A Dutch robotics team won $50,000 from Amazon, for their robot arm, that’s capable of picking up items and stacking shelves.
In a contest held in Germany, 16 engineering teams from around the world battled in order to impress Amazon with their robotic chops. The task? Have your robot select items from a bin, pick them up, set them on a shelf. Then do it again in reverse.
While that might sound trivial for us upright-standing, opposable-thumb-having apes, identifying specific items and gently moving them around can be quite a challenge for our mechanical inventions. But our robotic soon-to-be overlords are learning fast, as this year’s Dutch champions showed.
Using a combination of systems, including a suction cup, a “two-fingered” gripper and a depth-sensing camera, the team’s robot arm was capable of almost perfectly moving objects around. Being able to handle different shapes, materials and sizes is perhaps the most challenging aspect of the competition, but by using the systems mentioned above Team Delft secured victory.
As for the use of such a robot, well that’s easily predictable, as Amazon Robotics’ chief technologist explained:
Our vision is humans and robots working shoulder to shoulder. It was inspiring to see 16 top teams with so many different approaches to the same problem, and we also saw the advancements robotic technology has made since last year.
So far Amazon employs robots to move entire shelves around its warehouses, while still relying on humans to pick up individual items. With this technology, the commerce giant will get one step closer to having a fully automated system.