February 20, 2024

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MIT: AI Empowers Robots in Complex Environments

Robotic Process Automation (RPA), or robotic process automation, is software technology designed to automatically execute repetitive tasks and processes typically performed by humans. While RPA has brought several advantages in improving efficiency and reducing the workload for routine tasks, its development still faces some challenges, especially regarding the limitations in robot movement.

Current robots are still restricted in their movement capabilities and adapting to complex tasks requiring high precision and multi-level motion coordination. Although RPA has successfully handled simple and repetitive tasks, jobs that require a deeper understanding of context, situation-based decision-making, and complex interactions remain challenging.

Image credits: news.mit.edu

Efforts are continually being made to enhance the underlying artificial intelligence (AI) of RPA to tackle more complex tasks. The development of algorithms and machine learning models focuses on providing better adaptability and context understanding to robots. It is expected that RPA will become a more effective solution for handling various tasks involving higher levels of complexity.

MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) researchers have developed the “Graphs of Convex Sets (GCS) Trajectory Optimisation” algorithm, offering a scalable, collision-free motion planning system for robotic navigation. This innovative approach combines graph search and convex optimisation, efficiently finding paths through complex environments while optimising robot trajectories.

The GCS algorithm, capable of mapping collision-free trajectories in up to 14 dimensions, demonstrates significant potential for improving collaborative robot operations in warehouses, libraries, and households.

The CSAIL-led project consistently outperforms comparable planners, demonstrating GCS’s efficiency in planning complex paths quickly. In demonstrations, the system adeptly guided two robotic arms holding a mug around a shelf, optimising for the shortest time and path.

The synchronised motion resembled a partner dance routine, showcasing the algorithm’s ability to navigate around obstacles without dropping objects. Real-world tests, such as swapping positions of items and handing objects between robots, highlight the algorithm’s potential in manufacturing and household tasks.

The success of GCS in addressing real-world challenges emphasises its potential in various domains, including manufacturing and household tasks, where coordinated robot movements are essential. Unlike traditional sampling-based algorithms, GCS leverages fast convex optimisation, efficiently coordinating multiple robots in high-dimensional spaces.

The algorithm’s capability to adapt to configurations within pre-computed convex regions allows robots to navigate efficiently in novel environments. This feature enhances the speed and adaptability of robot motions, overcoming challenges faced by traditional methods that rely on pre-computed fixed configurations.

GCS also excels in simulation demos, optimising a quadrotor’s path through a building without collisions. The algorithm considers obstacles and door and window entry angles, showcasing its versatility in dynamic environments.

The success of GCS lies in its combination of graph search and convex optimisation. The algorithm searches graphs by exploring nodes and calculating properties to identify the shortest path. The blend of graph search and convex optimisation allows GCS to find paths through intricate environments, simultaneously optimising robot trajectories.

Ongoing research explores expanding GCS’s capabilities for tasks requiring robot interactions with the environment, such as pushing or sliding objects.

MIT Professor Russ Tedrake underscores the importance of Graphs of Convex Sets (GCS), emphasising its deep connections to optimisation, control, and machine learning. According to Professor Tedrake, the GCS framework offers new perspectives on addressing continuous and combinatorial problems within the field. The ongoing evolution of GCS showcases its current capabilities and holds promise for tackling a more extensive array of challenges in robotics and motion planning.

Tedrake’s acknowledgement of the interconnectedness of GCS with optimisation, control, and machine learning highlights the interdisciplinary nature of this innovative algorithm. By integrating insights from these fields, GCS presents a holistic approach to solving problems, particularly those involving intricate spatial and decision-making considerations.

The continuous development of GCS signifies a commitment to pushing the boundaries of its application. As researchers delve deeper into refining algorithms and incorporating advancements in machine learning, GCS is positioned to become an even more versatile tool for addressing challenges in various domains. This ongoing progress can revolutionise, plan, and execute tasks, offering solutions to increasingly complex real-world scenarios.

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Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

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CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

Since 1972, CTC has established itself as one of the country’s top IT solutions providers. With 50 years of experience, headed by an experienced management team and staffed by over 200 qualified IT professionals, we support organizations with integrated IT solutions expertise in Autonomous IT, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

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Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

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SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

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HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

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IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.

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