Mass Robotics Demo Day

Written by Melanie Landesberg

Grit Ventures University Associate, Yale College Undergraduate

On November 17th, the Mass Robotics Accelerator held a virtual demo day to highlight several of their most interesting startups and provide a tour of their facilities. The tour highlighted several intriguing startups, as well as the extensive resources and support that Mass Robotics lends its startups. Below, I will expand upon a few of the most impressive technologies I viewed during the demo.

Cleo Robotics:

One challenge drone developers face is that the technology is limited to outdoor use due to safety reasons. A traditional drone’s propellers have the capacity to damage indoor spaces and hurt people nearby. Cleo Robotics has found a way to overcome this with their proprietary “dronut,” a soft disc-shaped encasing that shields the propellers from the surrounding environment.

Source 1: Cleo’s founder with the “dronut” https://www.massrobotics.org/2020/11/23/massrobotics-virtual-tour-and-demo-day/

A major use case for such technology is indoor inspection. Many indoor or underground locations are too dangerous for human inspectors to visit, such as mining operations or nuclear disaster areas. These drones can also perform security reconnaissance before police or soldiers enter a building.

Many robotics developers today aim to automate “dirty” or dangerous jobs. Cleo’s ultimate goal is to automate all hazardous inspection, making them a good candidate to bring this future to fruition.

To visit the website: https://www.cleorobotics.com/

Maglev Aero:

If your image of the future involves flying transportation akin to “The Jetsons,” then you may be intrigued by the technologies being developed by Ian and Rob Randall at Maglev Aero. The team aims to improve urban traffic congestion and devise a way to speed transportation in cities. The solution: air mobility.

This company is currently in stealth mode, but the designs they presented in the demonstration give a fascinating concept for the future of air transportation and flight.

To visit the website: http://maglevaero.com

Black-I Environmental:

The greatest challenge to be overcome in 2020 is the COVID-19 pandemic. Although biotech and pharmaceutical therapies may be the most direct way to fight the disease, robotic technology can do its part to mitigate the effects on the population.

Source 2: Black-I Founder with robot, https://www.massrobotics.org/2020/11/23/massrobotics-virtual-tour-and-demo-day/

Black-I has developed two kinds of sanitizing robots, which MassRobotics currently uses to keep their workplace clean. The first kind uses UV lights to kill germs and the second mists peroxide on nearby surfaces. Both cleaning methods are delivered via an autonomous robot that navigates indoor spaces. Use cases include offices (to help get people back to work) or public transportation centers such as train stations.

Robots can work at all hours and any day of the week and have no risk of getting sick. Black-I’s autonomous cleaning robots help keep cleaning staff out of harm’s way and will do their part to make public spaces safer and cleaner.

To visit the website: https://www.blackienvironmental.com

WaterTower Robotics:

Twenty percent of water is wasted due to faulty or deteriorating infrastructure. WaterTower Robotics aims to reduce this problem through the use of their proprietary soft robot capable of “swimming” through water pipes to search for leaks. The design takes inspiration from the flexibility and mobility of underwater creatures such as octopi or jellyfish. With its soft structure, the robot is able to feel the side of a pipe and search for leaks, helping to find infrastructure problems before they become large-scale issues.

This company featured one of the first soft robots of the tour. Soft robotics, or the use of untraditional flexible materials to create robots, allows for more use cases than traditionally thought possible. To aid in pipe inspection, for example, the robot also has software capability to map its path through a pipe system. With this data, inspectors can identify the precise location of leaks in order to fix them.

To visit the website: https://www.wtrtower.com

I thought that MassRobotics created an incredibly immersive tour despite the remote format. In perhaps an improvement from an in-person tour, I was able to view each robot up close and listen to each presentation with no interruptions. It was disappointing to not be able to ask questions during each presentation, but MassRobotics made sure to list out each company’s website in their event flyer. I look forward to reading more about each of these companies going forward and tracking their progress throughout their development!

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