NASA and Austin Robotics Company Apptronik are partnering on humanoid robotics

NASA and Austin Robotics Company Apptronik are partnering on humanoid robotics

The robots you might think of from movies or TV aren’t somewhere in the far future. They are actually much closer to Austin’s at Apptronik’s North Austin office.

Optronic It is a robotics company that manufactures commercial robots for the healthcare, hospitality and military industriesAnd the Aviation industries are a reality.

The startup is an offshoot of the Human Centered Robotics Lab at the University of Texas at Austin. The company recently re-partnered with NASA, to design one of the world’s most powerful humanoid robots for management. The robot will be named Apollo.

“This partnership represents an inflection point for robotics as a whole, and these types of mobile robots are now really ready to go out into the real world, so we’re really excited about that,” Jeff Cardenas, co-founder and CEO of Apptronik said.

NASA and Apptronik first collaborated during the DARPA Robotics Challenge in 2013 when the company’s founders were tapped to work on the Valkyrie Robot.

Apptronik specializes in versatile mobile robots, unlike the more prevalent robot that repeats a single task, these robots are designed to do just about anything humans can do. The analogy they use to explain this is a foldable phone versus a smartphone. The foldable phone can make calls, like putting a robotic arm for doors on factory vehicles. On the other hand, a smartphone can do anything we design it to do, like the robots in Apptronik.

Some may ask why their robots are similar to humans. The world on Earth is designed for humans to navigate, so humanoid robots will need to traverse a human-centered world. NASA could eventually use Apollo to establish settlements on the Moon and Mars. Robots have to be like humans to do the jobs that people can do in space and use human tools.

Apollo will appear in March 2023 at SXSW.

Astra, pictured above, is similar to Apollo in the sense that it is a human-sized robot with dexterity. He can be seen moving with his fingers.

“One of the things you can see is that it’s safe to be around it with what’s called compliance,” Cardenas said. “If you press this robot it’s not rigid. It’s safe to be around.”

As for the fear of bots, Cardenas compares bots to the computers we use every day. There was once fear surrounding their backs, but most people cannot imagine living or working without one.

“Think about where the cars were when there were only 12,000 units,” Cardenas said. “Think of where computers are at just 12,000 units or a mobile phone. What this really represents is that we are at the beginning of this, you know, explosion of robots of all different kinds. They are going to be a huge part of our lives and robots that are really changing the way we live and work.” .

Austin-born, co-founder Nick Payne was born and raised in the city and has witnessed it change from a mid-sized city to a tech thriving city.

“We’ve seen historically that Silicon Valley is the center of a lot of innovation and investment. Now a lot of that is moving to Austin. We have, I think, a unique blend of art and technology,” Dr. Nick Payne, co-founder of Apptronik said. “We have the University of Texas here, and I think people from all over the country are moving to Austin, and it’s exciting to be in the middle of it. And you know, we’re innovating at Apptronik, and it’s great that you’re doing that here in Texas.”

Not only is Apptronik cementing Austin as a tech hub, it’s putting the United States on the robotics map as well. North American companies acquired a record number of robots in the first half of 2022, with more than 12,000 robots purchased. Almost every one of them is manufactured in Asia Pacific and Europe.

Apptronik raised approximately $14.6 million in funding in June.

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