Ocado taps into robotics innovation
Ocado Technology has come up with new robotic system which it claims is capable of picking a wide range of grocery products from the 50,000 different items available on Ocado.com. This uses a proprietary computer vision system designed by the Ocado Technology robotics research team to calculate grasping points for a given item without requiring a 3D model of the object to be picked.
It also uses a vacuum cup as the gripping device attached to the end of an articulated arm. The arm is equipped with a pipe running to an air compressor, which is capable of lifting items regardless of their deformability and shape, as long as they are within the weight restriction and the suction cup can create an airtight seal with the item’s surface. The system is designed to be easily integrated with the pick stations present in Ocado's customer fulfilment centres. These pick stations use an assembly line system where crates of products are delivered to a picking point. Once the storage crates arrive at the pick station, the job of the robot system is to transfer however many items are needed from the storage crates into the delivery crates destined for the customer.
The Ocado Technology robotics research team is also participating in two EU-funded Horizon 2020 research projects, SoMa and SecondHands, which aim to introduce a new suite of robotic grippers and grasping strategies.