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RoboSapiens: AI is making industrial robots more 'free thinking'

In an era where automation is becoming increasingly integral to industrial processes, the demand for RoboSapiens — robots that can intelligently adapt to their environment and unforeseen circumstances — is surging.

The new RoboSapiens project, funded by Horizon Europe with a substantial grant, aims to meet the growing need for adaptable robots. It focuses on enhancing the adaptability and reliability of industrial robots.

Leading the charge for smarter robots

Under the leadership of Professor Peter Gorm Larsen from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Aarhus University, RoboSapiens is set to transform the landscape of robotic technology.

“We see great benefits if robots can adapt to conditions, learn from their surroundings, and then change their behavior to better suit the task,” explains Professor Larsen. “All the while maintaining or even increasing their expected performance and remaining as safe and robust as before.

This project aims to significantly enhance robot capabilities, allowing them to autonomously adapt to new and unexpected challenges. It focuses on self-adaptation, safety, and advanced deep learning techniques to manage uncertainties during these adaptations.

Four pillars of robotic advancement

Scheduled to run from January 2024 to December 2027, RoboSapiens will concentrate on achieving four main objectives:

  1. Enabling robotics to autonomously adapt in response to unprecedented changes in system structures and environments.
  2. Enhancing robot safety software to ensure exceptional performance before, during, and after adaptation processes.
  3. Leveraging deep learning to actively mitigate uncertainties associated with robotic self-adaptation.
  4. Guaranteeing the reliability of robotic systems as they learn to independently navigate and interact with their surroundings.

Targeting diverse robotic applications with RoboSapiens

RoboSapiens will explore these innovations through four diverse use-cases. These include autonomous ship navigation, collaborative human-robot interactions, intra-warehouse robot navigation, and automated laptop refurbishment.

Mikkel Labori Olsen, a consultant at the Centre for Robotics at the Danish Technological Institute, expresses his excitement for the project’s practical applications. He highlights the project’s role in promoting sustainable manufacturing processes.

“Robots have helped increase production for decades. In our use-cases, we’ll take a closer look at how we can scale up circular processes using automated robots, thereby extending the lifespan of products instead of producing new ones,” Olsen states.

Initially focusing on laptop refurbishment, including tasks like screen repairs, the project plans to progressively expand these efforts.

New standards for autonomous robot improvement

A key feature of RoboSapiens is its commitment to safety and continuous enhancement without the need for frequent recertification.

“We want robots to be able to gradually improve. We want to demonstrate that we can achieve sufficient safety without recertification, thereby ensure autonomy and that the robot adapts appropriately by using intelligent safety systems and control software,” Larsen concluded.

This approach aims to diminish limitations and boost the robots’ capability to adapt to complex and unexpected conditions.

RoboSapiens and the future of robotics

In summary, the RoboSapiens project is set to revolutionize the field of robotics by developing adaptable, reliable, and safe robots that can navigate unprecedented situations and work seamlessly alongside humans.

By focusing on four key pillars of robotic advancement and exploring diverse applications, from autonomous ships to laptop refurbishment, the project aims to reduce limitations and increase robots’ ability to adapt to unforeseen events and changes in their environment.

With the combined expertise of its partners and the vision of gradual improvement and intelligent safety systems, RoboSapiens paves the way for a new era in robotics, reshaping industries and unlocking new possibilities for the future.


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