Startup Street: A Robot To Help Kerala Clean Its Sewers
Water rises from a manhole as pedestrians walk on a flooded street. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg News)  

Startup Street: A Robot To Help Kerala Clean Its Sewers

A robot built by a Kerala-based startup will help the state in cleaning manholes as it looks to break the age-old practice of manual scavenging. An Indian startup that has built a printer that is claimed to print anything you like was showcased as one of the best innovations at the world’s biggest consumer electronics convention.

The Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad wants to transform the research at its labs into market ready products. And a Chinese electric car that is rivalling Tesla. Here’s what went on this week on Startup Street.

Meet Bandicoot, Your Friendly Neighbourhood Sewer Cleaner

Manual scavenging may soon take a backseat in Kerala as robots replace men in cleaning up sewer holes in the southernmost state of the country.

The Kerala Startup Mission and Kerala Water Authority have signed a memorandum of understanding for transfer of technology and products, which include the use of robots for cleaning up manholes.

This will involve using Bandicoot, a robot developed by startup firm Genrobotics. Bandicoot will start its work by cleaning sewer holes, first in the startup’s home town Thiruvananthapuram, during the Attukal Pongala festival in March, according to media statement by the company.

The Bandicoot, developed by Genrobotics. (Source: Genrobotics)
The Bandicoot, developed by Genrobotics. (Source: Genrobotics)

The robot with four limbs has a bucket system attached to a web-like extension which lowers itself into the manhole. Then it shovels the heap of garbage which is collected by the bucket and lifted upwards. The robot also has WiFi and Bluetooth modules and can be remotely operated. It is powered by pressurised air.

Genrobotics claims that Bandicoot can perform the work of five human beings within minutes and is available in automatic and semi-automatic modes. The startup said that sewage cleaning work is “dirty, unpleasant and dangerous.” It added that scavengers also face a lot of health issues, including asphyxia or the shortage of oxygen.

The Kerala Startup Mission, one of the most active startup initiatives by a state in India, had funded Genrobotics to conduct a field study and find a solution for manual scavenging. Generobotics plans to market the product within six months and states like Tamil Nadu have already shown interest.

Genrobotics, founded in 2015, is also working on building battery-powered exoskeletons and manned robotic suits which are claimed to lift “weights around 400 pounds like a piece of cake.”

Indian Startup’s ‘5D’ Printer Awarded Best Innovation At CES 2018

Bengaluru-based Ethereal Machines was honoured with a best innovation award at the Consumer Electronics Show 2018, being held in Las Vegas, for its Halo 5D printer, a machine that it’s founder said can manufacture anything from a watch to a shirt.

Every year, CES awards a number of innovations that may be in the development phase or products that are already available on the market.

Ethereal’s Halo is a hybrid manufacturing machine, capable of subtractive manufacturing and even 3D printing. It uses five-axis machining, which is similar to 3D printing, but has two additional rotary axes that add more depth and allow more complex structures to be made.

BloombergQuint interacted with Ethereal Machines Chief Executive Officer and founder Kaushik Mudda at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2017 at Hyderabad, in November. Mudda said that 3D printing “restricts a designer’s flow” but the Halo “allows much more to be done”. He added that the printer has innumerable applications ranging from the wearable electronics space, to aerospace, aviation and automobile manufacturing.

To be sure, Ethereal isn’t the first company to make a five-axis machine. However, Mudda said it is 40-60 percent cheaper than most alternatives available in the market.

Whereas five-axis printers start at around Rs 40 lakh and go up to Rs 2 crore, Ethereal’s would be priced at around Rs 15 lakh, he said. Not only that, Ethereal’s machines are much smaller than any other alternative in the market, Mudda added.

IIT Hyderabad Launches Product Labs

IIT Hyderabad has launched ‘Product Labs’, as it looks to assist entrepreneurs in creating market prototypes and bridge the “lab-to-land gap.”

As part of the institute’s Technology Transfer Office, Product Labs will assist in implementing the research work at IIT Hyderabad’s labs and research centres. It will connect relevant research with market needs and assist in building products from the research, according to a statement released by the institute.

The Product Labs will identify potential products based on market and strategy analysis, identify suitable research as available and then build the prototypes of these products along with associated businesses and market plans.
IIT Hyderabad Media Statement

The products built out of the labs will then be either licensed to larger enterprises or they'd hover off as startups leveraging the institute's in-house entrepreneurship program.

Chinese Startup’s Electric Vehicle Unlocks By Your Face

Byton, a Chinese electric vehicle startup, has showcased its $45,000 vehicle that uses facial recognition to unlock door, features entertainment by Amazon’s Alexa and includes a 49-inch screen across the dashboard.

(Source: Byton)
(Source: Byton)

The startup, founded by former BMW executives, unveiled its concept electric sports utility vehicle at CES in Las Vegas. The car will have a range of 320 miles (512 km) and will be manufactured at the startup’s Nanjing factory, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2018. Production will come a year later.

The car is priced higher than the Tesla’s Model 3, which has a base price of $35,000. Byton claims that 80 percent of the battery can be recharged within 30 minutes. The concept car also features internet connectivity and is capable of video teleconferencing. It also features voice recognition, biometric identification, touch control and hand gestures.

Byton has received $200 million from a fund of Suning Holdings Group Co., and some state-owned firms from China’s Jiangsu province, according to Bloomberg. Like many mainstream carmakers such as Toyota and Volkswagen AG, the startup is also looking to have a piece of the pie in China's surging EV sales that are expected to hit 1 million this year.

Watch full the concept reveal at CES 2018 here.

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