February 7, 2019
Robots are a familiar presence in many manufacturing and industrial applications, performing tasks such as picking and sorting items and making welds on materials. While most robotic tasks are meticulously programmed by humans, nowadays robots increasingly incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that enable them to make decisions and take on a more collaborative approach with humans in many tasks. What follows are several examples where complimentary technology is enabling industrial robots to take on more sophisticated tasks.
Autonomous vehicles have caught much of the industry’s attention. But autonomous technology is also allowing standard material handling vehicles to become “driverless” and operate directly with humans, adapting their behaviors accordingly based on their surroundings. One company doing work in this area is Vecna Robotics, Cambridge, Mass.
Dan Patt, CEO of Vecna Robotics, served as the deputy director for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Strategic Technology Office where he became increasingly interested in working directly with high-tech systems and robotics. “My experiences at DARPA made me think about why we have, and how we use, technology like drones, robots, and AI. At its essence, all this technology is designed to help people be more productive and lead more fulfilling lives.”
“The technology we are developing at Vecna puts us on the brink of what I believe will be the leading edge of the next industrial revolution,” says Patt. “We focus on robotic vehicles that are used in the material handling industry and are developing solutions that utilize robots to perform mundane tasks to free people up for more fulfilling positions. Many of our current customers are recognized names in the shipping and logistics industry, including FedEx.”
Patt adds, “When working with a customer we look at their facilities, what they are currently doing, what they are moving and where, what types of vehicles they use, and importantly, we also consider their future needs. After that assessment, we choose the vehicle leader that is right for them. We source the type of vehicle needed to fit the application. It could be a forklift, pallet, tugger, or any other warehouse vehicle, and then we add our self-driving technology to it.”
Read the entire article at ECN.