The robots developed today are a bit far from what we see in science fiction movies. But exciting developments continue to take place every day. With a project developed by Ocado Technology, robots can go one step further than following orders, guess what you need and run for your help. Of course, robot assistants need to watch you for a while with the advanced camera and artificial intelligence system before doing this.
Thomas Roszak was working as a maintenance technician at Ocado’s giant warehouse in Hatfield when he received a very unusual assignment. His regular job involved repairing and maintaining the online supermarket’s automated sorting and packing system, which puts together grocery orders from customers.
The fact that he had to lift heavy equipment frequently while doing these maintenance meant that a robot would be very useful. The robot developed to help Thomas started to follow him by constantly walking around. In this way, by learning his needs, the artificial intelligence would understand what activity he was doing and robot assistants would proactively be able to offer the right help at the right time.
The goal was to build a collaborative robot, based on the ARMAR-6 robot, developed at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany. The project ended on 4 May and, while the robot is still a long way from becoming a regular feature in workplaces, the researchers feel they have made important progress.
Prof Tamim Asfour from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology says that 80% of the robot’s skills are really learned by watching people. What is important at this point is that the robot self-training with machine learning is much faster than programming it. Another advantage offered by self-learning robots is that it is safer. Robots used in industry today have to be quite powerful. Many work behind a cage to control this power. If a robot that constantly monitors human movements, it may not have to work behind the cage, as it can learn how to move.