Ocado heads up collaborative robot project

Ocado is part of the EU-wide development of an autonomous humanoid robot. This will use artificial intelligence, machine learning and advanced vision systems to understand what human workers want and offer assistance with difficult maintenance jobs. “The ultimate aim is for humans to end up relying on collaborative robots because they have become an active participant in their daily tasks,” says Dr Graham Deacon, robotics research team leader at Ocado Technology. “In essence the SecondHands robot will know what to do, when to do it and how to do it in a manner that a human can depend on.”

The initiative, which will span five years, is part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme. As coordinator of the project, Ocado Technology will work alongside University College London, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, La Sapienza University of Rome and Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne. The technology firm, which powers Ocado.com, will build a special testing facility in Hatfield where the robot will be subjected to real-world trials.

In addition, it is also working on a second, complementary, Horizon 2020 project: ΣΩMA (pronounced “SOMA”) will see the firm partner with a number of universities to explore new ways for robots to physically interact with their environment. It is hoped this will create a groundbreaking robotic hand which can be used in conjunction with SecondHands.Emulating a human hand, the robotic gripper will know when to grasp softly - such as when picking an apple - or to grip more tightly, such as when lifting a bottle of water.

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