Innovative Robotics Ecosystem in Massachusetts Opens New Economic Windows to the Future

DigitalIntelligence

This article gives a brief taste of the growing robotics research, business, and entrepreneurship initiatives creating an exemplary economy in Massachusetts. Only the combination of creative people in various organizations working together in an ecosystem has made this economy so robust.

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Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

Let me give you a brief background about robotics before introducing an exciting robotics ecosystem in Massachusetts. Thе rоbоtісѕ business ѕесtоr evоlvеd with thе сrеаtіоn оf programmable AI (Artificial Intelligence) based rоbоtѕ that саn help humаnѕ.

Rоbоtісѕ has grоwn tо include the dеvеlорmеnt, сrеаtіоn, and deployment оf machines thаt еxрlоrе the toughest environments. Intelligent robots can contribute to еnfоrcing law, controlling traffic, fіghtіng fіrеѕ, сlеаnіng hоmеѕ, carrying heavy loads, аnd helping wіth соmрlеx рrосеdurеѕ in hospitals.

Robots are known to be hardware-based. But there are also software-based robots. Robotics Process Autоmаtіоn (RPA) is a ѕоftwаrе tесhnоlоgу thаt mаkеѕ it ѕіmрlе tо сrеаtе, dерlоу, аnd mаnаgе ѕоftwаrе robots thаt mimic humаn bеhаvіоr while dеаlіng with digital ѕуѕtеmѕ аnd software. I introduced the business value of RPA in an article on News Break.

Sоftwаrе robots, lіkе реорlе, саn understand whаt iѕ оn a ѕсrееn, tуре thе correct kеуѕtrоkеѕ, trаvеrѕе ѕуѕtеmѕ, rесоgnіzе аnd rеtrіеvе dаtа, аnd dо a variety оf рrеdеfіnеd tаѕkѕ. Sоftwаrе rоbоtѕ can dо tedious tasks much faster and more accurate thаn humаns.

Rоbоtісѕ combines ѕсіеnсе, еngіnееrіng, аnd tесhnоlоgу tо create dеvісеѕ саllеd robots thаt mіmіс humаn behavior. Rоbоtѕ were оrіgіnаllу dеѕіgnеd to реrfоrm repetitive асtіvіtіеѕ ѕuсh аѕ mаkіng vеhісlеѕ оn a car assembly line. Since then a new sector evolved.

Robots may be given dіffеrеnt аmоunts оf autonomy. Fullу autonomous robоtѕ such as soft-bodied robots developed by MIT (fluid flowing through flexible channels) accomplishes асtіvіtіеѕ wіthоut аnу еxtеrnаl іnfluеnсеѕ. Whereas, humаn-соntrоllеd ones can саrrу out асtіvіtіеѕ that a person hаѕ complete control over with explicit instructions.

Rоbоtѕ аrе mаdе uр оf mechanical, electrical, electronic, and software соmроnеnts. A rоbоt'ѕ mесhаnісаl aspect аіdѕ it in completing dutіеѕ іn thе еnvіrоnmеnt fоr whісh іt wаѕ created. Elесtrісаl соmроnеntѕ like batteries аrе rеԛuіrеd by robots tо control аnd power thе machines. Electronic and software components provide instructions.

Even though artificial intelligence empowers robotics, some robots don’t use artificial intelligence. As аrtіfісіаl AI software has advanced, rоbоtѕ have bесоmе ѕmаrtеr, more аdарtаblе, mоrе energy-efficient. Robots are heavily used in ѕmаrt fасtоrіеѕ. Thеу manage challenging work.

Thе rоbоtісѕ business ѕесtоr is still at its infancy, but it is proliferating.

According to Statista, the global market for robots is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of around 26% to reach around $210 billion by 2025.
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Screen Capture from Statista Website

Robots are not just chunky metals anymore. AI (artificial intelligence) has changed the landscape. Nowadays, they can be in all sizes, even at the nanoscale (a few billionths of a meter) that we cannot see with our eyes. They are designed to work in our body and fight against diseases and harmful organisms in the bloodstream. Nanorobotics is an emerging discipline and is widely researched. For example, a nubot is a nucleic acid, DNA nanotechnology robot that is an organic molecular machine at the nanoscale.

Massachusetts Robotics Ecosystem

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Screen Capture from MassRobotics Website

Let’s take a look at the progress in Massachusetts.

What is prominent is an existence of a robotics ecosystem in Massachusetts.

This is a state with a dynamic and thriving robotics industry. This ecosystem comprises government organizations, academic research laboratories, policymakers, and leading robotic companies.

Who are the key stakeholders of the Massachusetts Robotics Ecosystem?

