New precise intelligence system to make industrial robots and human collaboration safer and more efficient

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Working alongside industrial robots can be dangerous but thanks to a revolutionary sensing system, human and robot navigation and collaboration would soon be easier and safer.

Humatics, which is a company developing breakthrough “microlocation” products, is currently developing an indoor radar system which will allow robots and other industrial systems to track human movements more precisely. This new microlation system and analytics technology hopes to make industrial systems safer, track worker performance in greater detail and lead to the development of new forms of collaboration between people and machines.

“We very much see this enabling robots to live in human environments,” David Mindell, a professor in the aeronautics and astronautics department at MIT and Humatics’ co-founder and CEO told MIT Technology Review.

Current sensors used usually include cameras and depth sensors, which are often affected by lighting and only offer a rough idea of a person’s position in three-dimensional space. Emerging safety systems allow the systems to work in close proximity with people but shuts down if a person moves too close. This new technology, which will track a person’s motions more precisely will make it possible for a robot to work near humans safely and more efficiently.

“You could get rid of the cages around big robots,” said Professor Mindell.

The technology could also be used to track and improve the performance of human workers. “There are so many places where this can be applied,” said Professor Mindell.

This new tracking technology called the Humatics Spatial Intelligence Platform is said to be capable of tracking multiple transponders at up to 30 meters with millimeter-scale precision. A software system provides analytics on workers’ movements, and an application programming interface enables others to build applications.

The technology will improve safety and efficiency of an industrial manufacturing line because through the technology, a worker could get something a robot has finished working on without the risk of injury. Humatics has not announced the cost of the system but says it is significantly less expensive than existing alternatives.

Human and robot collaboration has become increasingly significant in recent years. Older industrial robots were too dangerous to work alongside with, but newer systems can now be utilized safely to work next to people. However, these machines are unable to track a person’s movements.

“We founded Humatics to locate people, places, and things in an increasingly connected world,” said Professor Mindell “For robots, next-generation manufacturing equipment, drones, and other autonomous systems to safely and seamlessly interact with people and their environments, we need more precise and robust positioning. Our breakthrough system captures millimeter-scale position and motion data at low cost, indoors and out, creating an entirely new product category – microlocation.”

Humatics raised $18 million Series A financing for the development and commercialization of their high-precision microlation system and analytics software. Fontinalis Partners, a venture capital firm focused on next-generation mobility technologies, led the round, with participation from Airbus Ventures, Lockheed Martin Ventures, Intact Ventures, Tectonic Ventures, Presidio Ventures, Blue Ivy Ventures, Ray Stata, Andy Youmans, and others.

“Humatics is developing unprecedented new technology that will unleash the great potential of robotics and autonomous systems, enabling important tasks to be done safer, faster and more productively,” said Chris Cheever, co-founder, and partner at Fontinalis.  “Fontinalis was founded to invest in mobility technologies, and we believe precise spatial intelligence is essential to enhance mobility across many industries.”

“We now are piloting our breakthrough microlocation system with key industrial automation and manufacturing partners,” said Gary Cohen, Humatics co-founder, president, and chief operating officer.  “For our partners and others, millimeter-scale precision can dramatically improve safety, efficiency, and productivity, and create tremendous value.  With the support from our Series A investors, we are completing product development and bringing the technology to market.  Humatics expects to officially begin selling its microlocation system and licensing its Spatial Intelligence Platform in 2018.”

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