Ocado to wheel out C3PO-style robot to lend a hand at warehouses

Ocado to wheel out C3PO-style robot to lend a hand at warehouses

SHARE


Ocado is to test a humanoid maintenance assistant in its warehouses, in the online grocery specialist’s latest move to reduce reliance on human workers.

Artificial Intelligence has various definitions, but in general it means a program that uses data to build a model of some aspect of the world. This model is then used to make informed decisions and predictions about future events. The technology is used widely, to provide speech and face recognition, language translation, and personal recommendations on music, film and shopping sites. In the future, it could deliver driverless cars, smart personal assistants, and intelligent energy grids. AI has the potential to make organisations more effective and efficient, but the technology raises serious issues of ethics, governance, privacy and law.

The SecondHands robot prototype, which resembles a cousin of Star Wars’ C3P0 with a wheeled platform instead of legs, is designed to assist engineers looking after the company’s handling systems. The aim is to use artificial intelligence to predict the technician’s needs and hand them tools or move ladders or bolts.

The robot and its operational software, including speech recognition, were developed at the Institute for Anthropomatics and Robotics at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), in southern Germany. Ocado is also working with researchers at University College London, the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and Sapienza University in Rome on systems that can recognise and interpret human actions and decide how to help.

Graham Deacon, robotics research team leader at Ocado, said the aim was to develop a robot that could help without prompting in “a fluid and natural interaction between robot and technician”.

Ocado’s almost C3PO-style robot SecondHands lends a helping hand.



Ocado’s almost C3PO-style robot SecondHands lends a helping hand. Photograph: Ocado

Ocado, which delivers groceries for Waitrose and Morrisons, has invested millions of pounds in developing technology to manage home deliveries for global grocery retailers. In November, it signed its first big international contract to develop a robotic warehouse for the French supermarket Groupe Casino.

Its newest warehouse in Andover, Hampshire, uses hundreds of battery-powered robots to shift boxes of groceries stored in a giant grid.

The group is also developing packing robots that can grasp many types of products, from potentially dangerous bottles of bleach to fragile avocados and eggs.

Retailers have used automated warehouse systems for years but the involvement of robots is expected to step up dramatically as technology gets smarter and labour costs rise.

Last year, a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers said more than 10 million workers in the UK were at risk of having their jobs rendered obsolete by automation in the next 15 years, About 2.25 million of them work in retail and distribution.

Follow Guardian Business on Twitter at @BusinessDesk, or sign up to the daily Business Today email here.

Items of Ocado stock being picked by robotic crane.



Items of Ocado stock being picked by robotic crane. Photograph: Ben Quinton for the Guardian



Source link

NO COMMENTS

LEAVE A REPLY