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Custom Robotics Development: Creating ANA’s newme AVATAR

Wednesday November 13, 2019

The demand for custom robotics development is increasing. As companies strive to be tech-forward, they look to robotics and AI to distinguish themselves from their competition. This article discusses why ANA chose to work with OhmniLabs on their latest custom robot, newme, and how OhmniLabs was instrumental in bringing ANA’s vision to life.

Last month, OhmniLabs had the privilege of attending the 2019 Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies (CEATEC) show in Chiba City, Japan. Nine OhmniLabs team members, including all three founders, participated in this premier technology display held from October 15th to 18th. 

OhmniLabs was part of the Society 5.0 TOWN exhibition where we showcased our innovative telerobotics technologies. But our presence was primarily to support ANA Holdings’ exhibit as a partner for their groundbreaking ANA AVATAR project. With the mission to integrate multiple exponential technologies such as robotics, haptics, AR/VR, and AI to enable humanity to instantaneously teleport their presence to a remote location, ANA unveiled an all-new AVATAR robot “newme” to mark the next phase of the AVATAR project. 

Engineered and manufactured by OhmniLabs using our advanced additive manufacturing process and modular architecture, the new robot is specifically designed for the Japanese market based on years of ANA’s extensive research and experience on connecting people across the globe.

How Did OhmniLabs Bring ANA’s Concept to Life in Just 6 Months?

In many ways, OhmniLabs is a unique robotics development solution. Unlike most manufacturers, OhmniLabs provides end-to-end robotics development services. It is this breadth of services that not only distinguish us from other robotics developers but enabled us to bring ANA’s concept to life in just 6 months. 

First, OhmniLabs has domain expertise in hardware and software having built the Ohmni robot for many years. On purpose, our design is modular, which gives clients a lot of flexibility. Clients can choose to reuse designs or create customized design elements for their projects based on our modular components.

OhmniLabs’s use of additive manufacturing (3D printing) sets us apart. Additive manufacturing allows us to change a design endless times until the client is satisfied. While traditional injection molding can take up to three months, OhmniLabs can change a design in one afternoon. 

Speed is very important to Kevin Kajitani, co-director of the ANA Avatar division. He and his co-director, Akira Fukabori, were willing to clear obstacles for us quickly. OhmniLabs and ANA started discussing custom development less than one year ago. Between January and March, the two companies collaborated to develop the scope of the project. 

Another major benefit of 3D printing and working with OhmniLabs is the low production cost. OhmniLabs can produce robots at 5-10 times lower cost than traditional injection molding methods. Cost was a very important factor to ANA — without a low-cost solution, it cannot gain mass adoption among consumers. The fact that OhmniLabs is able to create a customized solution at a low cost set us above the competition and allowed us to win ANA’s business. 

Lastly, 3D printing has a technical advantage — it delivers parts with clean geometry that are easy to modify. Unlike traditional injection molds, the edges or 3D-printed parts do not have to be angled in order to be removed from an injection mold. 

OhmniLabs worked with ANA’s design team in Japan resulting in a hybrid project. The custom robotics development process was very iterative and included industrial designers, product/concept designers, and business people. OhmniLabs built the hardware and provided the firmware while newme’s software was developed by JCube, who has worked with ANA for several years. 

Our Impressions of CEATEC 

Overall, CEATEC 2019 was an amazing show! We admire ANA for putting so much work into the conference, which successfully showcased both the AVATAR robot and ANA’s vision. Unlike some of the other companies at the show, ANA involved their partners in their booth, which is rare for a Japanese company. But ANA has made a concerted effort to be tech-forward, and therefore welcomed non-Japanese companies and startups like OhmniLabs. The initial reaction from show attendees is that they are excited to learn about the AVATAR project and see where it leads. 

Custom Robotics Development: Why ANA Chose to Work with OhmniLabs and Our Impressions of CEATEC 2019

OhmniLabs Co-founder, Jared Go, with ANA and OhmniLabs team members in front of ANA’s booth

Even with tech giants like Sony and Mitsubishi in attendance, ANA’s booth was easily the most impressive. They took the time to create fanfare associated with robotics and to demonstrate how exciting it will be to interact with AVATAR once the project has fully launched. Throughout the day, 40-50 ANA representatives displayed the robot and gave demonstrations to interested attendees. In addition to OhmniLabs, ANA exhibited other AVATAR-related technologies. 

This is an aggressive project for ANA — something the Japanese market is not totally expecting. It’s interesting that they are getting into telepresence because they are an airline company. What if virtual tourism cannibalizes ANA’s air travel business? Is this possible? OhmniLabs Co-founder, Jared Go, is optimistic. “I think there is a lot of room for different players. So it’s ok to collaborate and collaboration makes the telepresence market better and stronger as a whole.”

Ohmni Cobot Arms

In addition to newme, OhmiLabs used CEATEC 2019 as an opportunity to introduce the second generation of the Ohmni Cobot Arms, which will be available in the future to custom robotics development clients. 

Custom Robotics Development: Why ANA Chose to Work with OhmniLabs and Our Impressions of CEATEC 2019

OhmniLabs Cobot Arms at CEATEC 2019

Made with an ultralight liquid crystal polymer cable drive and custom brushless motor controllers, the Ohmni Cobot project is focused on making the absolute lightest arms with human-scale payload capabilities. With an updated unibody shoulder, improved strength, 50% increase in motion speed, the arms can be teleoperated and trained for automated tasks from anywhere in the world using OhmniLabs’ proprietary telepresence cloud technology. This opens the door for future applications where humans can perform dangerous and heavy-duty tasks from a distance. 

OhmniLabs was able to demonstrate the extended range of motion of the arms, impressing attendees with both their reach and how quiet they were. We definitely garnered a lot of interest! 

What’s Next for newme?

OhmniLabs is excited to continue developing newme alongside ANA on custom robotics development. By summer 2020, ANA plans to start a service using the robotic technology and introduce hundreds of robots for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

About OhmniLabs

OhmniLabs, Inc. is a Silicon Valley-based robotics company focused on providing demand-driven robotics solutions for businesses. Our massive library of tech modules, cloud AI and robotics services, and proprietary ultra-lean development and manufacturing processes allow us to innovate at an unmatched speed, cost, and margin compared to other robotics companies. 

Founded in 2015 by robotics experts Jared Go, Tingxi Tan, and serial entrepreneur, Thuc Vu, graduates of Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University, OhmniLabs’ purpose is to accelerate robotic development through modular technologies and additive manufacturing. 

For more information, contact us at contact@ohmnilabs.com.