TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics 2018 took place on May 11 in the University of California in Berkeley, one of the leading universities in the field of robotics. This year, the conference revolved around such topics as AI, bio-inspired design, cloud robotics and self-driving vehicles. Experts had an opportunity to talk about new startups and the latest trends in this area, as well as discuss how robots affect our society.

Developments from the British technology company TRA Robotics aroused great interest among the participants. TRA Robotics creates fully robotic factories that can be controlled and scaled automatically. The company and ITMO University have already launched several joint projects as part of their collaboration agreement signed in December 2017.

Their first project presented by TRA Robotics together with ITMO University was a universal grasping device, created by ITMO’s scientists Ivan and Oleg Borisov, Vladislav Gromov and Sergey Vlasov together with Sergey Kolyubin, head of the Department of Mechatronics. The main purpose of the device is to manipulate objects of various forms, size and weight. As a rule, all industrial grippers are designed to work with particular objects, while ITMO’s system can work with all kinds of objects. What makes this device special is that it has two working modes: for small objects and for bigger ones.

Another one of ITMO University’s projects was aimed at developing an algorithm of sensorless force/torque regulation for robotic arms. Force/ torque control of robot manipulators allows manufacturers to control the force of their interaction with the external environment. For example, this might be handy when mechanically manufacturing some details, as it allows manufacturers to achieve a high quality of the product without damaging the tool. Special sensors are widely used for force/ torque control, but the problem with these sensors is that they are very expensive. The developers propose replacing them with a smart software. When working on this project, ITMO University’s team headed by Anton Pyrkin, Dean of the Faculty of Control Systems and Industrial Robotics, conducted a series of experiments and came up with a software that can be used for force/ torque control of KUKA Company’s robots. The results of this research were presented at this year’s TechCrunch conference.


The collaboration between ITMO University and TRA Robotics Company takes place in several stages. So far, they have already developed and tested their algorithm of sensorless force/torque regulation for robotic arms and designed two versions of the grasping device. They are now working on improving the device’s properties and widening the field of its application.

To learn more about the projects presented at the conference, watch the video below.