NASA's interest in this technology stems from Subtopic: S4.02 Robotic Mobility, Manipulation and Sampling, which states: "Technologies for robotic mobility, manipulation, and sampling are needed to enable access to sites of interest and acquisition and handling of samples for in-situ analysis or return to Earth from planetary and solar system small bodies including Mars, Venus, comets, asteroids, and planetary moons
Manipulation technologies are needed to enable deployment of sampling tools and handling of samples." Of specific interest is the ISS Remote Inspection System (IRIS) being developed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL, 2015). This system utilizes gecko-inspired adhesive feet to anchor to the micro-gravity environment of the ISS. The development of the ESG gripper would result in a significant performance increase in the adhesion of the "feet" in a low-cost, low-energy package. Furthermore, NASA has identified the SPHERES program as a technology platform to utilize electrostatic, gecko-based, or combination thereof for gripping surfaces in such free-flyers. While there is a wide range of potential applications for adhesive gripping solutions in industrial automation, we have identified solar panels and glass manufacturing as the primary target markets due to the relatively versatile and expansive reach of these industries as well as the high level of interest expressed in our solution. Other potential markets include aerospace and automobile manufacturing, packaging and warehousing, hazardous materials handling, palletizing applications, and medical device manufacturing. We will also validate our work at the Amazon Picking Challenge in 2016 to attract the interest of Amazon for pick-and-place tasks: http://amazonpickingchallenge.org/ We have explored and evaluated alternative target markets through 60+ first-hand discussions with 12 different customers/partners in the industrial automation value chain, as well as used secondary market research reports. We have interviewed representatives of robotics companies (Kawasaki, Fanuc, Denso), systems integrators (Comau, Delta Tau), gripper suppliers (Schunk, Robotiq, Barrett, Magswitch), other component suppliers (Cognex), and end-user manufacturers (DelWest). Our first two customers are Kawasaki Robotics USA (robot manufacturer/ integrator) and Magswitch (gripper manufacturer looking to expand its business beyond ferrous material handling).