Extend Robotics unveils new VR-controlled robotic arm

UK-based start-up Extend Robotics has announced the launch of a new low-cost virtual reality (VR) controlled robotic arm.

Aiming to produce affordable, dexterous robotic hardware for use in the healthcare, services, utilities and energy industries, Extend Robotics has revealed its Robot Toolkit which is said to offer ‘highly realistic’ human-like dexterity and reachability to six degrees of freedom. 

Reportedly featuring real-time, immersive and intuitive control using the latest VR technologies, the VR teleoperated robot has been developed in-house at the company’s headquarters in Reading. The video shown above demonstrates how the robotic arm can be operated remotely by a human operator.

“At Extend Robotics, our vision is to extend human capability beyond physical presence,” explained Dr. Chang Liu, founder and CEO of Extend Robotics and former research associate at Imperial College, London. “Our mission is to democratise dexterous teleoperation at scale over the next three years, designing cost-effective robotic arms capable of remote operation from anywhere in the world, using cloud-based teleoperation software.”

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Teleoperation robotics capable of human-level dexterity currently cost anything from £500,000 upwards, with current industrial developments in gesture-based VR control systems for collaborative robots also struggling to overcome limited dexterity and high costs. Extended Robotics claims it will offer a ‘simple, easy-to-use, plug-and-play solution’ that is both low-cost and highly dexterous with its Robot Toolkit.

“Right now, as we approach the end of the COVID-19 crisis, we expect to see remote working as ‘the new norm’ across many industries, for numerous health, safety and environmental reasons,” Dr Liu added. “2020 has been an extremely challenging year for humanity, yet our hope at Extend Robotics is that the recent acceleration in R&D of remote teleoperated working robots will soon result in a wide range of safe, secure and affordable dexterity robot solutions across a number of industries worldwide.”