- Powered exoskeleton manufacturer Sarcos Robotics announced a technology partnership with T-Mobile to use the telecommunications giant’s 5G network for Sarcos Guardian XT robots for the upper body.
- The technology will make it easier for on-site professionals to control the robots using AR / VR technology, while off-site observers will be able to monitor the jobs remotely. The technology will also help with the movement of the operator and the performance of the robot, according to the announcement. In a second planned development phase, the robot is to be operated remotely, which increases the safety of the operator.
- The technology is expected to be released for commercial purchase in late 2022 Sarcos Investor Report lists lease prices for the Guardian XT model at $ 5,000 per month.
Fresh off the heels of the announcement a $ 496 million public offering, Sarcos is dipping into the robotic assistance market, reckoning its robots as uses in construction and the larger workforce by reducing the risk of worker injury from dangerous situations or repetitive, tedious tasks.
Next-generation 5G cellular networks, which improve signal reliability while reducing latency and delay time, have been recognized for their potential to help with everything from remote telemedicine operations to safely operating giant earthmoving equipment.
The companies touted the ability of 5G to help Sarcos’ robots improve their function and task performance.
“This is an important first step and we are keen to continue evolving towards full 5G wireless connectivity, which will unlock a host of new features, including remote teleoperation, as we prepare for commercial availability,” said Scott Hopper, Executive Vice President of Corporate and Business Development at Sarcos.
Sarcos also offers a full-body robotic exoskeleton, the Guardian XO, that operators wear to reduce wear and tear on their frames and aid them in physically demanding tasks such as lifting heavy objects or dangerous activities.
At around $ 9,000 per month, the leasing price for the full-body exoskeleton is almost twice that of the remote model, according to the investor report. The robots are designed to help workers on construction sites instead of taking their jobs away from them.
Robot work is not a new concept, but its use is still in its infancy. In 2018, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, one of the largest public research organizations in Japan, developed the HRP-5P prototype, an autonomously learning robot that could be trained for simple tasks. The prototype is capable of hard work and features technology from Honda, Inc.
Despite Sarcos’ promise of commercial availability in 2022, robots may still be a long way from replacing workers on construction sites.
Reza Akavian, Assistant Professor of Civil and Civil Engineering at San Diego State University, told Construction Dive in April that the idea that robots are replacing people en masse on construction sites is the “staple of science fiction and cartoons”.
“Currently and for the foreseeable future, robotics in general, and construction robotics in particular, is nowhere near where robots can replace human workers,” said Akhavian.
But for T-Mobile and Sarcos, this future has come a little closer.