(Oct 23): The local stock exchange does not currently have many listed robotics plays. But that may change over time as a crop of home-grown start-ups make technological progress.

Among the biggest local names is engineering firm HOPE Technik. Peter Ho, a former motorsports engineer, started the company with some university mates. HOPE Technik is probably best known for the Red Rhino mini fire engines it designed for the Singapore Civil Defence Force. What is perhaps less known is that its autonomous industrial robots are today used in a local hospital and factories in Singapore, China and Taiwan.

Ho’s robots — which consist of a square base with a robotic arm on top — are capable of doing tasks unaided in a manufacturing plant. For instance, they can retrieve items kept on shelves and load parts into machinery. The robots use computer vision to guide their paths and can generally avoid obstacles thrown in front of them. According to Michael Leong, who heads the industrial robotics arm of HOPE Technik called SESTO Robotics, the robots can travel 40km a day, carrying loads of up to 500kg daily. For some factory operations, these robots may be able to run the entire thing without human employees. The price for one robot is about the annual salary of two to three factory workers.

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