AWS aims for automation with new robotics service and accelerator

30 Nov 2021

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AWS is rolling out a new robotics service to businesses and looking to boost the next generation of start-ups with an accelerator programme.

Amazon Web Services (AWS), the tech behemoth’s cloud computing business, is zeroing in on the robotics market. Robotics took centre stage at its Re:Invent 2021 conference last night (29 November), with the announcement of two new robotics-focused programmes.

AWS IoT RoboRunner is a robotics service for companies to build and deploy applications that can help robot fleets work together.

The company said it builds on the same technology used in Amazon’s fulfilment centres, but is now being made available to developers looking to build advanced robotics applications for their own businesses.

The RoboRunner service will allow organisations to connect their robots and management systems in one place, even if tech and machines are from different vendors, bringing together facility, robot, destination and task data.

It’s not the first move AWS has made in robotics services. In 2018, the company launched AWS RoboMaker to assist developers deploying robotics applications without managing any infrastructure.

But the company said the new service will help enterprises overcome challenges when it comes to operating fleets of robots such as autonomous guided vehicles, autonomous mobile robots and robotic arms.

Accelerating robots

AWS is also launching a new accelerator programme open to robotics hardware and software start-ups around the globe.

The AWS Robotics Startup Accelerator will be run with MassRobotics, a non-profit organisation that already delivers robotics accelerators and events. It will be a four-week programme where participants get technical training as well as networking and mentorship opportunities.

This includes advice from AWS specialists in robotics, machine learning and IoT, up to $10,000 in promotional credits for the use of AWS services, and guidance from MassRobotics in terms of venture capital and start-up scaling.

The programme will be open to early-stage companies with less than $10m in revenue and less than $100m raised. Start-ups don’t need to be currently using AWS to apply, but looking to adopt the company’s tech to scale a robotics idea.

In a blog post about the accelerator, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels said there are still “many barriers for robotics companies to overcome” despite the prevalence of robots operating in different industries.

“Today, there are only a few successful commercial robotics companies, and there are a few big reasons for this,” he wrote.

“First, finding a fit in the robotics product market is difficult because real-world environments are dynamic and unpredictable, so pairing the right niche with the right capabilities can be a challenge. Second, building robots with a high degree of autonomy and intelligence requires multidisciplinary skills that are hard to find and recruit for. Third, robotics is capital-intensive and requires large up-front investment in sensors, actuators and mechanical hardware, even when they’re already commercially available.”

The new accelerator will focus on “guiding and mentoring” a new generation of robotics start-ups, he added, to fuel future innovation.

Applications close on 16 January and the accelerator will take place virtually in the first quarter of next year.

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Sarah Harford is sub-editor of Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com