Ocado unveils dexterous robot that it hopes will work alongside humans

Fears that robots may one day steal humans’ jobs may be eased a little depending on how the world receives a prototype collaborative robot (cobot) designed to work alongside maintenance technicians.

The EU funded SecondHands project, which kicked off in 2015, aims to build a collaborative robot to offer support to maintenance technicians working in the warehouse of the online supermarket Ocado.

The prototype cobot, revealed today, which has the official title ARMAR-6, will eventually act as a second pair of hands that will assist engineering technicians when they are in need of help, and will be capable of handling tools or manipulating objects like ladders, pneumatic cylinders and bolts.

“I’ve been here for about seven years now and initially I was hired with a view to getting robots to pack the shopping,” said Graham Deacon, Robotics Research team leader at Ocado Technology.

“Things have moved on a bit since then and one of the things that we’re working on now is a project called SecondHands. This is developing a robot to assist our maintenance technicians. It’s called SecondHands because it’s literally meant to be a second pair of hands for the technician to get their work done.”

Ocado’s cobot was developed collaboratively by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Sapienza Università di Roma and University College London.

Images and video courtesy of Ocado

Each research team, together with Ocado’s own robotics department, contributed a different component that when put together make up the complete robot (part of me hopes someone shouted ‘It’s Megazord time’ when they were done with their part).

So, for example, KIT took care of the development of the cobot including its entire mechatronics, software operating system and control as well as robot grasping and manipulation skills, while EPFL handled human-to-robot interactions and action skills learning.

Rather than going straight onto the warehouse floor, the cobot has been delivered to the Ocado Technology robotics research lab where experiments to evaluate the integrated research components from all project partners is currently taking place.

Ocado hasn’t given any indication yet when we can expect the cobot to be working alongside its human brethren.

Kodak is the latest company to see its share price soar thanks to cryptocurrency

2018 is only 10 days old, but thanks to Kodak we’ve already reached peak 2018. Kodak, in partnership with the blockchain development company, WENN Digital, is set to launch its own cryptocurrency and blockchain-powered platform, KODAKCoin and KODAKOne.

The blockchain platform, KODAKOne, will create an encrypted, digital ledger of rights ownership for photographers to register both new and archived images that they can then license within the platform.

Photographers can then take part in a “new economy for photography” and using KODAKCoins will be able to receive payment for licensing their work or to sell their work “confidently on a secure blockchain platform”.

“For many in the tech industry, ‘blockchain’ and ‘cryptocurrency’ are hot buzzwords, but for photographers who’ve long struggled to assert control over their work and how it’s used, these buzzwords are the keys to solving what felt like an unsolvable problem,” said Kodak CEO Jeff Clarke.

“Kodak has always sought to democratize photography and make licensing fair to artists. These technologies give the photography community an innovative and easy way to do just that.”

Kodak has been accused of jumping onto the cryptocurrency bandwagon, and if that’s the case then it’s certainly working.

At the time of writing, Kodak’s share price stood at $6.80, which represents a 117% gain.

However, beyond associating itself with an in-vogue technology it’s not clear why Kodak needs a cryptocurrency.

Describing the the companies’ reasons for creating a crytocurrency WENN Digital CEO Jan Denecke said: “Engaging with a new platform, it is critical photographers know their work and their income is handled securely and with trust, which is exactly what we did with KODAKCoin.”

“Subject to the highest standards of compliance, KODAKCoin is all about paying photographers fairly and giving them an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a new economy tailored for them, with secure asset rights management built right in.”

Featured image courtesy of aradaphotography / Shutterstock.com

In an interview with the BBC, author of Attack of the 50ft Blockchain, David Gerard, also cast doubt on whether using a blockchain platform could really do what Kodak claim.

“Storing the information in a blockchain doesn’t protect your copyright any more than copyright law already does,” said Gerard.

However, given the success Kodak’s crypto offerings are experiencing perhaps it won’t be too long until we see more major brands releasing their own tokens and currencies.

Kodak’s initial coin offering will open on January 31, 2018 and is open to accredited investors from the US, UK, Canada and other select countries.