Executive Briefings

Human-Robot Collaboration Gets Workout in a Test Warehouse

In a mock warehouse stocked with granola bars, breakfast cereal, sponges, and other household goods, a worker plucks items from shelves and places them in a plastic bin. The bin is set atop a small wheeled robot that follows the employee’s every step like a puppy.

When the container is full, the robot darts off with it to a packing area; a second robot with an empty bin then picks up where the first left off, allowing the worker to keep gathering items without pausing or having to push around a heavy cart.

For now, this demonstration is just that: a beta test of human-robot teamwork. It's in the San Jose office of Fetch Robotics, one of a handful of start-ups working on warehouse robots aimed specifically at e-commerce companies. With the holiday season approaching, the roboticists are pitching the machines as a way to speed up packing without having to hire extra workers.

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When the container is full, the robot darts off with it to a packing area; a second robot with an empty bin then picks up where the first left off, allowing the worker to keep gathering items without pausing or having to push around a heavy cart.

For now, this demonstration is just that: a beta test of human-robot teamwork. It's in the San Jose office of Fetch Robotics, one of a handful of start-ups working on warehouse robots aimed specifically at e-commerce companies. With the holiday season approaching, the roboticists are pitching the machines as a way to speed up packing without having to hire extra workers.

Read Full Article