The evolution of the robot employee is continuing. And it's happening at a faster pace than was expected.
On July 27, MusashiAI, a joint venture between SixAI Ltd. of Israel and Musashi Seimitsu of Japan (a Honda Motor Corp. affiliate) announced that it’s now selling an autonomous visual quality control inspector and an autonomous forklift driver.
Trials of the technology began in December 2019 in Musashi Seimitsu’s factory. The quality control inspector was testing for the ability to find surface defects and the autonomous forklift driver robot was coupled with an autonomous fleet management system to perform tasks.
The results of the trails were that the autonomous robotic visual inspector exceeded the speed, accuracy, and stamina of human workers in the tests. And logistics tasks previously limited to human forklift drivers can now be autonomously performed by the robots as the tests showed that they " exceed modeled expectations with their unparalleled efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and safety standards."
The autonomous forklift driver uses MusashiAI’s fleet management system which employs perception and decision-making software which in combination with industry-standard HD cameras can predict incidents and prevent accidents on the factory floor. The autonomous forklift navigates routes amongst human workers through a unique technology that combines cameras with a ‘birds-eye’, control tower view of the factory floor, and a central processing unit.
The trials confirmed that logistics tasks previously limited to human forklift drivers can now be autonomously performed by the robots and that they "exceed modeled expectations with their unparalleled efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and safety standards," the company said.
As a result of the successful trial, MusashiAI has secured a POC for their autonomous Quality Control Inspector with one of the world's largest bearing manufacturers. In addition to this, MusashiAI will also conduct three POCs for the autonomous forklift drivers and central management system with leading Israeli retail and FMCG groups starting Q4 this year. These agreements will be the first time the robots are being tested outside of the Musashi Seimitsu group.
With the growth of the COVID-19 pandemic and the strong progress seen in the first three months of the trials, testing efforts were accelerated at Musashi Seimitsu’s factory in Japan for the last phase of the trial.
The result has been a breakthrough in streamlining in the process of training the robots for their tasks. An advanced form of deep learning which parallels the way the human brain absorbs and assimilates information was developed, making redeploying and switching robots between tasks much easier. These improvements are central to MusashiAI’s latest robotic models, which the company anticipates will be essential in the many socially-distanced industrial settings to come.
“The goal of the joint venture with Musashi Seimitsu has always been to work towards our vision of Industry 4.0, where human workers do human jobs and are not trapped in manual industrial jobs,” explained Ran Poliakine, co-founder of MusashiAI in a statement.
“Globally, nearly 30 million people work in grueling visual inspection jobs,” Poliakine added. "Many of these people suffer chronic health conditions from this work, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. No doubt a large number of them have been furloughed because many industrial settings are unsafe now due to the coronavirus. These people are not key workers, but what they do is essential. Businesses will need their final products inspected, and we are offering the world a solution which can shield employees from this deadly virus and the chronic health problems associated with their work, and the major economic danger of stalling business for much longer."