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Wheeled robots can cope with new challenges and functions

The development of online shopping has led to an increase in the number of logistics centers, so the number of wheeled robots that handle many heavy tasks in the logistics center has also increased. The next challenge for these wheeled robots is the last mile delivery to help reduce the congestion of the busy streets in the downtown area.

This blog post was co-authored by Matthieu Chevrier and Lali Jayatilleke

The development of online shopping has led to an increase in the number of logistics centers, so the number of wheeled robots that handle many heavy tasks in the logistics center has also increased. The next challenge for these wheeled robots is the last mile delivery to help reduce the congestion of the busy streets in the downtown area. At the same time, human-friendly robots began to conduct real-time inventory in physical stores, which enabled supermarkets to reduce the shelf space of each product and increase the amount of inventory that can be carried in a given time. Wheeled robots can even enter hotels and provide reception services from check-in to room service.

For these wheeled robots, this is not entirely difficult work. They will soon deliver pizza or coffee to your workplace or campus dormitory. As the restaurant transitions to a “full-stack food delivery service”, one company can be responsible for all customer interaction management, cooking, and logistics. So wheeled robots will soon be needed to deliver food.

Wheeled robots can cope with new challenges and functions
Figure 1: Example of a wheeled robot delivering pizza

With the emergence of wheeled robots that some people consider to be “camouflage robots”, let’s take a look at the entire combination of robots currently used in the industry:

• Industrial robots (or robotic arms) can handle tasks such as welding, palletizing, sorting, and lifting in the factory. They are usually located in a fixed position on the floor, ceiling or wall. They are controlled by a controller placed near the base or robotic arm.
• Although large industrial robots such as robotic arms have been used for many years-mainly used in the automotive industry, as the opportunities for cooperation between humans and robots continue to increase, small variants of robots called cobots (collaborative robots) are entering significantly market.
• Logistics robots can be used in warehouses, distribution centers, ports and even campuses. These robots can pick up the goods and send them to the packing station, or the robots can transport the goods from one building to another. These robots move in a specific environment and require many sensors to locate and draw a map, as well as sensors to avoid collisions.
• The reception robot can be used in supermarkets, airports and hotels. These robots act as virtual workers to welcome and guide customers/guests (Figure 2).
• Inventory robots can be used in supermarkets or warehouses, and can scan shelves regularly to ensure that there is never a shortage of products in the store.

Wheeled robots can cope with new challenges and functions
Figure 2: Example of a reception robot

Industrial robots are usually located in a “closed” environment. For safety reasons, if a human enters the environment, the operation of the robot will be stopped. But restricting human/robot collaboration prevents the realization of many benefits. Robots with autonomous operation functions can support humans and robots to coexist safely and efficiently.

The sensing and intelligent perception of robotics applications are very important, because the efficient performance of robotic systems (especially machine learning applications) depends to a large extent on the performance of the sensors that provide critical data for these systems. Today’s extensive and increasingly sophisticated and accurate sensors, combined with a system that can fuse data from all these sensors, can support robots with better and better perception and consciousness. Examples of sensors include: cameras, lidar, millimeter waves, and time of flight (ToF).

Sensing technology is particularly important in the operation of vacuum robots. ToF sensors enable the robot to accurately map the operating environment and ensure that the robot completes tasks efficiently. Infrared cliff sensors prevent the robot from falling down the stairs or prevent a sharp drop.

Just as humans rely on their senses and intelligence to accomplish tasks, robotics requires a lot of technology to simulate what humans take for granted. Texas Instruments provides solutions that meet many of these technical needs, including sensing, intelligence, and power.

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