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Humanoid robots drive machine vision development

12 February 2019

As Japan launches a new Blade Runner-style humanoid robot to replace manual labourers, it has never been so vital to equip robots with innovative vision skills to help them understand and extract information from real-world environments.

HRP-5P appearance (left) and HRP-5P carrying an approx. 13 kg board (right) (Credit: National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology)

That is the view of Industrial Vision Systems (IVS), a supplier of machine vision systems to industry, who has seen first-hand how a growing number of manufacturers are safeguarding their quality using robots with machine vision.

The new Japanese HRP-5P is capable of heavy lifting and is designed to autonomously perform heavy labour or work in hazardous environments. Its intelligence comprises environmental measurement and object recognition, full-body motion planning and control. The robot’s creators said it combines several recent advancements in technology including environmental analysis, object recognition technology, and whole-body motion planning. Standing at 182cm tall, and weighing 101kg, it is already capable of essential functions. The machine walks upright on two legs and is shown in a promotional video to pick up, carry, and secure drywall panels to a timber frame using a nail gun. The robot was publicly displayed for the first time at the World Robot Expo 2018 in Tokyo in October 2018.

The acceleration of robot technology within automated visual inspection is continuing to grow driven by the development of such robots. New challenges relating to quality inspection are remaining to be addressed, such as how machine vision inspection can replace real human inspectors, with a lifetime of experience in manual inspection. Within manufacturing workspaces, it is now imperative that robots equipped with vision can pinpoint defects, integrity failures, label checks, date inspection and rouge defect detection, all at high speed.

“If the robot is capable of vision then it can significantly improve the bottom-line of the customer,” comments Earl Yardley, Director at IVS. “We are already witnessing a notable increase in requests from manufacturers for automated 100% vision inspection systems for production lines. This enables them to reach their product inspection target, ensuring they deliver high-quality products and as a result save money and safe-guard contracts.”

Dispelling the myth that automation will cost manufacturing jobs, the IVS vision systems are designed so that the robot and human can work side by side without barriers. “When it can be deployed, collaborative robots are generally easier and more cost effective to use than the traditional models,” adds Earl Yardley.

By 2025, the fourth industrial revolution is expected to create up to £2.7 trillion of value worldwide, according to the World Economic Forum. “The deployment of artificial intelligence machine vision combined with IoT sensors will free up workers to concentrate on more creative tasks. This will increase productivity, as well as help manufacturers to identify potential problems by spotting defects that are not detectable by the human eye, the robot revolution continues,” concludes Yardley.

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