The Basics of Autonomous Mobile Robots

 

[Slide title: I, Robot]

The word Robot was first used in a Czechoslovakian play in the 1920s to describe automated workers.  Since then it has become the universal descriptor for any hardware or software that attempts to automate work tasks. We’ve come a long way since then!

Industrial robots have been in use for decades in factories. Most of us are familiar with scenes of robot arms welding or assembling products. But these early industrial robots were neither mobile nor autonomous.

These robots are precisely programmed with discrete movement instructions, so they have no real autonomy over how to perform their tasks. They are fixed to a position or a physical trackway.  While they may move, they have no navigation capabilities.

Giving them autonomy and mobility has changed the materials handling business forever.

Slide title: The Vision Thing

The first thing an autonomous robot need is a vision. It needs to ‘see’ its environment in order to navigate and react to changes. Vision systems are built by combining cameras and LIDAR.

There have been advances in the capabilities and cost of these enabling technologies, as well as the software ‘smarts’ that control them and the networking that enables communication.

Cameras see physical objects in the path of the robot and use this for navigation and positioning.  LIDAR bounces laser light off the environment to detect any obstacles in the robot’s physical space. The vision system lets each robot know exactly where it is in relation to a map of its work environment. Vision allows the robot to carry out its task while flexibly reacting to the presence of people and obstacles.

Slide title: The Right Moves

Traditional industrial robots were immobile, fixed in one place and ‘dumb’.

When we combine robot being able to see its environment with the ability to move around freely and safely within that environment, we have arrived at the modern generation of autonomous mobile robots.

Slide title: Working Side-by-Side

Why do you care about robots that are built for autonomy and mobility? Because that combination gives us workflows that are more efficient, intelligent, flexible and cost effective.

Autonomous robots let us automate new workflows that previously could not be automated. Because they operate independently, it’s easy to flex the number of robots up or down when the workflow varies, and move robots to other tasks or areas as needed.

Most importantly, autonomy opens up a great leap forward in materials handling: smart collaboration! Robots that can collaborate with human workers independently can be used to mitigate labor shortages and allow companies to free workers from picking up and carrying material so they can focus on higher-value tasks in manufacturing, distribution and fulfillment.

Slide title: Autonomous Mobile Robots 101

So to sum it up, Autonomous Mobile Robots use vision and independent movement to open up a new frontier in the decades-long evolution of task and workflow automation.

This new generation of robots communicates in real-time across wireless networks, using smart command and control software to automate flexible, optimal workflows that have never been possible before. It allows you to apply your valuable human workers to the jobs that matter most.

If you’d like to learn more about autonomous mobile robots in your environment contact me.