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Meet KATIA, a robotic arm that wants to do it all

It's cheap-ish, it's versatile and it has a great name.

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Some people very strongly believe that robots will eventually replace humans in the workforce. Those people probably wouldn't like KATIA, a surprisingly versatile robot arm we just met here at CES. Carbon Robotics founders Rosanna Myers and Dan Corkum managed to build an industrial-grade robotic arm that, ahem, won't cost you an arm or a leg. Seriously, they're aiming to sell KATIA for a relatively paltry $1,999 starting this March.

Gallery: KATIA robot arm hands-on | 8 Photos

Before you get worked up about KATIA's skeletal appearance up there, don't. There's normally a handsome enclosure wrapped around the arm, but the team's in the middle of developing a new one with a sensory component that can help the arm detect things — and people — that come into close range. That sort of extensibility is really what KATIA is all about. The team only had the arm's gripping "hand" to check out on the show floor, but they've already developed a handful of neat add-on "hands" that ones with 3D scanners or laser cutters. And more importantly, you don't even need to be that fluent in code to make it work — you can apparently teach KATIA new movements and motion patterns by just moving the arm around with your hands. The team even built an app that would make KATIA squeeze icing onto a cake in a design of their choosing. Why? Progress. Or, you know, to demonstrate how the arm could be adapted to fit any number of random scenarios without much extra work.

So yes, KATIA is supposedly super easy to use. More importantly, it can carry payloads as heavy as 1 kilogram, and move them around within a 1 meter radius with sub-millimeter precision. That makes the arm a natural fit for production line work; Myers says that very same manufacturing partners in China helping produce the thing have also expressed interest in buying them. We haven't gotten to spend much time with KATIA, but the founding team's chops and the interest from notable outsiders mean there's a surprisingly decent shot that this arm will find a home in consumers' arms pretty soon.

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