Kitchener's Clearpath Robotics marks 5th birthday with Twitter robot

Kitchener's Clearpath Robotics celebrates 5th anniversary with robot that can be controlled through tweeting. The company recently built its 1000th robot in May.

Kitchener's Clearpath Robotics  counts the Canadian Space Agency and the Department of National Defence among its clients, plans to add more employees over the next eight months and has recently built its 1,000th robot, no small feat for a company that is now marking its fifth anniversary this June.

"It was a bit of landmark for us, especially as we approached our five-year anniversary," said Meghan Hennessey, the communications coordinator for Clearpath Robotics. "It's a lot of robots."

To celebrate five years, engineer Ilia Baranov modified a robot so that Twitter users can control its movements through their tweets. (To watch the robot in action, watch the live video feed at the top of the page. Instructions on how to move the robot are below.)

The company was founded in 2009 by four grads from the University of Waterloo's mechatronics engineering program. Currently, the company lists nine different robots on its website, including unmanned ground and aerial vehicles, an unmanned robotic boat, and lab devices like a robotic arm and a haptic controller. 

Clearpath Robotics currently employs 50 people and six co-op students, and is planning to grow to 65 employees.  The move to a bigger space was needed - the company assembles the robots in Kitchener. 

Hennessey says the company will launch a new kind of robot vehicle in August or September and has just launched a new division for custom services. 

"We are starting to work with larger conglomerates within mining, military and agricultural divisions," said Hennessey.

"So we could design both the hardware and the software, or just the software or perhaps just help them out with the design elements of it," she said, adding she couldn't expand on the exact nature of the work due to confidentially.

Robots popular with space researchers

The Husky unmanned ground vehicle, created by Kitchener`s Clearpath Robotics. The Husky is being used in research by the Canadian Space Agency and the University of Toronto. (Clearpath Robotics)

The company's flagship robot, the Husky unmanned ground vehicle, has proved to be popular with space and aeronautics groups. 

“The Canadian Space Agency, with the University of Toronto, is using our robots right now to do some next generation Mars rover testing,” said Hennessey.

The Husky is also part of NASA’s HI-SEAS program in Hawaii, a simulation of long Mars missions. Astronauts are able to work through problems like how to prepare food so the crew doesn't get sick of eating the same thing. 

Clearpath has also done some preliminary testing to integrate their robots with another Kitchener company's device, Thalmic's Myo armband. Users put on the Myo armband just below the elbow, and can control electronics, thanks to the armband's ability to detect electrical signals in muscle movements. 

How to move the robot

To get the robot to move, tweet @ClearpathRobotics, use the hashtag #moverobot, and give the robot a command, such as "forward" or "backward", "left" or "right" to move it. The lights on the robot can also be changed by tweeting a colour. 

"I got one that actually said, “Make it twerk” which I thought was hilarious. Who knows, that might pop up in the next couple days," said Hennessey.

The robot will be controllable online until the end of June.