Sarcos demonstrates exoskeleton and dexterous robot

Sarcos has a rich history of designing and building exoskeletons as shown in their “museum” lineup. | Credit: The Robot Report

I had the opportunity to attend a recent press/analyst briefing at SARCOS robotics headquarters in Salt Lake City, UT on May 19, 2022.

The new SARCOS headquarters is located in a beautifully restored facility in the south west part of the city. The building park is called Industry SLC and the building was originally built in 1943, where space was once a foundry and cast a number of significant structures around Utah, including some early steam engine components.

Industry SLC is a startup space with dozens of work spaces for young companies. SARCOS is the largest tenant in the space.

SARCOS went public in September 2021 via SPAC. The company merged with Pittsburgh based RE2 Robotics in March 2022 in a deal worth $100M.

This event was the first time that the company has briefed analysts since completing the merger. The company has mapped out the top level executive functions with RE2 Robotics co-founder Jorgen Pedersen moving into the role of COO. Jorgen was a guest on The Robot Report podcast in episode 40.

Kiva Allgood, President and CEO, Sarcos led most of the discussion during the day. The new organization will continue to be headquartered in Salt Lake City at the Sarcos headquarters, but will retain and grow the engineering organization from RE2 with an office in Pittsburgh.

Guardian XO exoskeleton

Guardian XO full-body exoskeleton is the world’s first battery-powered industrial exoskeleton. The company demo’d an alpha unit of the Guardian XO product, and showed it easily lifting a heavy tire. The exoskeleton suit is capable of lifting up to 200 lb (75 kg). 

The demo also included the manipulation of a full sheet of plywood, using a vacuum gripper attached to the arm of the exoskeleton. The operator was able to easily pick up the sheet of plywood, lift it overhead and then let the exoskeleton hold the sheet in place overhead while the operator used another tool, like a screwdriver, to fasten it in place.

The attendees also saw an alpha unit of the next generation of Guardian XO. The next generation will be lighter and more nimble the current version.

Guardian XT teleoperated dexterous robot

The Sarcos Guardian XT is a teleoperated dexterous robot that enables an operator, using stereo VR goggles and motion capture suit, to see exactly what the robot sees and remotely operate the robots’ arms.

This is one of Sarcos’ most successful products. There are a variety of use cases for Guardian XT, all of which remove a human from a potentially dangerous operating situation. This includes tasks such as paint removal for Navy ships, tree cutting and operations in hazardous environments.

As shown the video demo above, the operator uses a hand controller in each hand to position the Guardian XT torso, and then move the arms and hands to grasp and operate hand tools. Guardian XT is designed to manipulate the same hand tools used by a human or specialized end effectors can be created and fitted the end of the arms. This is the case for the tree cutting solution. Sort of a real-life Edward Scissorhands experience.

RE2 Products

The Sarcos headquarters has demo units of each of the RE2 products. This included the RE2 Sapien robotic arms and the RE2 Sapien Sea Class underwater ROV.

The company stated that all of the RE2 products will continue to be developed, marketed and sold going forward. The company did not offer any look ahead at future products, however there are some obvious synergies with a combined product line.

The Sapien Sea Class ROV is an underwater tele-operated pair of robotic arms. The operation of the Sapien Sea Class ROV and the Guardian XT would likely be a great opportunity for the combination of technologies to come together as the portfolio evolves, although the company offered no guidance here.

Allgood described the immediate opportunity for Sarcos to optimize their manufacturing and supply chain with the combination of companies, as they evolve the products and settle on component providers that can function across the portfolio.

Overall, the merger of Sarcos and RE2 appears to be a win-win for both organizations as they bring different strengths to the table. The combined company has a number of job openings in both Salt Lake City and Pittsburgh and is actively recruiting.

Hands on experience

I had the opportunity to get my hands on both the Guardian XO arm and the Guardian XT in a full demo. The video below documents that experience.

I was surprised just how easy it is use both products. The Guardian XO arm manipulation is intuitive and the learning curve is short. It would have been fun to get a full exoskeleton hands on to experience the walking.

The Guardian XT was also intuitive. Using the head set to see in 3D, it was easy to orient and position the robot arms.

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