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Robust.AI announced the release of a new autonomous mobile robot software suite called Grace. The software is named in honor of Grace Hopper, who was the first person to devise the theory of machine-independent programming languages, and managed the development of one of the first COBOL compilers, an early high-level programming language still in use today.
Much like COBOL, the goal of Grace is to take a leap forward in the development of software for programming robotic solutions and reduce the complexity of robot programming.
A modern robot software suite
Grace is designed to be a no-code, modern software solution that runs partially in the cloud and partially on the actual robotic device, in this case an autonomous mobile robot (AMR). The solution includes all of the capabilities to quickly and easily setup the AMR for operation.
Robust.AI is initially targeting the warehouse automation space and according to Rodney Brooks, Co-Founder & CTO at Robust.AI, 80 percent of warehouses currently have no automation. The company believes that this is a market that represents a huge opportunity, and thus an important place to start.
“Collaborative productivity will transform operational efficiency and employee engagement. We’ve developed a no-code software suite called Grace to make working with robots effortless and useful. Carter is a new class of Collaborative Mobile Robot (CMR) to work with people, not just near them,” says Rodney Brooks. “We’re excited about partnering with the right teams to bring Grace & Carter to warehouses and other industries where we can improve how robots work with people.”
One of the features of Grace is the ability to easily map the warehouse environment using only a tablet with a camera. Onboard an AMR, Grace enables the AMR to leverage cameras for perception tasks and is designed to differentiate between all of the things seen by the robot.
For example, Grace perceives humans differently from pillars, pallets and even other mobile robots or fork trucks. As a result, the AMR can respond differently to the types of things that it is likely to encounter. A stationary pallet isn’t going to move on its own, whereas a human worker might move in unexpected ways. Forktrucks have certain expected behaviors in their motion and so on.
Brooks and the development team at Robust.AI have been busy developing an entirely new suite of software that leverages the latest technology in cameras, compute infrastructure and network connectivity.
A new Collaborative Mobile Robot
The company also announced that it is enabling a new class of AMRs that it defines as Collaborative Mobile Robots (CMR). Fondly called “Carter”, the company has developed a reference hardware design of this new CMR. Carter features omni-directional mecanum wheels, sixteen onboard cameras, and a control stanchion with handles.
According to Brooks, the key to this new class of mobile robots is the idea that Carter can be easily moved simply by grabbing the control stanchion on the robot and gently moving the robot in the direction that you’d like it to move. Carter will respond and assist in the intended motion regardless of how much cargo is onboard the robot. This is one of the keys to collaboration.
The other key to this new class of collaborative behaviors is the idea that a mobile robot should intrinsically know how to work beside humans without having to be explicitly programmed. This should include innate behaviors such as moving out of the way as a human needs to move into the workspace held by the CMR, or accurately predicting the walking path of a human and actively changing the direction of motion. In fact, the company has filed a patent application specifically about robotic social interactions (USPTO 20210346557).
Robust.AI has also added on to their world-class team of industry veterans. Anthony Jules moves into the role of CEO, where he’ll build on his decades of experience of leading teams at companies including Sapient and Redwood Robotics. Leila Takayama is recognized as one of the global experts in human-robot interaction and joins as VP of HRI & Design. Kavitha Velusamy joins as SVP of Engineering and has shipped a number of industry defining products, including the Amazon Echo and Cisco’s first Telepresence System. John Moretti also joins Robust.AI as Head of Product, bringing expertise and experience from his work at Dishcraft Robotics and Wonder Workshop.