Rwanda: Local Startup Keen on Tapping Into Robotics

Two local young entrepreneurs are venturing into unmanned technology, starting with a tray robot. The duo hopes to put their autonomous carrier on the market next year.

KwaandaLabs, a local tech startup, is testing its working prototype of a smart tray, an android-powered machine that will be used to transport items indoors without anyone pushing it around.

At its current stage of development, the robot dubbed Kwbot is operated using a specialized smartphone application.

It has the capacity to carry up to 10 kilograms and can go at a constant speed of two meters per second.

James Ndekezi, the cofounder of KwaandaLabs, says the bot can be useful in offices, hospitals, coffee shops or restaurants.

One of the unique features of Kwbot is the ability to record commands. With this function, the user drives the smart tray once and it can carry out similar tasks later on its own using the recorded instructions.

Kwbot chest is surrounded by four laser sensors. Ndekezi explained that the sensors will be used to add computer vision features which will enable the robot to detect and differentiate objects.

That way, he added, it will be easy to avoid unnecessary accidents.

The duo also wants to add a voice assistant which will allow users to operate the machine by talking to it.

“This robot is coming to change. We are in time for change, for innovating, for solving social issues,” says Israel Nishimwe, also a cofounder.

With the robot project, KwaandaLabs is currently under the Inclusive Business Solution (IBS) Rwanda programme – a technology startup incubator established by Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).

Nishimwe and Ndekezi have previously worked on high-tech projects, including a wireless charging system and smart tables.

While some of the projects won innovation prizes, the team called on investors to support the technology.

In recent years, autonomous machines are gaining worldwide attention. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the use of unmanned vehicles picked momentum as it minimizes human contact and thus limits the transmission of the virus

Rwanda particularly has deployed robots on the frontline to combat the Covid-19 outbreak. Five humanoids are being used in hospitals and at Kigali International Airport for mass coronavirus screening, delivering medication, and detecting people who are not wearing protective masks.

Outdoors, drones are used to deliver blood samples and medication, as well as to raise public awareness on the pandemic by playing pre-recorded messages loud from above.

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