It has been a very interesting couple of weeks around here, following the news of the Robotics Business Review and RoboBusiness acquisition by WTWH Media. As I have mentioned to a few colleagues over e-mail, “We’re putting the band back together,” as I have joined former colleague Gene Demaitre and former RBR and RoboBusiness alumni Steve Crowe and Dan Kara to work on giving readers the best possible news coverage, analysis, and features in the robotics space.
There are some small and big changes ahead, but rest assured that my first priority is to do my best for the readers of Robotics Business Review and attendees of RoboBusiness. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail with any questions you may have as we move forward and upward. Now, onto this week’s news items that we couldn’t get to with regular updates…
Pepper’s bank career continues
Over in Sweden, SoftBank Robotics’ Pepper robot has started working with another social robot, named Scitos, at the Marginalen Bank. Like other banks that Pepper has worked in, the social robot works in reception to welcome and register visitors.
Scitos, which looks a lot like the Tom Servo robot from Mystery Science Theater 3000, works internally to socialize with employees, among other things. “Hiring two robots is part of our long-term AI strategy, which is about digitizing and automating different processes within the bank, thereby simplifying everyday life for customers and employees,” says Ewa Glennow, CEO of Marginalen Bank. “There are major changes happening now and there is a need to make this work more concrete by giving it not just one, but two faces – Pepper and Scitos.”
Nuro pilots autonomous grocery delivery with Walmart
Walmart announced earlier this week it was working with autonomous vehicle company Nuro in a pilot project to deliver groceries in the Houston area.
“Our unparalleled size and scale have allowed us to steer grocery delivery to the front doors of families – and design a roadmap for the future of the industry,” said Tom Ward, senior vice president of Digital Operations for Walmart U.S. “Along the way, we’ve been test-driving a number of different options for getting groceries from our stores to our customers’ front doors through self-driving technology. We believe this technology is a natural extension of our Grocery Pickup and Delivery Service, and our goal of making every day a little easier for customers.”
Nuro has lots of experience in the grocery delivery space via its self-driving vehicles, having teamed up with Kroger in Arizona. The team-up with Nuro in Houston makes sense, given the company’s pilot program with Domino’s Pizza in the city as well.
Refraction robot hits the streets of Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Refraction, creator of the REV-1 lightweight autonomous delivery robot, announced this week a food delivery service in the city. Customers within a 2.5-mile delivery zone can place lunchtime delivery orders and have them delivered by the REV-1, which is about the size of a bicycle, and operates in the bike lane and roadways. Participating restaurants include local favorites such as Miss Kim, Belly Deli, Tios Mexican Café, and Chow Asian Street Food.
While a 2.5-mile delivery zone seems small, the company said it contains almost all of Ann Arbor. “We’re thrilled to introduce this one-of-a-kind robot delivery service to the Ann Arbor community, and eventually, to more cities nationwide,” said Matt Johnson-Roberson, co-founder of Refraction. “With rainy and snowy weather just around the corner, we can’t wait to show everyone what the REV-1 is capable of. We’re all very excited to give people a taste of what’s to come in the future of food delivery.”
The three-wheeled vehicle stands 5-feet tall, is 4.5-feet long, and 30 inches wide. It weighs about 100 pounds, and can reach a speed of up to 15 mph, which the company said is fast enough to deliver in a timely manner, while having the shortest stopping distance of any autonomous vehicle on the road. The inside of the vehicle holds 16 cubic feet, which can hold about four to five food delivery bags.
Head here if you live in Ann Arbor and are interested in participating in the pilot.
German shoe manufacturer teams with Magazino
It makes sense that if your mobile picking robot is really good at grabbing shoeboxes, you would team up with a shoe manufacturer and retailer to support fulfillment operations. That is exactly what Magazino did, as the German company announced a deal with LLOYD Shoes GmbH.
The company’s TORU robots will support employees in picking and stowing shoes in LLOYD’s dispatch warehouse in Sulingen, Germany. “We are convinced that Magazino robots are an important component for a flexible, scalable automation of our warehouse processes and help us to reflect the growth in e-commerce and above all, to support our employees,” said Stephan Weigmann, a project manager at LLOYD.
Magazino’s TORU robots are also running at customers sites in Germany and Europe, including logistics service provider FIEGE Logistics, and online platform Zalando. The company said both companies have recently “significantly increased their robot fleet.”
NIOSH partners with NSF and NASA to fund cobot research
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has teamed up with the National Science Foudnation (NSF), as well as NASA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to make funding available to study collaborative robots, or cobots, in the workplace.
Using the term “co-robot”, the NSF defines the technology as a robot whose main purpose is to work with people or other robots to accomplish a goal.
Through the initiative, NIOSH said it seeks to fund research on co-robots for reducing workplace risk exposures, research to identify the potential risks of cobots to workers, and research to evaluate various control strategies to protect workers. Research projects, which can range from $85,000 to $250,000 per year for up to three years, should address industry sectors likely to deploy and benefit from co-robots, including agriculture, construction, healthcare, and mining.
The deadline to apply for funding is Feb. 26, 2020, at 5 p.m. in the submitter’s local time zone. For more details, read the NSF’s program announcement.