Sarcos Robotics, one of the most established exoskeleton developers in the world, has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Paramount Group. The Paramount Group is a global aerospace and technology company. Part of its mission is to deliver cutting-edge integrated solutions to combat the challenges faced by the defense, internal security, and peacekeeping forces in more than 30 countries across five continents. The MoU aims to bring powered exoskeleton technology for defense applications to government and industrial customers in the Middle East and Africa. The full press release has been duplicated at the end of this article.
The MoU is likely a good move for Sarcos Robotics. Seen in the context of past events, however, it does seem to hold some danger not just for Sarcos but the entire exoskeleton industry. The Exoskeleton Report team had the opportunity to visit Sarcos Robotics HQ at the end of 2019 (see Guardian XO Alpha: Up Close and Personal with the Sarcos Robotics Full-Body Powered Exoskeleton) and the company’s flagship wearable robot is one very impressive machine. The potential problem for the MoU is how it could be perceived in various circles of the U.S. Government. The technology behind the Guardian XO and that of many powered exoskeletons in the U.S. is based on past DARPA funding. It should be emphasized that the Guardian XO is a performance and injury-reduction wearable for logistics, manufacturing, maintenance, and construction. Regardless of the facts, there is a risk for this MoU to play in the hands of individuals who have already made up their minds that exoskeleton technology coming out of the U.S. should have export limitations.
If the above assessment sounds paranoid, consider the past precedent of the Ekso Bionics agreement with China for the production and distribution of passive exoskeletons. In May 2020 the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) had determined that California-based developer Ekso Bionics needs to terminate its role in the joint development of exoskeleton technology in China (Ekso Bionics Will Not Continue Joint Venture with China). Of course, it is also possible that the Sarcos Robotics MoU will not follow a similar path. It could very well proceed without a hitch and open the door for full-body powered exoskeletons to spread to new regions in the world.
Sarcos Robotics is one of the largest wearable robotics developers at this time. It employs more professionals working on exoskeletons than the average exo developer. In addition to time, the technology requires funding to reach maturation and wider adoption. The MoU with the Paramount Group is an opportunity to increase the global footprint of the exo industry, but it comes with some risk as well.
Johannesburg and Salt Lake City – February 24, 2021 – Paramount Group, the global aerospace and technology company, and Sarcos Robotics, a global leader in the development of innovative, highly dexterous mobile robotic systems designed for use in the defence, public safety and industrial sectors, today announced that the companies have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to bring revolutionary robotic systems to government and industrial customers in the Middle East and Africa.
Through this collaboration, the companies will explore market opportunities and modifications to Sarcos’ award-winning robotic systems to address the region’s unique requirements in the maritime and aerospace technology arenas. The companies will supply these modified systems to defence, aerospace and commercial customers in the Middle East and Africa.
The robotic systems augment human performance through advanced technologies that reduce the risk of injury while increasing personnel efficiencies in operational, logistics and manufacturing environments such as naval shipyards, aircraft factories, or on military transport aircraft and more austere environments, including forward operating and during special operations.
Sarcos and Paramount Group will focus their efforts initially on the Sarcos Guardian® XO® robotic exoskeleton—the world’s first full-body, battery-powered wearable robot designed to increase strength and endurance—and the Guardian® XT teleoperated dexterous robot, which has been developed to provide human-like dexterity while offering substantially greater strength, stamina and precision on a remote control basis.
The Guardian XO, which was named a Best Invention of 2020 by TIME Magazine, will enable defence and industrial workers to lift and manipulate heavy objects up to 200 pounds, such as ammunition, vehicle tires, machinery and plywood, for a full shift or work day, due to its hot-swappable lithium ion batteries.
Similarly, the Guardian XT, based on the upper-body portion of the Guardian XO, can be mounted to a variety of mobile bases and can be teleoperated to perform dexterous tasks at height, enabling the lifting and manipulating of heavy objects up to 200 pounds that are out of reach or are at a height that makes the task inherently dangerous for a human worker to perform, such as tasks associated with ship and aircraft production and maintenance and in the construction industry. The Guardian XO and Guardian XT are expected to be commercially available in the United States beginning in mid-2022.
The award-winning Guardian® S multi-purpose remote visual inspection and surveillance robot, a man-portable, cloud-connected IoT sensor platform, will also be available in the regions. The Guardian S robot has been designed to gather visual and sensor-based data regarding critical assets in various facilities. It can be teleoperated and facilitates two-way, real-time video, voice and data communication, performing tasks such as the detection of hazardous materials and gasses, surveillance operations and first-look inspections of environments that are dangerous or difficult for a human to operate within. The Guardian S robotic platform is available for purchase now.
“Sarcos and Paramount share a vision to deliver revolutionary products that improve efficiency and reduce risk of injury in vigorous environments; bolstering workers’ strength and amplifying performance in often ergonomically-stressful environments,” said Ivor Ichikowitz, Chairman, Paramount Group. “We believe that the market opportunity to make an impact in the Middle East and Africa is significant, and we look forward to working with Sarcos to deliver a version of the company’s game-changing robotics, accelerating access to what are today critical technologies, specifically tailored to meet the unique needs of our customers in these regions.”
“The Middle East and Africa are regions that show incredible promise,” said Ben Wolff, chairman and CEO, Sarcos Robotics. “Given Paramount Group’s extensive knowledge and experience within this region, we believe they will be an excellent partner to deliver on our vision for a safer, more productive global workforce.”
Sarcos is an innovator in the development of robotic systems that augment human performance by combining human intelligence, instinct and judgment with the strength, endurance and precision of machines to augment the workforce by enhancing human safety and productivity.