ANN ARBOR, MI — The Association for Advancing Automation (A3) announced the eight finalists in the Automate Launch Pad Startup Competition.

The competition highlights the industry’s most innovative young companies in robotics, machine vision, and motion control who are competing for the spotlight at the Automate 2017 Show and a $10,000 cash award. Sponsored by GE and co-produced by Silicon Valley Robotics, the competition provides innovative startup companies with an opportunity to generate awareness of their technology and find new sources of funding.

The eight finalists will compete for the top prize at Automate 2017 on April 5 at 3 p.m. in a theatre on the exhibition floor at McCormick Place in Chicago, where they will pitch their technology solution to a panel of judges. All finalists will also be awarded booth space at Automate, giving them the opportunity to engage with over 20,000 expected attendees. The eight finalists were chosen from a field of over 30 contestants offering a mix of products and services.

“Automation is among the most dynamic emerging markets, with venture funding increasing robustly each year,” stated Jeff Burnstein, president of A3. “The finalists in the Automate Launch Pad Startup Competition represent the many types of innovation that will transform the manufacturing and services sectors over the next decade.”

Automate Launch Pad Competition Finalists

Andros Robotics—Low cost collaborative robots and commoditizing force control expertise in custom motion system development market. Robots equipped with CFCM-actuators will have truly collaborative qualities, enabling safety and modes of operation like teach-and-replay, thanks to force feedback and high inherent back-drivability.

Apellix—Platform-as-a-Service for industrial workers performing critical but dangerous tasks. The patent-pending Apellix Worker Bee robotics system physically interacts with and modifies its environment to move workers out of harm’s way.

Augmented Pixels—Localization and mapping technology (SLAM SDK) optimized for low CPU usage. The company works on the development of an advanced platform for autonomous navigation for drones and robots in GPS-denied environments. It also develops a hardware-optimized solution for indoor navigation for mobile phones and AR/VR glasses with low power consumption.

HEBI Robotics—Modular series elastic actuator designed to function as full-featured robotic components. The modules quickly create custom robots of virtually any configuration from wheeled robots to collaborative robotic arms with multi-degrees of freedom.

Kinema Systems—Addresses the depalletizing problem where boxes are picked off a pallet and placed onto a conveyor. The Kinema Pick product combines a custom 3D/2D sensor with 3D vision, deep learning, and motion-planning software to provide an easily configurable solution for end-customers. By design, the Kinema Pick self-learns and does not require extensive individual training before it can start operating.

Robotic Materials—Integrated tactile sensing and robotic manipulation. The patent-pending sensors and control system is the first and only effective tactile sensing solution designed to improve and expand collaborative robot applications. The combination of proximity, contact, and force sensing enables robots to accurately identify, grasp, and manipulate previously unknown parts, such as changing CNC parts in a manufacturing environment without expensive reprogramming.

SAKE Robotics—Robotic grippers that are inexpensive, durable, light weight and very capable for use on service robotics. The core technologies include a tendon-based architecture that is low wear, super strong, and very scalable.

Vention—A machine-design platform, enabling users to build machines from a web-browser in just a few days. The platform is an "AI-enabled" cloud CAD application that integrates an ever-growing library of industrial “Lego-style” modules. Structural, motion, and control parts are fully compatible with one another, saving time typically wasted in compatibility assessment. Upon design completion, users can purchase their design directly from the 3D interface.

Meet the Judges

A distinguished panel of automation industry leaders and investors will select the competition winner. The judges will be participating in a “Fireside Chat” in the theatre on the show floor, 10:30 a.m. to noon on April 5, about their experiences in investing in robotics and automation. Andra Keay, managing director of Silicon Valley Robotics, will moderate.

Below is the list of judges:

Saman Farid, managing partner, Comet Labs

Oliver Mitchell, founding partner, Autonomy Ventures

Chris Moehle, managing director, The Robotics Hub

Steve Taub, senior director, GE Ventures

Melonee Wise, CEO, Fetch Robotics

Final Round at Automate 2017

The winner of the grand prize will be announced at the end of the competition on April 5. Automate 2017 will be held at Chicago’s McCormick Place April 3-6. Attendees may register at the following link, Prospective exhibitors can find more information on exhibition opportunities at the event website,