Project presents robot prototype for warehouse maintenance work

15th January 2018
Lanna Cooper


The SecondHands project is presenting the first prototype of its collaborative robot (cobot) which will act as the main platform for testing and developing new technologies related to the maintenance and repair of automation equipment in Ocado’s highly automated warehouses.

Ocado is a UK-based company and the world's largest online-only supermarket, delivering over 260,000 customer orders per week using a network of automated facilities called Customer Fulfilment Centers (CFCs).

SecondHands is an EU-funded Horizon 2020 project aiming to design a cobot that can proactively offer support to maintenance technicians working in Ocado’s CFCs. This robot will be a second pair of hands that will assist technicians when they are in need of help.

The robot will learn through observation and will augment the humans capabilities by completing tasks that require a level of precision or physical strength that are not available to human workers. 

The SecondHands project combines the skills of world class researchers focusing on a real world industrial use case to deliver:

  • The design of a new robotic assistant
  • A knowledge base to facilitate proactive help
  • A high degree of human-robot interaction
  • Advanced perception skills to function in a highly dynamic industrial environment.

Together with its research partners École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Sapienza Università di Roma, and University College London (UCL), Ocado Technology is working to advance the technology readiness of areas such as computer vision and cognition, human-robot interaction, mechatronics, and perception and ultimately demonstrate how versatile and productive human-robot collaboration can be in practice.

Here is a summary of the research contributions for each of the project partners:

  • EPFL: human-robot physical interaction with bi-manipulation, including action skills learning
  • KIT (H²T): Development of the ARMAR-6 robot including its entire mechatronics, software operating system and control as well as robot grasping and manipulation skills
  • KIT (Interactive Systems Lab, ISL): the spoken dialogue management system
  • Sapienza University of Rome: visual scene perception with human action recognition, cognitive decision making, task planning and execution with continuous monitoring
  • UCL: computer vision techniques for 3D human pose estimation and semantic 3D reconstruction of dynamic scenes
  • Ocado Technology: integration of researched functionality on the robot platform and evaluation in real world demonstrations.

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