Mellon’s National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC), RE2 now provides mobile manipulation systems for defense and safety.

Another company finding their unique niche is Liquid Robotics. More about them later.

by   -   August 21, 2012
By Babs Carryer, Adjunct Prof, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Advisor,
Carnegie Mellon University, Editor and Author, New Venturist**

Frank Tobe, Editor and Publisher, The Robot Report

Sometimes a company is founded because it stumbles upon a niche that it can fill better than any other company. Such a company is RE2 (Robotics Engineering Excellence). Founded by Jorgen Pedersen as a contract engineering house to fill a need for unmanned systems engineering expertise within Carnegie Mellon’s National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC), RE2 now provides mobile manipulation systems for defense and safety.

Another company finding their unique niche is Liquid Robotics. More about them later.

RE2 began with an SBIR

A lot of robotics companies started with defense research objectives. Some, like iRobot, have branched into other applications commercializing what they developed for the DoD into consumer products. RE2 has stayed in defense because it’s really good at what it does – providing high torque, high payload robotic arms and manipulators.

Arm manipulation is a niche within defense — a large niche — as it is in robotics in general. Capitalizing on research and product development to meet the military’s high torque, heavy payload requirements, RE2 is not only a provider to the military but is beginning to commercialize those special capabilities into non-defense applications as well.

RE2 is a success story for the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program. Founded in 2001, RE2 remained a contract engineering firm until 2005. The company won its first DoD SBIR in 2006 to develop a small robotic arm for unmanned ground vehicles. The Phase I and Phase II awards, totaling $850K, set the course for the future of RE2. The military was keenly interested in the RE2 approach because existing robotic arms weren’t very strong or precise. CEO Jorgen Pedersen puts it, “That was enough for us to focus on and realize that we could solve those problems. Then later we realized the arms needed to be faster, more modular, and less expensive. We fulfilled on those capabilities too.”

Those first SBIRs allowed the company to become a recognized expert in mobile manipulation. SBIRs also allowed the company to grow over a several year period from six to 18. Since then it has won dozens of SBIRs that have helped fund the development of its robotic technology and provide jobs. Today, RE2 employs 60 and is growing by about 20 every year.

RE2 never had any outside investment. It never needed it, given the string of SBIRs. But Jorgen doesn’t believe that the awards represent money without a return: “We have provided the DoD with $6.5 million in revenue return so far from their $850K investment in our first SBIRs. On the SBIR commercialization index, we are 90 out of 100 because they know that we have a 90% chance of commercializing technology over anyone else.”

Liquid Robotics: A Passion for Whale Songs

Liquid Robotics has developed a unique wave glider for science, oil and gas exploration, oil production management, environmental and spill detection and a myriad other applications using only renewable energy. It has blossomed into a very promising start-up company with a broad market: any business which needs to monitor, measure, surveil and explore our oceans. Liquid has recently created two new entities to handle its success: a joint venture with Schlumberg and a new Defense/National Security subsidiary. Liquid will soon be offering a new business: ocean data as a service for those who don’t wish to own and operate their own wave gliders. Clients specify their data needs, geographic areas and duration and Liquid Robotics provides the data.

The Wave Glider development was the result of a single man’s passion for whale songs. Joe Rizzi, Chairman of Jupiter Research Foundation, had a love for the sounds of whales as they migrated along the coasts of Hawaii to Alaska. He wanted to capture their songs “live”. Not an easy task — to develop a device capable of capturing the pure sounds of the whales and stay out at sea for extended periods. After a few years experimenting, Joe enlisted Roger Hine, a mechanical engineer and Stanford University robotics expert, to help develop an unmoored, station-keeping data buoy. It was from this partnership they developed the first Wave Glider.

The original intent was purely to invent a way to capture whale songs. After they had developed the first Wave Glider and were testing in the waters off of the Big Island, they were approached on the possible commercialization of their invention by entrepreneurs looking beyond whale songs.

Early funding was predominately done by the non-profit Jupiter Research Foundation. Roger Hine came to the project with his own funds and then headed Liquid Robotics, which, in 2007, was spun off from Jupiter Research, with angel investors and mutual friends of Joe and Roger. This money seeded the early development and critical endurance/mission testing. In May/June of 2011, Vantage Point Capital Partners and Schlumberger invested a Series D round of $22M.

