Future of Robotics: New technology emerges at Silicon Valley’s RoboBusiness

Global Business

Robots are increasingly moving into the workplace. But they’ve still got a long way to go before being able to perform many jobs as well as humans 

CGTN’s Mark Niu reports. 


Someday, a police officer could pull you over and hand you a ticket in a very different way.

GoBetween is a telescopic arm that extends from a police car all the way to the offending driver’s car.

The system contains a video screen that streams the officer’s face. 

GoBetween is one of the featured robots at the RoboBusiness Conference in Silicon Valley. 

It’s just a proof-of-concept, but it does demonstrate how robots can take on serious issues, like the thousands of traffic-stop assaults that happen to police officers in the U.S. every year.

“This is not a new technology,” Reuben Brewer, Senior Robotics Research Engineer at SRI said.  “What’s new is putting it together for this application. This is essentially Facetime at the end of a long pole. A microphone, a bar code scanner to scan the back of their license so the officer isn’t typing it in. A signature pad. So for your average stop, this has everything you need to do including the printer to print the hard copy of the ticket.”

Waypoint Robotics is showing how its autonomous and wireless-charging robots can move in any direction with precision.

These robots incorporate sideways-sliding concepts that originated on Navy ships in order to turn munitions around.

“If you want to interface with a work cell or another piece of equipment, a particular part of your warehouse or factory, being able to approach that work cell or piece of equipment from any orientation is a huge advantage,” Jason Walker, co-founder and CEO, Waypoint Robotics said.  

Waypoint doesn’t just have little robots.

They just introduced Mavec, which can move 3,000 pounds, or 1,360 kilograms.

It has the same omnidirectional autonomous technology that helps it move palettes, heavy equipment, or even people.

Creating a robot that can adapt to different environments is the goal of Shanghai and Silicon Valley headquartered Flexiv.

With the ability to sense force, the Rizon robotic arm maintains balance even when it’s being pushed from different directions.

“You cannot have a tiny error on the production line because that tiny error will make the entire production line shut down,” Shuyun Chung, co-founder & Chief Robotics Scientist at Flexiv Robotics said. “So once you introduce the robot to have some tolerance, adaptivity, robots can overcome those uncertainties.” 

Rizon’s force control even allows it to give massages to people.

But despite industry advances, even the most sophisticated robots are still limited. 

“The human hand is so complex and so good at grabbing all sorts of items, we see a lot of researchers trying to say how can we take this hand and create that kind of grabbing and grasping,” said Keith Shaw, Editor-in-Chief of Robotics Business Review. “But there’s billions and billions of different objects out there and so not one kind of approach will work for every product.”  

Shaw says the industry is still pursuing what he calls the Holy Grail – getting grasping-capable robots on mobile platforms– so they can be deployed to pick out items and then transport them to wherever needed.