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Beam telepresence robot
The Beam family of robots: Beam, BeamPro, and BeamPro 2.
Photo: Suitable Technologies

Today, Blue Ocean Robotics, a Danish robotics company, is announcing the acquisition of Suitable TechnologiesBeam telepresence robot business. Blue Ocean has been a Beam partner for five years, but now they’re taking things over completely.

The Beam robot began its life as an internal project within Willow Garage. It was spun out in 2012 as Suitable Technologies, which produced a couple different versions of the Beam. As telepresence platforms go, Beam is on the powerful and expensive side, designed primarily for commercial and enterprise customers. 

The most recent news from Suitable was the introduction of the BeamPro 2, which was announced over a year ago at CES 2018. The Suitable Tech website still lists it as “coming soon,” and our guess is that it’s now up to Blue Ocean to decide whether to go forward with this new version. Blue Ocean calls itself a “robot venture factory.” I’m not entirely sure what a “robot venture factory” is but Blue Ocean describes itself thusly:

The company is known for developing professional service robots from the problem, idea and design phase to the development, commercialization and scaling phase. Every robot is placed in its own subsidiary which is responsible for scaling sales, customer service, support and everything else oriented towards global markets and customers. The parent company handles all development and production of robots across the organization. 

Ah, that explains it! Blue Ocean does already have a couple portfolio companies making very specific robots, including a UV disinfection robot for hospitals and a sort of mobile patient lift also for hospitals. They’re working on some kind of agriculture robot, too. I’d love to be able to tell you more, but the press release doesn’t offer much:

With the acquisition, Blue Ocean Robotics sees an opportunity to generate additional synergy: “Our development of robots is based on our own in-house created toolbox with reusable technology components. This means that we can build all of our robots fast, inexpensively, and better than others,” says Blue Ocean Robotics’ CTO John Erland Østergaard. “Some of our robots, for example the UVD disinfection robot, are already equipped with remote controls. With the Beam technology being a big seller in the healthcare sector, we can continue to grow our business within this industry by having our distributors present both UVD and Beam when they visit customers.”

Scott Hassan (left), one of the founders of Suitable Technologies, and Claus Risager, CEO of Blue Ocean Robotics.Scott Hassan (left), one of the founders of Suitable Technologies, and Claus Risager, CEO of Blue Ocean Robotics.Photo: Blue Ocean Robotics

The press release is very specific that Blue Ocean isn’t acquiring Suitable Technologies itself—they’re acquiring the “assets and rights associated with the robot Beam” from Suitable, which I guess means that Suitable is still around somehow. But it’s really not clear what Suitable is without Beam, which (as far as we can make out) is the entirety of what the company does.

Anyway, we’re glad that there’s enough interest in high-end telepresence robots to support this acquisition, and we hope that Blue Ocean will be investing in BeamPro 2 and further generations of the robot. It’s come a long way from the original Texai robot from Willow Garage, and still has a lot of potential. For more information, visit the new Beam website that Blue Ocean has just launched.

[ Beam ]

The Conversation (0)

The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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