The SHADOW Robot Company Ltd

The Shadow Robot Company is Britain’s longest-running robot company (winners of the Queen’s Awards 2019 under Innovation) and is experts at grasping and manipulation for robotic hands. Their Madrid office is a wholly owned subsidiary of Shadow UK known as Shadow Robot Company España.

Shadow has worked with companies and researchers all over the world, looking at new ways to apply robotics technologies to automate industry-specific areas and/or solve real problems. They develop and sell the Dexterous Hand, recently used to advance research into AI and machine learning (having won the AIconics Award for best innovation in AI hardware 2019). Shadow’s Dexterous Hand is designed to be as close as possible to the human hand, with 20 degrees of freedom and a total of 129 sensors. It’s the most human-like hand in the world, unmatched in the dexterity and manipulation capabilities by other robotic hand companies.

The company is also a pioneer in the fast-developing fields of teleoperation and telepresence with their tactile telerobot (the world’s first haptic telerobot hand), where the Shadow Hand is combined with sensors and controlled via a haptic glove for touch feedback. Shadow’s technology is designed to take human operators out of harmful situations – such as nuclear decommissioning and bomb disposal.  It allows operators to remotely perform complex manipulation and handling tasks and keep work safe for humans and products safe from humans.

The tech is also being developed for space as part of the AVATAR X programme resulting from work with ANA, making it their third collaboration with a space agency, with the first two being NASA and ESA (European Space Agency).

Another product proving success in manufacturing settings is Shadow’s Modular Grasper. It has been tested on customer problems since 2017 and was designed specifically for industry-use by their talented engineers as an intelligent, affordable, robust and reliable platform for automation. Using the Modular Grasper, work around path planning, fresh produce handling and vision have continued in the UK national projects iGrasp, iPlanR and Robo-Pack and the EU projects COROMA and IQONIC.

The Shadow team brings a variety of skills to bear ranging from deeply-embedded microcontroller systems through to design of advanced sensors and mechanical assemblies.  Shadow develops advanced prototypes and carefully crafts each robotic system per order providing help and support. They have expert knowledge and network of partners accumulated over their 21 years of operation along with insights and experience to help elevate projects and drive results. Since their conception, they have been involved in many Innovate UK and European research projects (FP7 and H2020) as researcher, developer and end-user.

Involvement in MERGING

Shadow will manage the overall development of the technical specifications for the use cases in T2.3, and support the development of the systems architecture in T2.4 based on extensive experience in a range of European and national collaborative projects.

In WP3, Shadow will draw on 20+ years of experience developing innovative dexterous grasping and manipulation systems, as well as the huge amount of background IP and know-how embedded in the Shadow Dexterous Hand Plus and the Shadow Modular Grasper, to drive the development of the new gripper (T3.2) and the integration of the new EA skin (T3.3). Shadow has worked in a range of projects integrating prototype flexible electronics and other sensors, and the key team members of expert engineers are all available for this development. Shadow’s experience in grasping and manipulation control algorithms in projects like HANDLE, iGRASP, COROMA, RAMCIP will provide a solid starting point for the work in T3.4 on grasping control algorithms. Finally, Shadow has extensive internal facilities for the test and evaluation of prototype grippers that will be put at the disposal of T3.5.

In WP5 Shadow brings experience of the use of a wide range of vision and perception systems for grasping and manipulation, along with real-world challenges where these techniques succeed and fail. Test harnesses and platforms will simplify evaluation and delivery of the new algorithms.

Shadow has been developing using the ROS open source platform since 2007 (for a delivery to Willow Garage of the first “motor-driven” version of the Dexterous Hand) and has significant experience of how to integrate disparate hardware systems, proven as the integration partner in the FP7 project STIFF-FLOP amongst others, that will support the communication and systems work of WP6.

In WP7, Shadow brings 21 years’ experience constructing complex prototype robots – like the “Moley Robotic Kitchen” in short order and with great success to deliver challenging innovation rapidly and to budget. This combination of project management and hardware development expertise should mitigate significantly the traditional risks of hardware integration in research projects.

Shadow has supported or been the end user of research project outputs in projects like HANDLE, TACO, PV-SERVITOR, ATLASS, RAMCIP and COROMA, and so will support the WP8 demonstrations as they are developed and operated, both on-site and remotely, to ensure that the project partners optimise “experiment time” over “development time”.

Finally, for WP9 Shadow has a team experienced in taking robot hardware to events, promoting project activities and communicating project results to the wider audience as well as making sure that technical partners can demonstrate their work with a minimum of difficulty.

SHADOW UK stopped working on the project at the end of January 2022. Related activities for the release of an EA enhanced gripper for the MERGING project will be performed by OMNIGRASP.