February 25, 2024

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Robotic Arm Fuses Data to Locate and Retrieve Items

Image source: mit.edu

Researchers at MIT have created a robotic system that can search through piles of stuff and retrieve objects. The system, RFusion, is a robotic arm with a camera and radio frequency (RF) antenna attached to its gripper. It fuses signals from the antenna with visual input from the camera to locate and retrieve an item, even if the item is buried under a pile and completely out of view.

The prototype the researchers developed relies on RFID tags, which are cheap, battery-less tags that can be stuck to an item and reflect signals sent by an antenna. Because RF signals can travel through most surfaces, the system can locate a tagged item within a pile.

The robotic arm automatically zeroes-in on the object’s exact location, moves the items on top of it, grasps the object, and verifies that it picked up the right thing by using machine learning. The camera, antenna, robotic arm, and AI are fully integrated, so the system can work in any environment without requiring a special set-up.

While finding lost keys is helpful, the system could have many broader applications in the future, like sorting through piles to fulfil orders in a warehouse, identifying and installing components in an auto manufacturing plant, or helping an elderly individual perform daily tasks in the home. However, the current prototype is not quite fast enough yet for these uses.

This idea of being able to find items in a chaotic world is an open problem that we’ve been working on for a few years. Having robots that can search for things under a pile is a growing need in the industry today. In the near term, this could have a lot of applications in manufacturing and warehouse environments

– Fadel Adib, Senior author

The system begins searching for an object using its antenna, which bounces signals off the RFID tag to identify a spherical area in which the tag is located. It combines that sphere with the camera input, which narrows down the object’s location. For instance, the item can’t be located on an area of a table that is empty. Once the robot has a general idea of where the item is, it would need to swing its arm widely around the room taking additional measurements to come up with the exact location, which is slow and inefficient.

The researchers used reinforcement learning to train a neural network that can optimise the robot’s trajectory to the object. In reinforcement learning, the algorithm is trained through trial and error with a reward system. The optimisation algorithm was rewarded when it limited the number of moves it had to make to localise the item and the distance it had to travel to pick it up.

Once the system identifies the exact right spot, the neural network uses combined RF and visual information to predict how the robotic arm should grasp the object, including the angle of the hand and the width of the gripper, and whether it must remove other items first. It also scans the item’s tag one last time to make sure it picked up the right object.

In the future, the researchers hope to increase the speed of the system so it can move smoothly, rather than stopping periodically to take measurements. This would enable the system to be deployed in a fast-paced manufacturing or warehouse setting. Beyond its potential industrial uses, a system like this could even be incorporated into future smart homes to assist people with any number of household tasks

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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.

Well-known for our strengths in system integration and consultation, CTC Global proves to be the preferred IT outsourcing destination for organizations all over Singapore today.

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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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