The online store Ocado wants to establish itself as one of the most up-to-date e-commerce companies with technology and has a robot to prove it. ARMAR-6, the humanoid robot was created as part of the SecondHands project of the European Commission. Now, it is being developed by the innovation wing of Ocado, called Ocado Technology, with the aim of working one day with humans in their warehouses in the United Kingdom. "The SecondHands project aims to create a robot that proactively supports our warehouse technicians," Alex Voica, head of Public Relations Technology and Communications at Ocado, told Digital Trends. "Our warehouses include state-of-the-art automation and robotics systems, and our operations engineers and technicians are tasked with ensuring that they work 24/7, 365 days a year."
The ultimate goal is for the robot to use machine learning and computer vision to scan the environment around it, and identify the tasks it could help with. "For example, if the robot observes a technician trying to change a panel and needs a set of tools, he will come and offer his assistance, either by holding the panel to the engineer or by grabbing the various tools that are needed," Voica explained. In addition to collecting objects and recognizing their surroundings, ARMAR-6 will also benefit from an Alexa-style speech recognition system, which will allow conversations between the robot and the humans it works with.
The development of the robot is being carried out with the collaboration of several educational institutions, including the robotics area of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the University College of London, the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and the University of Sapienza. At the end of the SecondHands project, the hope is that it is possible to integrate all the separate technologies of the ARMAR robot into a unified system. Afterwards, it is planned to implement it in the warehouse area of the store. And if Ocado ever branched into physical stores, we could even find this kind of robot helping buyers.