Auckland Start-up PowerON Raises Millions for “Smart Elastic” Technology that gives Robotic Structures the Ability to Feel

September 17, 2021

Start-up robotics and interface technology company PowerON recently closed on $3.1 million in funding from both new and existing investors, to go towards new technologies that allow robots and robotic structures a sense of touch. Formed in 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand, the company is confident in their ability to revolutionise the Robotics industry by focussing on soft, multi-functional systems. PowerON plans to reach their goal through the development and application of Dielectric elastomers to build the market for TouchDetect – an artificial fingertip that will allow fitted robots to have a true sense of touch – something that has, until now, been distinctly biological.

PowerON has listed new technologies that will use Dielectric elastomers as foundations for advanced, lifelike robotic systems. New technologies are identified as:

  • Actuation: Dielectric elastomers can be used as soft actuators; so-called artificial muscles.
  • Sensing: Dielectric elastomers can be used as soft sensors for strain pressure and touch.
  • Switching: Dielectric elastomers can directly switch voltage on and off by mechanical deformation.
  • Signal Processing: Dielectric elastomers can directly be used to process signals in soft structures.
  • Energy Harvesting: Dielectric elastomers can be used to harvest energy. The compliant structures can transform mechanical work into electrical charge.
  • Structure: Dielectric elastomers do not rely on stiff semiconductor electronics. They entirely consist of different carbon molecules and soft polymers.

The company stands by their technology and says it has the potential to not only change the robotics industry, but revolutionise the structure, operation, and application of all physical and digital industries.

“Soft, friendly, lifelike robots with a sense of touch can more naturally interact with users and their environment. Power ON’s proprietary technology opens up new products and applications, not only in robotics, but in automation, e-commerce, agritech, medical, and more.

We see a future where everyone makes use of intelligent robots and soft devices in daily life, at work and at home; where physicians, physiotherapists, and nurses can train with life-like models of the human body; where prosthetics don’t hurt after an entire day of wear and feel like natural limbs; …

Yes- that sounds like science fiction. But at PowerON we are working hard on the foundational technology to realise this soon.”

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