SecondHands Project Unveils Robot Prototype for Ocado’s Warehouses

January 11, 2018      

Today, the SecondHands project presented the first prototype of its collaborative robot. The cobot which will act as the main platform for testing and developing new technologies related to the maintenance and repair of automation equipment in Ocado’s highly automated warehouses.

U.K.-based Ocado Technology said it is the world’s largest online-only supermarket. It delivers more than 260,000 customer orders per week using a network of automated facilities called Customer Fulfillment Centers (CFCs).

SecondHands is an EU-funded Horizon 2020 project aiming to design a cobot that can proactively offer support to maintenance technicians working in Ocado’s CFCs.

This robot is intended to be a second pair of hands that will assist technicians when they are in need of help. It will learn through observation and will augment the humans’ capabilities by completing tasks that require a level of precision or physical strength that are not available to human workers.

Partners join hands for robotics research

The SecondHands project combines the skills of world class researchers focusing on a real-world industrial use case to deliver:

  • the design of a new robotic assistant
  • a knowledge base to facilitate proactive help
  • a high degree of human-robot interaction
  • advanced perception skills to function in a highly dynamic industrial environment
The SecondHands project's latest prototype

SecondHands is intended to work alongside people.

Ocado’s research partners include École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Sapienza Università di Roma, and University College London (UCL). Together, they are working to advance the technology readiness of areas such as computer vision and cognition, human-robot interaction, mechatronics, and perception. The researchers want to ultimately demonstrate how versatile and productive human-robot collaboration can be in practice.

Here is a summary of the research contributions for each of the SecondHand project partners:

  • EPFL: human-robot physical interaction with bi-manipulation, including action skills learning
  • KIT (H²T): Development of the ARMAR-6 robot including its entire mechatronics, software operating system and control as well as robot grasping and manipulation skills.
  • KIT (Interactive Systems Lab, ISL): the spoken dialog management system
  • Sapienza University of Rome: visual scene perception with human action recognition, cognitive decision making, task planning and execution with continuous monitoring
  • UCL: computer vision techniques for 3D human pose estimation and semantic 3D reconstruction of dynamic scenes
  • Ocado Technology: integration of researched functionality on the robot platform and evaluation in real-world demonstrations


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