A Common Thread

RE2 and Liquid Robotics share one common thread: they provided a solution involving robotics to solve a real need. They didn’t provide a technology and then search for applications that fit that technology. RE2’s Jorgen said, “Even on the military side, it’s still not about the robotics. We are helping to save lives. What is the price of a human life? What is the amount of money that the military will invest to train and protect their most valuable resource, people? If we can help disarm the improvised explosive device (IED) on the road, that’s a no-brainer. And that’s a market need!”

Jorgen cites the acceleration of viable robotics companies from the September 11, 2001 catastrophe: “9-11 was bad but it was a catalyst for ground robotics. In 2002 there were four robots deployed. By 2004, it had gone to12. By 2005, 163, and by 2006, 2,000 robots, an order of magnitude jump each year. 7,000 robots were deployed by 2010.” Jorgen sees that trend continuing as robots are demystified and integrated into products and services.

Similarly, Liquid Robotics had a need to develop an autonomous unmoored, station-keeping data buoy with enough renewable energy to power a platform full of sensors and devices capable of capturing the pure sounds of whales.

British Petroleum (BP) began using Liquid’s wave gliders in the Gulf of Mexico shortly after the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill disaster:

“Initially we will be calibrating a set of nine optical sensors to monitor water quality, including trace amounts of dispersed oil, and will then add acoustic monitoring of marine mammal activity,” said Roger Hine, president and CEO of Liquid Robotics. “We look forward to working with BP on this extended research program.”

Data collected by the deployment was posted on a public website for all to see. News spread and oil, gas and military executives saw a fit of Liquid’s gliders with their oceanographic needs. Schlumberger, an international supplier of technology, integrated project management and information solutions for the oil and gas industry, took an interest which led to their 2011 funding and 2012 joint venture with Liquid.

Conclusion: Build a Product That Satisfies a Specific Need

Colin Angle, CEO and co-founder of iRobot, has consistently held that we are going about developing the robotics industry wrong: “The idea that a humanoid robot with arms would push a vacuum cleaner is an image that has set many expectations and, in some ways, has set back the industry,” when, by just rethinking what needs to be done, we can build a product that satisfies a specific need (vacuuming), as iRobot did with their Roomba line of robotic vacuums. “I used to think that I was a self-respecting high-tech entrepreneur, but it took me becoming a vacuum cleaner salesman to actually have some success for my company, my investors and myself.”

** Portions of this article have been excerpted with permission from “It takes the military to spawn robotics.”

by   -   March 3, 2012
Travis Deyle, is a postdoc researcher at Duke and a recent PhD from GA Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering where he was a member of the Healthcare Robotics Lab and a frequent blogger at Fortunate for us, he kept a file of 2011 venture funded robotic projects and turned it into an interesting chart:
Source: Travis Deyle,
by   -   March 3, 2012
By Frank Tobe, editor/publisher, The Robot Report

Travis Deyle, is a postdoc researcher at Duke and a recent PhD from GA Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering where he was a member of the Healthcare Robotics Lab and a frequent blogger at Fortunate for us, he kept a file of 2011 venture funded robotic projects and turned it into an interesting chart:

Source: Travis Deyle,

This chart may not reflect all of the equity investment activity in the robotics market but it is a far cry from the $6.9 billion that went into 997 venture funded deals in web and Internet startup companies over the course of 2011. This chart also doesn’t mention the many acquisitions, strategic partnerships and mergers that occurred. The most recent is the acquisition of French Cybernetix by Technip, an oil resources and ROV service provider to the industry.

Deyle describes why he thinks VC funding for robotics is a tough nut to crack:

Robotics companies have large capital requirements for robot hardware, few potential acquirers, and almost no “Google-scale” breakout success stories (i.e., IPOs). One of the best known robotics companies, iRobot, has a market cap of just $700 million. This makes robotics a difficult sell to your typical VC firm.

