Japanese tech giant Hitachi has joined forces with University of Edinburgh researchers to develop smart robots that can more quickly shift goods in warehouses or assembly lines.ore
It is hoped that the system will help increase efficiency and automation in factory operations due to businesses such as online retailers facing an increased need for orders to be automatically selected from vast ranges and volumes of stock.
If it proves a success, the system, which is based on multiple artificially intelligent components that work together, should be almost 40 per cent faster than its predecessor.
"We are delighted to see the successful results of more than two years of collaboration with the Hitachi R&D Group, Center for Technology Innovation, culminating in practical and deployable improvements in automated warehousing technology," said the University's professor for the School of Informatics, Sethu Vijayakumar.
The system works via a smart camera, which is pre-programmed with details about the goods to be moved, then scans items as they are conveyed by an automated vehicle towards a robot arm. Data collected by the camera then influences the speed of the vehicle carrying the goods, and informs how the robot arm picks up items as they pass.
The University researchers said that the system's vehicle and arm can move close to each other at optimal speeds without colliding, based on adaptive motion planning. This allows for smooth collection of items without stopping the vehicle.
"The method improves on conventional technology in which the process halts for goods to be collected," the researchers explained.
Hitachi will work towards commercialising a robot system for warehouse operations as well as developing technology to increase the speed and automation of processes.
"Our robotics lab has been at the forefront of machine learning techniques for adaptive motion planning and control of complex multi-degree of freedom robots and this provides an excellent opportunity to see this expertise used to solve real-world problems," added Vijayakumar.
It is not known exactly when Htachi will be rolling out the new system.
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