Robots were on the main expo floor at CES this year, and these weren’t just cool robots for marketing purposes. I’ve been tracking robots at CES for more than 10 years, watching the transition from robot toys to real robots. Increasing prominence has been given to self-driving cars, LiDARs and eVTOL drones, but, in my mind it was really the inclusion of John Deere and agricultural robots last year that confirmed that CES was incorporating more industry, more real machines, not just gadgets.
In fact, according to the organizing association CTA or the Consumer Technology Association, these days CES no longer stands for the Consumer Electronics Show. CES now just stands for CES, one of the world’s largest technology expos.
The very first robot I saw was Eve from Halodi Robotics, exhibiting in the ADT Commercial booth. I am a big fan of this company. Not only do they have great robotics technology, which is very safe and collaborative, but I’ve watched them go from an angel funded startup to their first commercial deployments, providing 140 robots to ADT. One of their secrets has been spending the last year working closely with ADT to finetune the first production features of Eve, focusing on indoor security and working alongside people. In the future, Halodi has potential for many other applications including eldercare.
Another robot company (and robot) that I’m a big fan of is Labrador Robotics, and their mobile tray fetching robot for eldercare. Labrador exhibited their mobile robot in the AARP Innovation Lab pavilion, and are rolling out robots both in houses and in aged care facilities. There are two units pictured and the height of the platform can raise or lower depending on whether it needs to reach a countertop or fridge unit to retrieve items, like drinks and medications, or whether it needs to lower to become a bed or chair side table. These units can be commanded by voice, or tablet, or scheduled to travel around designated ‘bus stops’, using advanced localization and mapping. The team at Labrador have a wealth of experience at other consumer robotics companies.
I first met Sampriti Battacharya, pictured below with her autonomous electric boat, when she was still doing her robotics PhD at MIT, dreaming about starting her own company. Five short years later, she’s now the proud founder of Navier with not one but two working prototypes of the ‘boat of the future’. The Navier 30 is a 30’ long electric intelligent hydrofoil with a range of 75 nautical miles and a top speed of 35 knots. Not only is the electric hydrofoil 90% more energy efficient than traditional boats but it eliminates sea sickness with a super smooth ride. Sampriti’s planning to revolutionize public transport for cities that span waterways, like San Francisco or Boston or New York.
Another rapidly evolving robotics company is Yarbo. Starting out as a prototype snow blowing robot, after five years of solid R&D, Snowbot has evolved into the Yarbo modular family of smart yard tools. Imagine a smart docking mobile base which can be turned from a lawn mower to a snow blower or a leaf blower. It can navigate autonomously, and it’s electric of course.
And these robotics companies are making waves at CES. I met French startup Acwa Robotics earlier in 2022 and was so impressed that I nominated them as an IEEE Entrepreneurship Star. Water utilities around the world are faced with aging and damaged infrastructure, inaccessible underground pipes, responsible for huge amounts of water loss, road and building damage. Acwa’s intelligent robot travels inside the pipes without stopping water flow and provides rapid precisely localized inspection data that can pinpoint leaks, cracks and deterioration. Acwa was nominated for honors in the Smart Cities category and also won CES Best of Innovation Award.
Some other robotics companies and startups worth looking at were Apex.ai, Caterpillar, Unitree, Bosch Rexroth, Waymo, Zoox, Whill, Meropy, Artemis Robotics, Fluent Pet and Orangewood. Let me know who I missed! According to the app, 278 companies tagged themselves as Robotics, 73 as Drones, 514 as Vehicle Tech, and 722 as Startups, although I’d say the overall number of exhibitors and attendees was down on previous years although there were definitely more robots.