Wednesday, 29 November 2017 01:26

Ocado pick and pack robot arrives to conquer groceries

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Ocado Technology's pick and pack robot system has an articulated arm, vacuum cup and proprietary computer vision system that doesn't need 3D models – and works.

Ocado Technology, a division of Ocado, which says it is "the world's largest online-only supermarket", has revealed "a new robotic system capable of picking a wide range of grocery products from the 50,000 different items available on Ocado.com".

The new system uses "a proprietary computer vision system designed by the Ocado Technology robotics research team to calculate grasping points for a given item without requiring a 3D model of the object to be picked".

We're told that the robotic system "also uses a vacuum cup as the gripping device attached to the end of an articulated arm". It certainly sounds very handy!

"The arm is equipped with a pipe running to an air compressor, which is capable of lifting items regardless of their deformability and shape, as long as they are within the weight restriction and the suction cup can create an airtight seal with the item’s surface."

The system is designed to be easily integrated with the pick stations present in Ocado's highly automated Customer Fulfilment Centres — see video below — article continues thereafter.

Ocado's explanation continues, noting that "these pick stations use an assembly line system where crates of products are delivered to a picking point".

"Once the storage crates arrive at the pick station, the job of the robot system is to transfer however many items are needed from the storage crates into the delivery crates destined for the customer."

The video below shows a concept design of a robot-based pick station:



More information on how the system works can be found in Ocado's blog article.

In addition to developing in-house robotic solutions for Ocado, the Ocado Technology robotics research team remind us that it "is participating in two EU-funded Horizon 2020 research projects: SoMa, Video and SecondHands which aim to introduce a new suite of robotic grippers and grasping strategies".

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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