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Why Consumers Might Care About AI-Powered Robots

AI-Powered robots could offer support for the e-commerce retail trend that has taken shape.


Like you, I am a consumer. I receive prescriptions by mail, meal kits once a week, and often run down the block to our neighborhood store to pick up something that I need right away- and that’s just a small portion of it.

As a consumer in the spring of 2020, I was panicked. I worried about things that were usually obvious- how I would get everyday items that I need? Like many other consumers, I never saw this coming.

Knowing what I know about manufacturing and distribution- I get it. More consumers are shopping online (many for the first time), which puts a large tax on our current very manual and extremely labor reliant processes. There’s an immense need to create and ship more products than ever before with no labor to do so due to pandemic closures or social distancing within facilities.

Automating to meet consumer demand

Let’s step back and look at advanced manufacturing and supply chains. Most of the tasks inside these facilities are very manual, requiring awareness of our surroundings, brain-eye-hand coordination, and the ability to work in unstructured environments that only humans have to get the job done. Coming from this world of supply chain robotics, I have visited a lot of warehouses and I’ve tried these tasks. I can do these tasks easily, but cognitive ability and dexterity are always required.

I can’t help but think that AI-Powered robots could offer support. Can factories driven by AI-powered robots dynamically respond to shifting customers demand?

Warehouse tasks require vision, thought, and dexterity

Let’s break down how a human does these types of warehouse tasks, like packing a box for an outbound order for a customer. To fill this order, I need to first see the items. These visual images trigger thought. What are the objects? Are they the correct items for the order? I need to evaluate the shapes, make estimations on weight and think about how to orient objects into a box, not only to make sure that the box will close but to make sure that heavier items are at the bottom.

Moreover, there is the need to contemplate how to grab an object using the appropriate pressure to make sure the object is secure in my hand, yet not damaging the item if it is fragile. Dexterity is the final piece. My brain now tells my hand how to successfully pick an object and place it to the correct place in the outbound box.

The steps are so easy for a person, but what if there are no people to complete this task?

AI-Powered robots can do these jobs. This new breed of flexible robots use sensing to complete these tasks, unlike the traditional robots with which we all are so familiar. These robots have computer vision powered by machine learning, AI-powered brains, and dexterous, smart haptic grippers or “hands”. The robot uses these new enhanced capabilities to do tasks as humans do them.

These intelligent machines can compute what items to pick and how to grab them successfully, using touch to recognize pressure, texture, temperature, and proximity.

AI-powered robots are using these smart senses to supplement labor in facilities that cannot be fully staffed, like those belonging to RIOS customers. These smart robots are able to see items and decide how to interact with them to successfully place them in polybags that will later be mailed to customers.

Every day, innovative companies like these know one certainty- a smart robot will be available to complete a task and because of it, a customer will receive an order, an item that has been carefully placed in a mailer bag by a robot. AI-powered robots that support our supply chain can ensure that consumers like me get products that they need at any time, whether it is for ordinary need, peak seasonal shopping, or even a pandemic.

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