Maintenance technicians with the online grocery supplier, Ocado, have a new intern at their Ecommerce fulfillment centres. Human staff have begun testing the first prototype of a collaborative robot, called a cobot, which has been designed to learn through observation and then help them with heavy lifting and high-precision equipment repairs in the automated facilities.
Based in the United Kingdom, the company is working with researchers from universities in France, Germany, Italy and the UK on the SecondHands project to develop and demonstrate real-world applications for robotics. The cobot is an advancement from the earlier generation of industrial robots that now commonly perform repetitive tasks in large factories. Its computer vision, cognition and mechatronics provide perception and manipulation skills to enable interaction with humans and to respond knowledgeably and proactively when assistance is required.
The prototype’s pilot internship with Ocado is part of projected 15 per cent worldwide growth in industrial robot installations for 2018. Ocado currently delivers more than 260,000 customer orders weekly through its network of automated warehouse and fulfillment centres.
SecondHands receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program, which will allocate nearly €80 billion (CAD $120 billion) between 2014 and 2020 to support and augment research and innovation aimed at improving Europe’s global competitiveness.