Making Robots Smarter with AI
Local robotics start-up SIIX-AGT's line of autonomous service robots may soon ease the manpower crunch in hospitals, factory floors and even the security services.
Imagine a robot that can autonomously inspect the air quality in an office building, and purify the air instantaneously. Or surveillance robots to patrol a guarded high-security area. With the acceleration of technological advancements and manpower crunch in cities with an ageing population, the possible applications of the modern service robots are endless.
Local robotics start-up SIIX-AGT aims to fill this gap.
Tucked away in an inconspicuous industrial building located in eastern Singapore, SIIX-AGT specialises in multi-purpose robotics components such as base modules that can be repurposed for different market segments – much like the building blocks of service robots.
To stay on top of the game, SIIX-AGT reached out to the Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R) of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in 2016 to grow its capabilities in smart robotics solutions.
“By incorporating A*STAR’s AI technologies into our service robots, we were able to come up with new innovative solutions to address market needs and boost productivity,” says Mr Ivan Khoo, the chief executive officer of SIIX-AGT.
It licensed relevant I2R software to develop an advanced autonomous robotics base that integrates multiple sensors for indoor navigation, and to carry out multiple tasks. Powered by deep learning algorithms, the service robots are trained to avoid humans and obstacles, as well as perform tasks without human supervision. Later, this led to the launch of two SIIX-AGT robotic base products (iCUBE 200 and iCUBE 500). A flexible manufacturing demo system is being implemented at Central ITE.
Currently, one of its most exciting product line-up is a security patrol robot. When I2R was commissioned by a public sector agency to prototype the Multi-Purpose All Terrain Autonomous Robot (MATAR) 2.0 and 3.0, SIIX-AGT was brought onboard for its hardware expertise. The robots are equipped with fingerprint authentication, 360-degree live video capture, autonomous patrol and multi-terrain navigation, and have been piloted on the streets for crowd-control purposes. The prototypes were trialed during National Day Parade 2018 and 2019, for assessments of their suitability for crowd security.
"Our collaboration with SIIX-AGT began in 2016 and we found their capabilities in hardware solutions to be a good match for the autonomous robots that we are building. At A*STAR, we want to help our local SMEs adopt new technologies to enhance their product offerings and remain competitive," says Dr Yau Wei Yun, the I2R’s department Head for Robotics and Autonomous Systems.
The local-start-up’s claim to fame is the Epush, power-assistive robotic beds that make heavy hospital beds weighing up to 300kg, that much easier for the nurses to manoeuvre. The bed has motors for motion and intelligence to maintain a safe speed. It can even move easily from a carpeted to a tiled floor. This innovation clinched the National Healthcare Group’s Innovation Supplier Award in 2014. SIIX, Japan’s largest electronic manufacturing service organisation, spotted its potential and invested in the company in 2015.
SIIX-AGT’s beginnings in the heathcare sector is now coming full circle.
Currently, together with A*STAR’s Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC) and commercialisation arm A*CCELERATE, SIIX-AGT is working on plans for the productisation of a wireless charging solution that can be applied across its product lines (from hospital beds to general-use robotics). The aim is to meet the growing market for autonomous devices.
Initial applications targeted include wireless electric-powered hospital bed solutions to address a key pain point of frequently damaged plug-in charging connectors due to caregivers’ negligence. The same wireless charging solution can also be applied to the Medical Computer On Wheel, essential to nurses and doctors for patient medical recording-keeping within the hospital wards. To identify problem-solutions in the healthcare sector, SIIX-AGT is in discussions with the Centre for Healthcare Assistive & Robotics Technology (CHART) .
“Innovation is what will set you apart in a world of disruption. My vision for SIIX-AGT is to create novel robotics solutions that will transform industries and make a positive impact for society.” says Mr Khoo.
CHART was established with the support of Ministry of Health, and the Economic Development Board and also works with the National Robotics Programme.