Innovative Business Organizations and Entrepreneurs

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Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

There are over 350 innovative companies in this ecosystem. They create and utilize robotics applications serving 11 different markets. The list of robotics business organisations can be obtained from Boston Business Journal.

A talented and experienced workforce supports these companies from multiple industries. Many entrepreneurs join this ecosystem. You can find the list of robotics startup companies hosted by the Boston Startups Guide.

MassRobotics Organization

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Screen Capture from MassRobotics website

MassRobotics is an independent, non-profit organization serving as the innovation hub for robotics and connected devices. Their programming and events help bring together innovative startups and existing technology organizations to nurture the next generation of talent and promote economic growth and innovation.

In addition, by working with diverse local talent, this organization is helping to bring about the next global evolution of robotics.

MassRobotics, managed by Tom Ryden (Executive Director), is the collective work of a group of engineers, rocket scientists, and entrepreneurs in Boston.

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Screen Capture from MassRobotics Website

This organization’s mission is to help create and scale the next generation of successful robotics and connected device companies by providing entrepreneurs and innovative robotics and automation startups with the workspace and resources they need to develop, prototype, test, and commercialize their products and solutions.

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Screen Capture from MassRobotics Website

NERVE (New England Robotics Validation and Experimentation) Center

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Screen Capture from NERVE Center Website

The NERVE center is one of three NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) test facilities in the US, providing an indoor environment for testing ground-based robotics. It serves as a validation site for the ARM Institute and its projects. Furthermore, the center provides benchmarking tools for robotic manipulation. The YCB Object Set and the NIST Assembly Task Board are two examples.

This center steers several functions in robotics. It develops test methods and metrics for measuring robot capabilities, human performance, and human-robot interaction. The center can provide test devices, sensors, data collection, human resources, logistics, and data analysis. The centre’s affiliated faculty includes people in computer science, biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering, and even physical therapy.

Joint Base Cape Cod

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Screen Capture From Joint Base Cape God Web Site

Joint Base Cape Cod (an FAA joint test site with New York), one of six test sites for UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) providing a secure environment for early-stage outdoor field and environmental testing, and large AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles)

platforms. The Joint Base Cape Cod (JBCC) is a full scale, joint-use base home to five military commands training for missions at home and overseas, conducting airborne search and rescue missions, and intelligence command and control.

Center for Marine Robotics

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Screen Capture from Marine Robotics Website

CMR (Center for Marine Robotics) is based at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. It advances the way people and machines work together in the marine environment.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has created the Consortium for Marine Robotics to speed the development of robotic technologies.

The Consortium's goal is to collaborate with industry sponsors, academic partners, and critical government agencies to change the way people and machines work together in the marine environment.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Screen Capture from MIT website

MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) is the leading robotics research and education in Massachusetts. Apart from multi-technology disciplines, data-driven research facilities at the masters and doctoral level, it is worth mentioning that MIT also has a unique team called the MIT Robotics Team.

The MIT Robotics Team is a group of highly motivated undergraduate students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The diverse group includes members from multiple faculties sharing a common passion for robotics.

This team aims to explore new technologies, learn critical skills, and promote robotics through entering a variety of competitions and engaging in outreach events in the broader community.

There are several other robotics education courses, especially in Boston. In addition, you can learn robotics online as well.

Conclusions

Innovations and inventions never stop in the Massachusetts robotics ecosystem. Researchers and entrepreneurs work hand in hand for a better future.

For example, I recently read the story of Realtime Robotics that raised $31.4 million in funds from investors, including HAHN Automation and Toyota AI Ventures. The company was founded in 2017 to transform how to choreograph robots’ movements. Their unique approach, called “motion planning”, enables hardware computing acceleration with AI-driven software. This approach empowers planning speeds that are orders of magnitude higher than conventional robot planning.

There are so many great robotics companies. But from my experience, I want to highlight a world-class organization called Boston Dynamics located in Waltham, Massachusetts.

The whole robotics world heard about or used famous robots like Petman, BigDog, WildCat, Spot, Handle, Pick, and, of course, Atlas, the world's most advanced humanoid robot. This organization creates dynamic and adaptive robots. They plan more AI-based robots.

Here is an interesting YouTube video demonstrating capabilities of robots by Boston Dynamics

Robots are not a fantasy anymore. They perform real-life work and are strategically owned by reputable business organizations. For example, we know that robots run Amazon fulfilment warehouses.

There are thousands of business use cases like this. Robots are mimicking us and even getting tired like us. You may think that robots never rest, but artificial brains may need sleep too.

Massachusetts has an excellent robotics ecosystem which is a dreamland for robotics enthusiasts. Congratulations to this state for leading the way for a more exciting future for society.

Thank you for reading my perspectives.

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