Dr. Zhaopeng Chen of Agile Robots AG tells us how they bridge the gap between AI and robotics by developing systems that offer full-body force sensitivity.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Dr. Zhaopeng Chen: We are fine, thanks! We are trying to make the best out of this situation. We are looking forward to the time where the pandemic is a chapter in the history of humankind, and we all can benefit from the immediate social and cultural input of the outside world again. I hope you are doing well!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Agile Robots AG.
Dr. Zhaopeng Chen: The core team and I come from DLR (German Aerospace Center). We were involved in the groundbreaking research that is already being used successfully in the aerospace industry. These technologies should also be available to the general public and industry. We are working on this vision by offering solutions with these technologies.
How does Agile Robots AG innovate?
Dr. Zhaopeng Chen: We close the gap between AI and robotics. Therefore, we develop solutions based on state-of-the-art force-torque sensor technology and a world-leading image processing system. This innovative combination of these two technologies enables us to provide intelligent, user-friendly and affordable robotic solutions that ensure safe human-robot interaction. Our software will also be made available to be compatible to use with robots by other manufacturers.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Dr. Zhaopeng Chen: Fortunately, the pandemic did not have any effect on our business finances. In fact, we gathered new investments from our already existing investors, and we also convinced new investors of our vision. Overall, we were and are able to maintain our business running well.
By the way: We see the pandemic as an opportunity for robotic solutions to be used in possible future pandemics. For example, A robot is in charge to do the testing of infectious persons. This minimizes the risk of infection for healthcare workers.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Dr. Zhaopeng Chen: We did not encounter any difficult choices. Of course, it is always difficult to find competent and sympathetic new employees. But that is a problem that many companies have to deal with. Nevertheless, our team is growing more than ever, and we’ve welcomed many new employees despite the pandemic.
Interviews are currently done remotely because of the pandemic. We are all mostly working from home. If any colleague wants to work in our office, he is able to do so – in accordance with our anti-corona guidelines.
How did interacting with customers and business partners change for your company?
Dr. Zhaopeng Chen: Given the various travel restrictions and social distancing in times of Covid, we mostly resorted to holding meetings with customers and business partners online, which works surprisingly well. It gives us some more flexibility. Nevertheless, we are looking forward to welcoming people to our offices and meeting in person at events once it is safe again.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Dr. Zhaopeng Chen: We did not get any government grants since the pandemic does not have any serious effect on our business so far.
Your final thoughts?
Dr. Zhaopeng Chen: Let us not talk about business for the moment. Let us only hope that the pandemic will be soon history with all the vaccines that are available right now and the new ones that will be available soon. =)
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