Machine-learning (ML) technology is radically changing how robots work and dramatically extending their capabilities. The latest crop of ML technologies is still in its infancy, but it looks like we’re at the end of the beginning with respect to robots. Much more looms on the horizon.
ML is just one aspect of improved robotics. Robotics has demanding computational requirements, and that’s being helped by improvements in multicore processing power. Changes in sensor technology and even motor control have made an impact, too. Robots are being ringed with sensors to provide a robot with more context of its environment.
Thanks to all of these improvements, robots can tackle new tasks, work more closely with people, and become practical in a wider range of environments. For example, ABB’s YuMi “you and me” IRB 14000 robot (Fig. 1) is a collaborative, dual-arm, small parts assembly robot. It has flexible hands and a camera-based part-location system. Cameras are embedded in the grippers.
1. ABB’s YuMi IRB 14000 is a collaborative, dual-arm, small parts assembly robot.