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8 Companies Leading the Charge for Commercial-Use Robotics From agriculture to healthcare, these innovative companies are creating robots that have the potential to change lives.

By Jennifer Wang

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

"It's not easy to commercialize robots," says Steve DiAntonio, director of business development at the National Robotics Engineering Center, an operating unit within Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute in Pittsburgh. "You have to find an application that is going to be very valuable to really return the investment well." Here are some robots with a good shot
at doing just that.

Blue River Technology


Company: Blue River Technology in Mountain View, Calif., has raised more than $3 million to develop a robot that addresses the No. 1 problem in agriculture: eliminating weeds without adding herbicideas to food crops, genetically modifying the seeds or resorting to manual removal. "The majority of crop-yield increases have been about weed control," explains co-founder and CEO Jorge Heraud. The 2-year-old company, which has 10 employees, will deploy its first machines this year on California lettuce crops.

Robot: Thanks to advances in computer vision and spray technology, Blue River's robot provides an alternative to GM crops or blanketing a field with herbicides. Pulled behind a tractor, the robot incorporates a camera that looks down at the field. Images are processed in milliseconds; the robot determines whether a plant is a crop or a weed and sprays only the latter.

Impact: It's better for health, the environment and farmers' margins, and could lead to more affordable food for consumers. And the technology has the potential to disrupt the market for all pesticides--worth roughly $25 billion, according to market publisher SBI--and biotech crops, worth $13.3 billion, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications.

A Briggo coffee kiosk
A Briggo coffee kiosk

Food Service

Company: Austin-based Briggo has automated the process of making a barista-brewed cup of coffee. At press time, a prototype in operation at the University of Texas, Austin, was due to be upgraded with the official commercial model. The company raised $3.2 million last year and plans to push test kiosks at hospitals, airports and corporate campuses.

Robot: Company founder Charles Studor hired champion barista Patrick Pierce to serve as the model for his "robotic barista." Behind the walls of a kiosk, a robotic mechanism grinds coffee to order, using a real tamper and stable water temperature to make precise shots of espresso, as well as a steam wand that mimics the precise angle used by Pierce. The machine can handle a high level of customization and can make multiple drinks at once. "This is the most complex coffee machine on the planet," Studor says. "It replicates what champion baristas do every time they try to make their best shot."

Impact: Consumers get 24/7 access to gourmet coffee drinks. Briggo gets a piece of the colossal $32 billion coffee market, as estimated by the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

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