Although these 14 companies represent just a sliver of the 100+ robotic startups that are getting funded in one way or another, they do offer insight into those that are of interest to the venture capital community. Of the companies listed in the chart, it is interesting to note that two are foreign and the biggest investment is for a robotic hair implant device for balding men.

VGo telepresence robot, Harvest Automation’s nursery robot, Liquid Robotics’ wave glider.
  1. Restoration Robotics and their new ARTAS System provide image-guided technology for hair follicle harvesting. It’s a massive market, hence the large investment. They received US FDA clearance mid-2011 and treated their first patient in August, 2011.
  2. Redzone Robotics was featured by Pres. Obama last year and, in addition to the 2011 funding, received an additional $8.5 million just a few days ago. Their wastewater systems – pipe inspection and cleaning robots – provide critical environmental assistance to municipalities, contractors and engineering firms. Again, a big investment for a big marketplace.
  3. Liquid Robotics and their wave gliders have been much in the news. They presently have four wave gliders traveling different paths across the Pacific and making their data available to scientists and lay people worldwide. Their gliders are valuable additions to the arsenals of scientific and environmental agencies, fisheries, aquaculture, pollution detection and resource discovery companies as well as defense/security and law enforcement agencies. Hence the large investment.
  4. Aldebaran Robotics, a French company, makes the Nao and newer Romeo robots which they sell to schools and for robotic soccer and other competitions to promote STEM education, a limited but growing marketplace, hence the midrange venture investment.
  5. Medrobotics is a Carnegie Mellon spin-off focused on surgical applications using flexible snake-like robotic devices for minimally-invasive procedures. Like other medical start-ups, there is a long lead time for product refinement and FDA clearances. Medrobotics has received funding in almost every year since it’s inception in 2005.
  6. Tibion Corporation, is a Sunnyvale, CA start-up, providing bionic legs for stroke rehabilitation. This form of robotic-assisted rehab therapy, therapy with the use of an exoskeleton, is a big step forward from the $300,000+ fixed-position machines previously used.
  7. MakerBot Industries, the 3-D printer maker for the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) crowd, and featured at Maker Faires held all over the country to mammoth and enthusiastic crowds, services the DIY, prototyping, small run, and hobby communities while more expensive 3-D printers support the additive manufacturing sector. The Maker Faire Bay Area DIY innovation festival will be held in May in San Mateo, CA.
  8. Harvest Automation has a lot of good things going for it: (1) many of it’s investors are the very same ag businesses that will be buyers of the robots, (2) although focused on nursery automation to begin their business, they are poised to broaden their scope into many other facets of the ag industry, and (3) the key players are experienced in the business of robotics.
  9. Orbotix is the developer of the sphero smartphone-controlled robotic ball. The ball has no buttons, no battery box, no socket or cord for a charger (although it does have a cup-like charging dock). Shake it and it glows; put it on the floor and direct it anywhere with your iPhone. It’s a Bluetooth-based, wirelessly-charged device first shown at the 2011 CES in Las Vegas. 
  10. ThinkLabs is an Indian education company focused on science and technology. It uses simple robots, sensor enhanced devices, and robot competitions to provide hands-on inspiration for students taking their courses.
  11. Precise Path Robotics began as an entity to participate in the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge and has migrated it’s navigation system into robotic lawn mowing and other robotic devices to provide maintenance and conditioning robots for the golf course market.
  12. VGo Communications has thus far produced 2,000 telepresence robots and plans to lower the cost to near $2,000 in their next production run. You may have seen the ABC News stories about the high school student who couldn’t leave home but nevertheless, through the use of the VGo, attended the local high school, piloting his VGo from class to class and up and down the school elevator.
  13. Aethon is a Pittsburgh, PA based mobile robot company that makes robotic carts and tugs for the hospital industry tugs to pickup and deliver food, medicine, waste materials and general supplies. The company began in 2001 and has had many rounds of financing. This round of $1.74 million was less than the $2.5 million targeted.
  14. CyPhy Works, a maker of small unmanned flying robots used to inspect bridges and other public infrastructure, has also received federal grants and research awards to develop its technology for both commercial, governmental and defense clients.

Marsupial Robots
September 14, 2021

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