Chinese startup Geek+ has developed robots capable of working in groups and becoming “smarter” while performing their tasks. They are able to find their own path using a machine learning algorithm that adjusts the path and improves performance with each operating cycle.
The androids “work” in a warehouse in Hong Kong, China, 24 hours a day, seven days a week without rest. As they move around the place, they are guided by QR codes scattered across the floor. Through artificial intelligence (AI), they are able to make their own decisions, identifying which direction to go and the best path to the final destination.
“This is where the real learning takes place. A huge swarm of robots roam the ground, transporting groceries and other supplies non-stop, every hour of the day, every day of the week, in a coordinated and highly efficient movement,” celebrates Geek+ Director Lit Fung.
The robot workers scan the QR codes on the surface of the warehouse as they pass over them, but it is the engineers who refine and improve the algorithm responsible for precisely moving the androids. Bots only need to use this database to choose their own path autonomously.
As time passes, robots become more capable of performing tasks optimally, without the help of a human operator. The convolutional neural network makes it possible for androids to find shortcuts and redefine routes in real time, taking into account the type of material transported, size and weight of the cargo.
“With this strategy, we have the ability to make the decision for the robot itself, but it is the robot who makes the judgment of the direction, advancing, retreating and finding the best path during the work shifts. The data that a robot collects helps to improve the performance of the entire group,” explains Fung.
The company says it already has more than 15,000 robots in operation in around 30 countries, spread across all continents. According to executives, this AI system has helped consumers who shop online and expect faster deliveries without having to leave their home.
Since February this year, Hong Kong’s automated warehouse has delivered more than one million products to Chinese stores. Other companies like Decathlon, Amazon and Alibaba are also betting on intelligent robots to increase efficiency in their distribution centers.
“People being able to place their orders and have the order arrive absurdly quickly, sometimes even on the same day, it would not be possible without an AI automating logistics and optimizing the work in warehouses and warehouses of large companies”, he concludes University of Hong Kong computer science professor De Kai, who helped implement the project.