Microsofts New Industrial Revolution Of Perceptive Human-Robot Workers

Author

Adrian Bridgwater, Contributor

April 13, 2015

Even in 2015, our first notion of these things called ‘robots’ are the shiny humanoid objects with two arms, two legs and a whirring 360-degree-spinning head that houses two electronic eyes and a square mouth. By 2016, the Hollywood movie notion of the robot will be secondary to the new devices we label as ‘robotics instruments’ in the Internet of Things and the so-called Industrial Revolution 4.0 that we currently find ourselves in.

The Robot –Ics Factor

That ‘ics’ factor is really important when we talk about robots. Without it, robots are still robots and they control us weak humans and our brainwaves — with it, robots become robotics and we control the Earth they walk upon (or are bolted down to) and the jobs they do in it.

So if robotics is becoming a normalized part of our technology landscape, then shouldn’t software application developers be looking for routes to program the newest breed of machines, sensors, attachments, wearables and ‘swallowables’ today? Microsoft says yes they should; the firm is now working with Kuka (a manufacturer of industrial robotics and automation solutions) to create smart manufacturing on the shop floor using the Azure Internet of Things service.

Human-robot collaboration love

Kuka’s Intelligent Industrial Work Assistant (Kuka LBR iiwa) uses precise movements and “perceptive technology“ to sense its way around a complex task and perform precise automation movements in a safe and secure way i.e. without killing off any passing humans. The firm says that this feature enables Kuka LBR iiwa to perform human-robot collaboration.

According to Microsoft, “The combination with Microsoft Azure Internet of Things (IoT) services, Kinect hardware and the OPC-UA communication standard leads to one of the world’s first showcases blending IT with robotic technologies into a smart manufacturing solution with new capabilities.”

Microsoft recently demonstrated the device at the Hannover Messe show and showed it performing the “complex and delicate” action of threading a tube into a small hole in the back of a dishwasher.

Caglayan Arkan, general manager for worldwide manufacturing at Microsoft explains that previously this task could not be completed by traditional robots because the robot could not sense its surroundings and its automatic movements would often break the appliance.

How does this thing actually work?

Movement data from the robot is streamed to the Azure cloud where workers can monitor progress and receive status reports from the factory floor. Errors in the supply chain are addressed in real time through Windows tablets, making the automated process faster.

The Azure cloud service works here to allow users to view and act on data through a management dashboard, providing business analytics and trend intelligence. If a certain piece of the dishwasher is breaking more frequently than other pieces, for example, advanced data stream analysis can help understand what may be causing the issue or use predictions to recommend preemptive repairs with machine learning technology.

“Robots serve as the link between IT and production, between humans and technology”, said Dr. Christian Schlögel, CTO of Kuka AG. “The showcase we created together with Microsoft is one example of how this link can be used in the future and how our technologies are ready for Industrie 4.0. It’s exciting to be at the forefront of sensitive robotics and to create the technology to allow humans to interact directly, increasing efficiency and productivity.”

We call this new thing ‘service robotics’

Where we go next is determined by software developers’ abilities to harness the opportunity for humans and robots to work together on highly sensitive tasks in close proximity. We call this new thing ‘service robotics’. It is characterized by factors like LBR iiwa being the first robot to have safe torque sensors in every axis that are suited for tactile solutions and gripper systems.

Times have changed and Robotics (CAPS R) is now a university degree, get used to it.

This article was written by Adrian Bridgwater from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


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