Devices that operate at the intersection of robotics, AI and ML have been developed in international corporate and university labs for several years. The fruit of this labor is rapidly becoming available to everyone. Here are some really exciting examples of AI enabled robots.
Picking strawberries has always been a miserable job for humans. Unless they’re grown using hydroponics in a greenhouse, they grow on low lying plants at about ankle level. People who harvest them pretty much need to get on their hands and knees to do their job. After hours of this, it becomes seriously back breaking work.
Spanish company Agrobot, which is located a few kilometers west of Seville, has developed an intelligent harvesting robot. Its E-series robot can drive itself out into strawberry fields. Its wheels are spaced to drive the rows of strawberry plants. It has 24 independent “arms,” each of which are equipped with advanced vision detection capabilities. The arms can literally see the strawberries and discern them from leaves or branches on the plants. The arms also can determine the exact location on which to grip each strawberry so they do not damage the fruit.
This technology has the potential to save many people back aches and simultaneously improve the productivity of many strawberry farms all over the world. This is a nice example of how combining trained, intelligent, artificial vision systems with robots is a big win for everyone involved.
Piaggio, the Italian company that brought us the iconic Vespa scooters and Moto Guzzi motorcycles, may have been founded nearly a century and a half ago, but it’s a leader in bringing novel and innovative AI enabled robotics to market.
In 2015, Piaggio spun off a small subsidiary called Piaggio Fast Forward with the charter to develop new technology that “helps people move.” The company notably brought together a diverse team with both deep technical knowledge and people with a rich background in the humanities.
The big result of its labor thus far are the Gita and Kilo. These are intelligent autonomous vehicles designed to help people. They look like little droids similar to something from the movie Star Wars, but in bright colors. Through machine learning, the little robots learn to recognize their users and will literally follow them around like puppy dogs. Both Gita and Kilo have several liters of cargo space and can carry your groceries, packages, or whatever you might need them to carry.
This may seem like a small help, but the benefits are further reaching than they appear. For people who live in cities, they’re often required to drive short distances to pick up life’s necessities. This contributes to traffic and disproportionately to carbon dioxide emissions, since cold engines emit more pollution than warm ones.
By giving people a way to transport their groceries, packages, dry cleaning, etc. that doesn’t require them to carry heavy loads, they can go about their daily duties without using a car. Of course, this is only possible when you can produce a sufficiently intelligent robot. That means healthier people and a healthier environment.
A more industrial version of Gita has been developed by the company Robust AI. One of the founders of Robust AI is Rodney Brooks, who was also the principal founder of iRobot.
The Carter robot is the next greatest evolution of warehouse robots. It has vision capabilities and can recognize the people it works with and take commands from these people. It can also follow people around based on verbal commands and “see” obstacles in its path. As necessary, it will alter its path to avoid collisions.
There are many exciting new applications at the intersection of AI and robotics. Applications like these and others will build on one another to accomplish even more impressive robotics. While there will be plenty of new companies piling into this growth industry, long-term growth investors need to understand this MegaTrend over the long haul.
In every industry, whenever there’s a sea change, small innovators eventually make way to bigger players that have the size to not only build the robots, but put them to work in their factories, warehouses, or offices.
For now, it’s exciting to watch the growth and monitor the players.
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