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After a difficult 12 months for autonomous cellular robotic, or AMR, suppliers, business leaders are persevering with to consolidate. ABB at this time introduced that it has acquired Sevensense, which mixes synthetic intelligence and 3D imaginative and prescient to allow AMRs to distinguish between mounted and cellular objects in dynamic environments.
“Offering extra autonomy and cognitive intelligence, ABB’s distinctive market-proven expertise paves the best way for a shift from linear manufacturing traces to dynamic networks,” acknowledged Marc Segura, president of ABB’s Robotics Division, in a launch. “Intelligent AMRs autonomously navigate to manufacturing cells, monitoring inventory stock as they go and sharing this info with different robots, whereas collaborating safely aspect by aspect with people.”
Spun out of ETH Zurich in 2018, Sevensense’s Visual Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (VSLAM) expertise permits cellular robots to create maps for totally autonomous operations, decreasing commissioning time from weeks to days. This permits AMRs to function independently in complicated factories and warehouses alongside individuals, it stated.
A fleet can continuously replace and share maps, permitting for scalability with out interrupting operations and with better flexibility than different navigation applied sciences, claimed the corporate.
Sevensense acquisition evolves from partnership
ABB has invested in innovation for greater than 50 years, Segura advised The Robot Report. It has partnered with universities corresponding to ETH Zurich and constructed a companion ecosystem and startup accelerators to maintain up with quickly growing applied sciences, he stated.
ABB had invested in Sevensense in 2021, the identical 12 months it acquired ASTI Mobile Robotics for $190 million. The industrial automation supplier had added the startup’s VSLAM expertise to its AMRs over the previous few years, so why purchase it now?
“The resolution to transition from partnership to possession of Sevensense fulfills a part of ABB Robotics’ funding technique, which focuses on modern AI options with the facility to remodel industries corresponding to logistics and manufacturing,” stated Segura. “Through possession, we’re in a position to totally combine Sevensense’s pioneering navigation expertise into our AMR portfolio and discover new markets and alternatives collectively.”
ABB didn’t disclose how a lot it paid for Sevensense.
ABB expects cellular robotic demand to develop
“There can also be an growing demand for this expertise from our prospects,” Segura stated. “ABB’s evaluation estimates the marketplace for cellular robots to develop at 20% CAGR [compound annual growth rate] via 2026, from $5.5 billion to $9.5 billion. This acquisition fortifies our place as a worldwide chief in next-generation, AI-enabled cellular robotics and permits us to deal with our prospects’ wants for better flexibility and intelligence.”
ABB additionally cited labor shortages as a driver of demand for extra versatile automation.
“This marks a major step in the direction of our imaginative and prescient of a office the place AI-enabled robots help individuals, addressing our prospects’ wants for better flexibility and intelligence amidst important skilled-labor shortages,” acknowledged Sami Atiya, president of ABB Robotics and Discrete Automation.
“Each cellular robotic, geared up with imaginative and prescient and AI, scans a singular a part of the constructing,” he stated. “Collectively, these robots complement one another’s view to type a whole map, enabling them to work autonomously in a quickly altering atmosphere.”
ABB sees pilots as path to a number of markets
“In automotive, trials with Ford have resulted in effectivity positive aspects in manufacturing websites within the U.S., and Michelin has additionally reported effectivity positive aspects at its website in Spain,” stated Segura. “Other automotive producers will roll the expertise out at websites in Finland, the U.Okay., and Germany.”
ABB can also be trying to apply the “unprecedented mixture of velocity, accuracy, and payload” to different markets.
“In retail and logistics, we’ve discovered that this visible SLAM expertise has made it potential for a big vogue chain to make use of AMRs, as they’ll now navigate via complicated and dynamic environments, automating the corporate’s intralogistics,” Segura defined. “Trials have discovered the AMRs are notably adept at delivering provides upstream of a manufacturing line, dealing with completed items additional downstream, and carting pallets round busy factories and warehouses.”
“But that is just the start,” he added. “This expertise will allow cellular robots to work in new sectors like healthcare and life sciences. It will decrease present entry limitations for robotics, making automation extra accessible, whereas opening up new purposes.”
AI and knowledge so as to add worth, says Segura
In addition to accumulating knowledge for navigation, cellular robots and AI can present extra worth over time, Segura famous.
“The integration of robotics and AI creates alternatives for important productiveness positive aspects for firms of all sizes and sectors,” he asserted. “While robots are perfect for strenuous, monotonous, repetitive, or harmful duties; work across the clock; and may be simply tailored to totally different manufacturing situations, AI permits robots to fulfil these duties higher. Robots turn out to be extra adaptive as they study via expertise, and [human] staff can commit themselves to different, higher-value duties.”
“With Sevensense and VSLAM, we firstly purchase great amount of information via 360-degree cameras,” defined Segura. “A map is created utilizing AI to qualify the options, after which, once more utilizing AI, we allow autonomous, versatile strong navigation that may detect people or different obstacles and navigate round them easily.”
“Beyond that, we will totally semantically map the atmosphere, enabling much more clever and autonomous resolution making,” he stated. “Visual SLAM is the gateway to leverage generative AI and huge language fashions [LLMs] in cellular robotics.”
Not solely can AI and LLMs assist robots transfer extra simply, however they might additionally enhance make them extra conscious of customers and operators, in keeping with Segura.
“In the previous, people needed to study the language of robots,” he stated. “Today, due to AI, robots will study our language. We are already conducting first experiments in collaboration with Zhejiang University in China.”
“In the longer term, AI-enabled robots will finally have the ability to perform duties utilizing voice instructions, which affords monumental benefits for small and medium-sized firms that shouldn’t have programmers in their very own ranks,” he stated.
“AI takes robotics to the subsequent stage, enhancing human-machine interplay [HMI], equipping robots with a wider skillset, producing insights and optimizing processes,” he stated. “This lowers entry limitations for purposes in numerous industries, making automation accessible for everybody.
ABB plans additional integration of Sevensense VSLAM
ABB plans to combine Sevensense’s expertise all through its AMR and software program portfolio.
“In collaboration with Sevensense, ABB has already began to implement the Visual SLAM expertise into the AMR T702V and the AMR P604V,” stated Segura. “These can be adopted by different AMR merchandise incorporating VSLAM that can be rolled out within the subsequent three years.”
ABB stated that Sevensense’s roughly 35 workers will stay at its headquarters in Switzerland, and it’ll proceed to serve prospects in addition to ABB.
“Sevensense is a part of ABB and can turn out to be a worldwide product middle for Visual SLAM AMRs, primarily based in Zurich,” Segura advised The Robot Report. “It will proceed to run its enterprise with different prospects as regular, and the expertise will even proceed to be offered throughout segments together with materials dealing with, cleansing, and different service robotics fields beneath the product identify ‘Sevensense.’”
“This is a major second in our shared journey, as we introduce our home-grown expertise to a wider vary of markets and sectors,” stated Gregory Hitz, CEO of Sevensense. “ABB is the perfect dwelling for us to proceed scaling our versatile platform for 3D visible autonomy, serving OEMs throughout the automated materials dealing with and repair robotics industries. Together, we are going to redefine the bounds of AI-enabled robotics.”.