Sevensense acquisition so as to add VSLAM smarts to cell robots, says ABB

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ABB has acquired mobile robot navigation provider Sevensense

Sevensense stated its VSLAM expertise can enhance cell robotic navigation. Supply: ABB

After a difficult yr for autonomous cell robotic, or AMR, suppliers, business leaders are persevering with to consolidate. ABB in the present day introduced that it has acquired Sevensense, which mixes synthetic intelligence and 3D imaginative and prescient to allow AMRs to distinguish between fastened and cell objects in dynamic environments.

“Providing extra autonomy and cognitive intelligence, ABB’s distinctive market-proven expertise paves the way in which for a shift from linear manufacturing strains to dynamic networks,” said Marc Segura, president of ABB’s Robotics Division, in a launch. “Clever AMRs autonomously navigate to manufacturing cells, monitoring inventory stock as they go and sharing this data with different robots, whereas collaborating safely aspect by aspect with people.”

Spun out of ETH Zurich in 2018, Sevensense’s Visible Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (VSLAM) expertise permits cell 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 instructed The Robotic Report. It has partnered with universities reminiscent of ETH Zurich and constructed a accomplice ecosystem and startup accelerators to maintain up with quickly creating applied sciences, he stated.

ABB had invested in Sevensense in 2021, the identical yr it acquired ASTI Cellular Robotics for $190 million. The commercial automation supplier had added the startup’s VSLAM expertise to its AMRs over the previous few years, so why purchase it now?

“The choice to transition from partnership to possession of Sevensense fulfills a part of ABB Robotics’ funding technique, which focuses on revolutionary AI options with the ability to remodel industries reminiscent of logistics and manufacturing,” stated Segura. “By way of 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 cell robotic demand to develop 

“There may be additionally an growing demand for this expertise from our clients,” Segura stated. “ABB’s evaluation estimates the marketplace for cell robots to develop at 20% CAGR [compound annual growth rate] by 2026, from $5.5 billion to $9.5 billion. This acquisition fortifies our place as a worldwide chief in next-generation, AI-enabled cell robotics and permits us to handle our clients’ wants for better flexibility and intelligence.”

ABB additionally cited labor shortages as a driver of demand for extra versatile automation.

“This marks a big step in direction of our imaginative and prescient of a office the place AI-enabled robots help individuals, addressing our clients’ wants for better flexibility and intelligence amidst important skilled-labor shortages,” said Sami Atiya, president of ABB Robotics and Discrete Automation.

“Every cell 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 setting.”

Ford and Michelin trialed ABB AMRs using Sevensense technology.

Ford and Michelin trialed ABB AMRs utilizing Sevensense VSLAM. Supply: ABB

ABB sees pilots as path to a number of markets

ABB had already performed pilot tasks with clients within the automotive and logistics industries.

“In automotive, trials with Ford have resulted in effectivity good points in manufacturing websites within the U.S., and Michelin has additionally reported effectivity good points at its web site in Spain,” stated Segura. “Different automotive producers will roll the expertise out at websites in Finland, the U.Okay., and Germany.”

ABB can be seeking to apply the “unprecedented mixture of pace, accuracy, and payload” to different markets.

“In retail and logistics, we now have discovered that this visible SLAM expertise has made it potential for a big trend chain to make use of AMRs, as they will now navigate by complicated and dynamic environments, automating the corporate’s intralogistics,” Segura defined. “Trials have discovered the AMRs are significantly adept at delivering provides upstream of a manufacturing line, dealing with completed items additional downstream, and carting pallets round busy factories and warehouses.”

“However that is just the start,” he added. “This expertise will allow cell robots to work in new sectors like healthcare and life sciences. It would decrease current entry boundaries for robotics, making automation extra accessible, whereas opening up new functions.”

ABB expects VSLAM robots to serve manufacturing, logistics, and service markets.

ABB expects its robots utilizing VSLAM to serve the manufacturing, logistics, and repair markets. Supply: ABB

AI and knowledge so as to add worth, says Segura

Along with gathering knowledge for navigation, cell robots and AI can present extra worth over time, Segura famous.

“The mixing of robotics and AI creates alternatives for vital productiveness good points for firms of all sizes and sectors,” he asserted. “Whereas 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 into extra adaptive as they be taught by expertise, and [human] staff can commit themselves to different, higher-value duties.”

“With Sevensense and VSLAM, we firstly purchase great amount of information by 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.”

“Past that, we will totally semantically map the setting, enabling much more clever and autonomous determination making,” he stated. “Visible SLAM is the gateway to leverage generative AI and huge language fashions [LLMs] in cell robotics.”

Not solely can AI and LLMs assist robots transfer extra simply, however they may additionally enhance make them extra conscious of customers and operators, in response to Segura.

“Previously, people needed to be taught the language of robots,” he stated. “Right this moment, because of AI, robots will be taught our language. We’re already conducting first experiments in collaboration with Zhejiang College in China.”

“Sooner or later, AI-enabled robots will ultimately have the ability to perform duties utilizing voice instructions, which provides huge benefits for small and medium-sized firms that wouldn’t have programmers in their very own ranks,” he stated.

“AI takes robotics to the following degree, enhancing human-machine interplay [HMI], equipping robots with a wider skillset, producing insights and optimizing processes,” he stated. “This lowers entry boundaries for functions in varied 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 Visible SLAM expertise into the AMR T702V and the AMR P604V,” stated Segura. “These shall be adopted by different AMR merchandise incorporating VSLAM that shall be rolled out within the subsequent three years.”

ABB stated that Sevensense’s roughly 35 staff will stay at its headquarters in Switzerland, and it’ll proceed to serve clients moreover ABB. 

“Sevensense is a part of ABB and can turn into a worldwide product heart for Visible SLAM AMRs, based mostly in Zurich,” Segura instructed The Robotic Report. “It would proceed to run its enterprise with different clients as regular, and the expertise may even proceed to be bought throughout segments together with materials dealing with, cleansing, and different service robotics fields underneath the product identify ‘Sevensense.’”

“This can be a vital 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 house for us to proceed scaling our versatile platform for 3D visible autonomy, serving OEMs throughout the automated materials dealing with and repair robotics industries. Collectively, we’ll redefine the boundaries of AI-enabled robotics.”.

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