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'Assistant' robots that respond to verbal orders, a bet by Aidimme to democratize robotics in SMEs

Naturbot will understand the natural way of speaking of operators, as its predecessor Interbot did with keywords, and another Aidimme robot learns by demonstration.

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'Assistant' robots that respond to verbal orders, a bet by Aidimme to democratize robotics in SMEs

Naturbot will understand the natural way of speaking of operators, as its predecessor Interbot did with keywords, and another Aidimme robot learns by demonstration


A 'helper' robot that shares a workshop with workers and brings them a tool or holds a piece if they ask it out loud, with the natural way of speaking of employees who do not need to know programming or computing. This is the idea that Aidimme is working on, the metal-mechanical, furniture, wood, packaging and related technological institute, which is implementing different R&D lines so that robotics is not only a matter for large factories but also accessible to SMEs.

One of the main lines of work of Aidimme researchers in the field of robotics is "programming robots that are easy to use by anyone who is not an expert or engineer, and that can program the tasks they need intuitively", the engineer and project manager in the Technologies and Processes department at Aidimme Juan del Agua explained to Europa Press.

Under this premise, the Interbot project first emerged. Last year, from the Redit member technology center, they developed a voice program, with a series of keywords such as 'pick', 'move' or 'grab' with which the robot could move to a certain place, pick up a piece and take it to another place.

Now, they have started another project, Naturbot, in which they try to "give it a twist" and that, instead of obeying keywords, the robots pay attention to the workers' natural way of communicating, Del Agua detailed. Both projects are supported by Ivace through Feder funds and focus on collaborative robotic arms.

"In industrial robotics, which is what we can normally have in our heads, there are large robotic arms that are normally on fences where no human can enter because it is dangerous. Now, another branch that is booming is collaborative robots. , or 'cobots', designed to collaborate at your side, like an assistant, who can give you a screwdriver or help you turn a piece of furniture. Instead of a program in which the robot always does the same thing, the idea is that you decide what you want him to help you with and ask him for it," he illustrated.

As the Aidimme engineer recalls, the majority of Valencian companies are SMEs. "Large industrial companies have many automated processes and assembly lines, but small and medium-sized companies need a lot of flexibility to perform different tasks without having to continually reprogram. Furthermore, because they have fewer personnel, they may not have many professionals who know robotics. We think that if we make available simpler methods of using robots, it will be a great help to them," the expert highlighted.

Thus, there are companies that manufacture a few units of many different products and "say that they cannot implement robotics because they have to be constantly programming." "If we can create a new program for a new part by voice in five minutes, and it can be done by the same person who is an expert in sanding, for example, we would be able to break barriers when it comes to adopting automation using robots," added Juan del Water.

To achieve the challenges posed by collaborative robots, it is not enough to just work on the arm itself, but researchers, in their different projects, must integrate various technologies such as vision systems with artificial intelligence and voice recognition.

Thus, the Narturbot project faces three technological challenges. On the one hand, it works on voice recognition and "on that form of natural language that everyone has." Secondly, communication with the robot is developed and instructions are generated in the appropriate programming syntax for the robot.

Thirdly, there is the aspect of vision and artificial intelligence, so that the robot locates where a part is, for example a tool, and where the operator is to whom it must give it. This is achieved with two cameras and a coordinate system.

The Naturbot project will end in June and the researchers have already developed the first prototypes of the voice system, have trained in part recognition and have to define communication with the robot and try all the technologies. From there, they will begin to test the robot in increasingly complex work environments.

Beyond Naturbot, with the focus on achieving simpler robotics to bring industry 4.0 closer to the entire productive fabric, Aidimme experts have been developing several projects and lines of research.

In the Robotrack project, which ended in September, Aidimme researchers have followed the same objective of having the operator program the robots, but instead of using voice, they have used learning by demonstration. "With a series of cameras we capture what the operator does with his hand, which is translated into X and Y coordinates, and translated into instructions for the robot to move in the same way as what the robot's hand has done. person who taught him," he said.

They have also participated in Logiblock, a platform to manage robots with wheels and autonomous arms that were located in a warehouse or factory and integrated those vehicles with a robotic arm into a demonstrator room. And what we did was integrate it into a counter room that we have and we managed to use or program that robot to move them and take them to other locations and execute logistical tasks. In addition to Aidimme, the Ceramics Research Association (AICE), the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV), Exos Solutions and Robotnik Automotion collaborated in this project aimed at SMEs.

According to Juan del Agua, although the industry generally continues to use more traditional robots, manufacturers are progressively realizing the need to implement more intuitive interfaces without the need for code and are releasing products in that sense. Robotics for industry by voice commands is not yet on the market, but according to Juan del Agua, due to the reaction of the companies to which it has been shown, there is a demand for this type of development among the Valencian industry. Thus, a robotics distributor and two engineering companies are already interested in Naturbot.