An Australian robot named Cartman has just picked up first prize in the Amazon Robotics Challenge in Japan.
The challenge was created to try and help make Amazon.com’s automated warehouse processes more efficient.
“Not bad for a robot that was only unpacked and reassembled out of suitcases a few days before the event, with at least one key component held together with cable ties,” said Sue Keay, from The Australian Centre for Robotic Vision (ACRV), which is headquartered at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).
The team was up against 15 other international teams, and the only one that built their robot from scratch.
Although the ACRV team was one of eight that made it through to the finals, the last few hours were nerve-racking.
“It was a tense few hours. Our team top scored early with 272 points on the final combined stowing and picking task but we then had to wait on the results for five other teams, many of whom had outperformed us in [earlier] rounds,” Keay said.
The robotics challenge was designed to try and fill a gap in Amazon’s warehouse process.
Although Amazon’s warehouses are known for some ridiculous efficiency, unstructured tasks like picking and stowing different items in boxes was something only humans could do in Amazon warehouses. Until Cartman.
One of the reasons that the researchers think Cartman won top prize was because of its innovative design – it’s a Cartesian manipulator.
“With six degrees of articulation and both a claw and suction gripper, Cartman gives us more flexibility to complete the tasks than an off-the-shelf robot can offer,” said team leader Juxi Leitner.
“We were the only team with a Cartesian robot at the event. Cartman was definitely a large reason for our success.”
You can see the way Cartman moves in the video above – easily picking up teddy bears, socks and more.
“Everything from the robot design, vision systems and grasping system worked flawlessly in the Finals,” said Chris Lehnert, from QUT.
“The competition was tough, so many of the improbable scenarios that we thought would never occur did occur.”
This win means the team takes away US$80,000, which they will be reinvesting back into the program and centre.
Congrats to the team and to Cartman!