12. March 2021

Mobile robots grow up using artificial intelligence

AI in action by SoCoBot

This is what the Danish Technological Institute (DTI) and the companies DesupervisedCoalescent Mobile Robotics and Capra Robotics have investigated: how to develop specific behaviours for mobile robots that move around among humans. This work took place under the auspices of the Odense Robotics project SoCoBot.

“In the SoCoBot project, we focused on the integration between mobile robots and artificial intelligence. We explored the future possibilities of getting camera systems to interpret facial expressions and behaviours so that the robots can move in a way that makes it easier and safer for humans that share the same physical space,” says Jonas Bæch, Consultant at DTI.

Artificial intelligence directly into the navigation

Detecting humans through artificial intelligence is not new, but it is being used in a new way.

“The new thing here is that we integrate artificial intelligence directly into the robot navigation. It creates a new opportunity to build many different types of behaviour. Maybe the robots will slow down when people are near, or maybe they will drive around a group of people instead of between them. It could also move in a special pattern that means the human knows that the robot has seen them,” ,” says Jonas Bæch.

The combination of artificial intelligence and camera technology makes it possible to detect not just people, but also how each person is oriented and positioned. Adding this function to the decoding of human facial expressions allows robots to navigate among humans with an even greater understanding of social context – in the long term, of course.

“Artificial intelligence can do a lot to allow humans to move safely in the vicinity of robots without all the responsibility laying with the individual person. AI can also simplify so-called ‘coboting’, where humans and robots work together collaboratively on tasks – and I think that will be an important part of the future,” says Jens Skoustrup-Jacobsen, Chief Commercial Officer and Co-Founder of Desupervised.


Robots in the supermarket

In the near future, supermarkets will be a place where one can experience mobile robots. The startup Coalescent Mobile Robotics is currently in the process of developing a robot that will support employees in supermarkets, who spend millions of hours every year transporting goods from the warehouse into the store and placing them on shelves.

“Previously, mobile robots were reserved for production halls, now we are trying to move them into supermarkets. This needs a strong focus on the robots’ interactions with humans,” says Moira Mastrone, Chief Experience Officer and Co-Founder of Coalescent Mobile Robotics.

“It is really important that the robot is friendly, knows its surroundings and can adapt to the people around it,” she adds.

Supermarkets are just one example. Mobile robots will also begin to increasingly appear in more places in healthcare, on construction sites, in production halls and in our everyday lives in general.

About the article and project SoCoBot

The project was carried out under the auspices of RoboCluster, which has now become part of Odense Robotics. The project is supported by the Ministry of Higher Education and Science and the Region of Southern Denmark.

This article was provided by the Danish Technological Institute and was one of the projects presented at the hybrid event Robot Innovation Summit 2020.