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Ground-breaking robotics partnership aims to shape future of safe handling of hazardous materials

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

As a television advert by UK telecommunications company EE recently demonstrated, the world of teleoperated robotics is constantly advancing. But beyond attention grabbing stunts, a key aim is to apply this technology to manufacturing and industry contexts to take people out of hazardous or dangerous work situations.

Now, thanks to a recent virtual reality (VR) experiment between 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 project which strives to provide a new generation of user-friendly frameworks for collaborative robotics 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.

Shadow Robot have been developing dextrous robotics for around 25 years, recently with a focus on teleoperation. The company builds 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 their involvement in this partnership: “We found that one of the things that we were lacking was depth perception… When you’re 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 robotics companies believe their combined technology could have a big impact in manufacturing and construction industries, particularly in industries 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, says: “This partnership will take the industry of remote robotic operations to the next level.”

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