LAS VEGAS — CES 2024 featured a wide range of emerging technologies, from fitness devices and videogames to autonomous vehicles. But robots always have a significant presence in the sprawling exhibit halls.
The Robot Report visited numerous booths in the Eureka Park section of CES, as well as in the other focused sections of the event. Here are some highlights from this week’s event:
Mobinn climbs stairway toward success
Mobinn is a Korean startup focused on last-mile autonomous delivery vehicles. While the concept of last-mile delivery isn’t new, Mobinn demonstrated an innovative wheeled robot that can climb stairs.
The robot is capable of going up and down stairs through the implementation of compliant wheels. A self-leveling box on top of the robot keeps the cargo level, so your drinks and food don’t spill out of their containers.
Glidance guides people with vision impairments
RoboBusiness PitchFire 2023 winner Glidance also won a CES 2024 Innovation Award and showed the latest functional prototype of its Glide device in its booth. The robotic Glide guides sight-impaired individuals similar to a guide dog.
The startup is designing Glide to be affordable and easy to learn how to use when it starts shipping later this year. I tried Glide firsthand (while closing my eyes). The experience was incredible, and I can only imagine how promising this technology would be for an individual with sight loss.
The team at Glidance mentioned to me that celebrity Stevie Wonder came to the Glidance booth for a demo of the product during CES.
Unitree H1 humanoid steals the show
There were two full-size humanoid robots at CES 2024.
Kepler Robotics had a stationary model of the new Kepler Forerunner K1 in its Eureka Park booth. The robot includes 14 linear-axis motors and 14 rotary-axis motors. Unfortunately, the company was unable to give live demos of the Forerunner.
The internet influencer darling of CES has to be the Unitree H1 humanoid, and the company was giving nearly continuous live demos of the H1 at its booth.
Kudos to the Unitree marketing team for its now-infamous “kick the robot” videos that have been shared on social media over the past six months. In the videos, H1 appears to be a solid humanoid platform with respectable balance and agility.
However, as a longtime robotics industry insider and experienced robotics applications engineer, I thought the Unitree H1 product demos at CES 2024 were cringe-worthy, as the Unitree demo team walked the H1 robot into crowds of “internet tech influencers” with their cameras ablaze.
The 150 lb. (68 kg) robot danced with the public inches away. A single tripping incident would have sent the robot tumbling into an innocent bystander and made instant headlines. It would have been a public relations disaster and a setback for the industry.
However, there’s no denying that the H1 was a crowd favorite at CES 2024, and the company and its robot received a lot of news media attention.
Hyundai displays future mobility tech at CES 2024
[See image gallery at www.therobotreport.com] Hyundai got my vote as one of the industry-leading mobility and robotics leaders at CES 2024. It is the parent company of Boston Dynamics, but at CES 2024, the Spot and Stretch robots played minor roles in Hyundai’s story.
The company had multiple large-scale booths showing autonomy concepts for the future, including autonomous mobility for both humans and freight, as well as a look at the future of autonomous construction vehicles. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to witness either of the live mobility demonstrations, but the Hyundai Construction Xite concept tractor was an impressive incarnation of autonomous construction designs.
AV24 rolls into the showroom
The Indy Autonomous Challenge (IAC) had an impressive booth in the automotive hall of CES 2024, surrounded by well-known brand names. On display was a fully functional version of the newest AV24 autonomous racecar, showing off the integration of an entirely new autonomy stack in the vehicle.
The IAC has partnered with many of the leading automotive technology companies to embed the latest lidar, radar, vision, and GPS sensors within the vehicle.
dSpace announced an extended partnership with IAC that will deliver digital twins of each university team’s vehicle along with digital twins of each of the race tracks. In turn, these will enable the teams to train the AI drivers completely in simulation and then port the AI models and drive code directly the physical race cars.
In addition, some sanctioned sim races are possible later this year, said the IAC organizers.
Embodied AI displays updated Moxie
The latest generation of Moxie by Embodied AI was on display in Amazon’s booth at CES. Embodied recently announced new tutoring functionality with the latest software release for Moxie, and it demonstrated the software at the expo.
Amazon had a separate expo suite that featured all of the physical Amazon consumer and smart home products (Echo was noticeably absent from the display). Moxie entertained the gathered crowds as it demonstrated its interactivity.
Fingervision measures gripper force
My “Unknown Discovery” award of CES 2024 goes to a young Japanese startup called Fingervision. This was a serendipitous discovery of an innovation that uses tiny cameras built into the gripper fingers of an industrial robot,
They provide feedback on the grip force and “slippage” of an item held with the gripper. This is accomplished by imaging the area where the fingers touch an object through an opaque surface. Thus the origin of the company name.
The company has deployed its first grippers into an application where robots are picking up fried chicken nuggets and packaging them.
Honorable mentions from CES 2024
Gatik keeps on trucking — autonomously
Gatik showed the third generation of its on-road autonomous truck. The company has made its mark on autonomous logistics through the deployment of driving algorithms that plans paths so that the vehicle only makes right-hand turns, avoiding more complex and dangerous left-hand turns.
Gatik first demonstrated fully driverless, freight-only commercial deliveries on the middle mile with Walmart in 2021. Shortly after, it executed the first fully driverless deployment for Canada’s largest retailer, Loblaw.
The company also announced a partnership with Goodyear tires to develop “Smart Tires” that can provide real-time feedback to the autonomous driver with data about the condition of the tires to help maintain traction and control.
Bobcat Rogue X2 gets ready to move the earth
At CES 2024, Bobcat showed off an autonomous concept prototype, the Bobcat Rogue X2, at CES 2024. The all-electric, autonomous robot is designed for handling material movement and ground-altering operations at construction, mining, and agriculture sites.
The design prototype of the Rogue X2 at CES had wheels rather than tracks, but manually driven Bobcats can be equipped with tracks, so a production version of the Rogue could have similar configurations.
Ottonomy IO partners with Harbor Lockers
Through a new partnership with Harbor Lockers, the latest generation of Ottobot can now be configured with a payload of Harbor Lockers. This includes the Harbor Locker physical locker infrastructure, as well as the Harbor Locker application interface.
This is the first time that Ottonomy is partnering with a third-party vendor to extend the autonomous last-mile delivery solution.
Lawn-mowing robots arrive in North America
CES is one of the world’s biggest consumer electronics shows. While The Robot Report doesn’t typically cover consumer robotics, it is notable that lawn-mowing robotics were ubiquitous at CES this year, with a dozen vendors showing their autonomous systems.
The European market for consumer lawnmowers is already mature, but the North American market is in the early stages of adoption. Without testing all of the different lawnmowing robots, it’s difficult to determine the market leaders, but the two most promising solutions that I saw at the show included the new Yarbo Lawn Mower and the latest generation of Navimow from Segway Robotics.