PickNik Robotics Inc. today announced new details about its MoveIt Studio software and the availability of the beta version of the product. The Boulder, Colo.-based company said its motion planning software includes a user interface that makes it easy for robot operators to remotely manage complex robotic arms that require supervised autonomy.
“MoveIt Studio enables the best of humans and robots combined,” said Dave Coleman, CEO of PickNik Robotics. “We anticipate this software platform to have a huge impact on the space industry and other unstructured environments.”
Founded in 2015, PickNik Robotics provides software and engineering services to help companies address the technical, cost, and time challenges of developing robotics applications. Organizations such as NASA, Amazon, Formant, and Kindred have partnered with the company to develop robotics applications.
PickNik leads MoveIt development
PickNik Robotics also leads the development of the open-source MoveIt project, a widely used framework within the Robot Operating System (ROS). Companies and academics use the motion-planning software to enable robotic arms to interact with and manipulate objects.
MoveIt is now used worldwide in hundreds of robots, including projects by Google, Microsoft, Fetch Robotics, Kinova, and Franka Emika.
For example, robotic arms are used in space missions to repair satellites and augment astronauts inside space stations. They will also be needed to build the future Moon base. The challenge is that fully autonomous robotic arms are not yet possible, nor does mission control want them to be.
Most applications of robotic arms outside of factories still require a human in the loop to provide remote high-level commands, monitoring, and support for when the robot gets stuck, said the company.
PickNik said MoveIt Studio is based on MoveIt and extends the framework to give robot technicians access to advanced algorithmic capabilities with an intuitive user interface.
Already being used by NASA and others, MoveIt Studio enables robot operators to specify complex sequences of motions for robots in unstructured environments, such as Robonaut 2 in the International Space Station or the future Lunar Gateway.
In June 2021, NASA awarded PickNik a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant for robot arm motion planning in microgravity environments. MoveIt Studio can also be used for subsea, defense/security, construction, and home uses, said the company.
MoveIt Studio benefits
PickNik Robotics said that MoveIt Studio can provide benefits including the following:
- Train operators faster. More intuitive and automated control interfaces can reduce the need for highly trained operators and related costs. It can also reduce cognitive load on operators, said PickNik.
- Reduce research and development costs. The company added that MoveIt Studio uses cutting-edge approaches developed for years for some of the world's leading robotics companies.
- Complete projects faster. Robotic projects can get to market quicker with the prebuilt platform.
- Reduce latency. Operators can command robots from long distances by sending brief, high-level user instructions that encode a highly reactive, rich command set.
- Improve safety. MoveIt Studio is intended to reduce the need for humans in dangerous environments by expanding robot capabilities.
- Increase accuracy. Robot arms can perform precise operations by relying on highly tuned, reactive algorithms rather than humans looking at 2D video feeds and picking joint angles.
PickNik Robotics said it is actively working with several early customers to fine-tune the MoveIt Studio software. Companies and organizations interested in working with the MoveIt Studio beta can contact PickNik Robotics at firstname.lastname@example.org.