Robotic arm customization for product demos

Flexibility, portability and openness. MathWorks needed a specific kind of robotic arm, and was on a mission to partner with a robotics company that could design customizable and easy-to-program robots to showcase their engineering and scientific tools.

Eventually, their search led them to Kinova and our lightweight robotic arms. Working together and openly exchanging ideas of how they could help each other improve their respective technologies, both companies succeeded in several areas.

Read the Case Study to find out how MathWorks’ software powered Kinova’s robotic arm to perform the many complex tasks their customers required for research projects.

The challenge

Many years ago, MathWorks, a Massachusetts-based mathematical computing software company, was looking to have custom robot arms built that could be easily programmed to showcase any of their engineering and scientific tools. To accomplish this, the company wanted to establish a mutually beneficial partnership with a robotics developer that could tailor its own mechanical products to meet the needs of MathWorks’ customers — namely, researchers across academia and various industries.

Most important of all requirements was that MathWorks wanted product demos portable enough to transport to conferences and trade shows around the world. Thus, the company required an ultra-lightweight robotic arm that had the right accessors and processing platforms, as well as the right interface to perform low-level control, in order to give them complete flexibility.

Key Objective: Custom develop the necessary platform that would give MathWorks the ability to demonstrate capabilities across their entire toolchain.

The approach

During the process of trying to decide which robotic arm would best suit their needs, one of MathWorks’ engineers was initially put into contact with Kinova. Following numerous discussions between the two sides, Kinova emerged from MathWorks’ initial shortlist as the best potential solution for two key reasons:

  1. Both sides had a willingness to have an open exchange of ideas that could improve our respective technologies;
  2. MathWorks recognized the value of the network of partnerships in research fields that Kinova had already established to that point.

Once Kinova’s partnership with MathWorks was officially struck, MathWorks became an Alpha user in Kinova’s development, which officially implicated them in influencing our design to suit their needs. The reason we took this step is because MathWorks’ tools are globally renowned and used around the world.

The results

As a direct result of our continued partnership, both Kinova and MathWorks have been able to achieve success in three respects as a result of our partnership. First, Kinova’s technology was able to complete a bridge to their tools,which meant our customers could now use MathWorks’ various tools at a higher level to develop solutions. Our increased usage of their tools also allowed us to accelerate our own design process. And, finally, MathWorks became an active partner in our next-generation arm development, which contributed valuable real-time info and insight to us, and helped them figure out how they needed to adapt and improve to take advantage of that — a key to innovation that has allowed us both to benefit.

More specific to MathWorks, their involvement with Kinova allowed them opportunities into insert themselves into new conversations around technology in a meaningful way, beyond just talking in abstract terms. They’ve taken their demos to a number of conferences and trade shows over the years, and, each time, people take note of their software enabling our robot to perform very complex tasks. It has allowed them, ultimately, to showcase things they otherwise couldn’t have without a professional piece of hardware that provides flexibility and openness.