What’s Next for Clearpath Robotics?


Now that Rockwell Automation’s acquisition of Clearpath Robotics and OTTO Motors is full (at one thing like US $600 million, in keeping with one supply), it’s extra necessary than ever to get a minimum of some understanding of what the longer term holds for these iconic yellow-and-black analysis robots. And it’s not nearly their robots, both: Clearpath Robotics was one of many unique champions of the Robot Operating System (ROS), and the corporate has supplied a large quantity of help to the ROS group over the previous decade.

At the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2023) in Detroit earlier this month, we spoke with Clearpath Robotics cofounder Ryan Gariepy to get a greater sense of the place issues are headed for Clearpath Robotics.

Now that you’re a part of Rockwell, what’s staying the identical?

Ryan Gariepy: Both Clearpath Robotics and OTTO Motors are nonetheless very a lot in existence. We’re nonetheless working with our personal highway maps, and Rockwell Automation has a want to maintain these manufacturers round. We plan to maintain the enduring Clearpath colours. Basically, we’re going to proceed enterprise as traditional. As a lot as I respect individuals’s concern, we do intend to proceed constructing this for the long-term.

“We’re now in a world where one of the largest industrial automation companies has decided that robotics is a strategic interest. We think there will be a lot of things that the robotics research community will be excited about.”
—Ryan Gariepy, Clearpath Robotics

What’s going to be completely different?

Gariepy: We anticipate having the ability to take bigger dangers, with extra of a long-term view on a few of our services. Rockwell additionally has established international scale in gross sales, deployment, help, provide chain, all the pieces. It’ll actually enable us to focus rather more on what we’re good at, reasonably than having to decide on between product improvement and operations.

Rockwell at the moment does a number of stuff which is peripheral to the robotics group. They’re a worldwide chief in movement management, in sensing, in security—these are issues that could possibly be of nice curiosity. I feel any long-time researcher will keep in mind the times when sensor producers didn’t even help utilizing their sensors on robots, and also you needed to reverse-engineer these protocols your self. But we’re now in a world the place one of many largest industrial automation corporations has determined that robotics is a strategic curiosity. We suppose there will likely be a number of issues that the robotics analysis group will likely be enthusiastic about.

What about long-term help for current Clearpath analysis robots?

Gariepy: If something, an organization like Rockwell provides us extra stability reasonably than much less stability. They’re used to supporting their merchandise for a lot longer than us—the oldest Huskies are developing on 12 or 13 years previous. Rockwell has merchandise which have been available on the market for 20 years that they’re nonetheless supporting, so that they very a lot respect that. I do know that for lots of researchers, it looks like Clearpath Robotics has been round endlessly, however we’ve solely been round for 14 years. Rockwell has been round for 120 years.

What about TurtleBot?

Gariepy: TurtleBot 5 can be a future highway map dialogue, and that’s extra within the fingers of Open Robotics than Clearpath Robotics. We do love the TurtleBot, we’re constructing as many TurtleBots as we presumably can, and now we have a long-term settlement with Open Robotics to proceed the TurtleBot partnership. That settlement continues.

How does Rockwell really feel about ROS?

Gariepy: Rockwell desires to work extra with ROS, and has positively been excited by the management that now we have with the ROS group. There are a number of issues that we’ve been speaking about on how you can construct on this, however I can’t actually get into any particulars. Honestly, it is because there are such a lot of good concepts now we have, that even with this bigger firm, I don’t have the individuals to tug all the pieces off proper now.

Again, it wasn’t that a few years in the past whenever you couldn’t get an API for a manipulator arm in order that you may even use it, a lot much less have the producer of that arm help ROS themselves. Things have modified considerably, and now you’ve an organization like Rockwell turning into very excited concerning the potential within the ROS group.

Clearpath Robotics has in fact solely ever been one a part of the ROS group—an necessary half, actually, however the continued success of ROS has (we hope) grown past what is perhaps happening at anyone firm. It’s a little bit worrisome that a number of different necessary components of the ROS group, together with Fetch Robotics and Open Robotics, have additionally been acquired comparatively just lately. So with all this in thoughts, we’ll be at ROSCon in New Orleans later this week to attempt to get a greater sense of how the group feels about the way forward for ROS.

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