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Robot packers

Ocado, the online grocery retailer, is testing a robotic hand that can pick and pack fruit and vegetables [2]. Ocado already uses a variety of robots in its operations, but the variation in shape and fragile nature of fruit and vegetables mean that they have been susceptible to damage or bruising when handled by existing robots.

The company has tested the RBO Hand 2 developed by the Technische Universitat in Berlin with two different robotic arms: the LBR iiwa14, an ‘intelligent industrial work assistant’ designed by German robotics firm Kuka to work closely with humans, and the Staubli RX160L, an industrial robot designed for ‘harsh environments.

Ocado is also using machine learning and 3D ‘computer vision’ to create its own robotic hand with the ability to grab a range of tricky objects including eggs, glass bottles and household cleaning products, such as bleach, that could be hazardous if spilled. It is trying to train the hand to recognise when fruit is ripe or mouldy. The aim is to be able to deal with a wide range of objects.

Another Ocado development project is a humanoid robot, SecondHands, which uses machine learning to provide assistance to human technicians carrying out warehouse maintenance tasks. The company has already been able to increase the productivity of its staff by 50% by improving the systems that bring goods to packers.




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