Amazon Picking Challenge – a peek into the autonomous future

A robotic arm combining a suction cup, a ‘two-fingered’ gripper and a 3D depth-sensing camera has won Amazon's latest warehouse bot competition. Recent improvement of robotic technology can bring interesting opportunities for logistic companies in the future.

In the Amazon Picking Challenge, one task for the robots included selecting product items from a container, picking them up and putting them on a shelf. The other task was to complete the action in reverse. Five minutes prior to the challenge, the 16 competing teams were handed out a computer file describing the product items to be picked and instructions for moving items by robots. Altogether forty different items, representing different shapes, such as soft clothing and a boxed DVD, were used for the competition. After the picking tasks began, the robots had to act autonomously. The winner of the competition was a team who managed to combine three different strategies for picking in their robot.

Amazon uses robots in their premises for moving products already today, but so far human work is required to stow product items on shelves. According to the international retailer their recent competition indicates robotic technology has developed since last year offering more and more opportunities for exploiting sophisticated artificial intelligence applications for robots in warehouse environment in the future. The challenge also showed that many different approaches can be used for solving the same tasks. In spite of the rapid development of robotic technology, the retailer’s vision is that the robots will not take over all warehouse work from humans, but robots and humans are likely to act side by side in the future.

Source: BBC News




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