Goods-to-Person (G2P) autonomous mobile robot (AMR) provider GreyOrange announces a new autonomous vertical bin picking solution together with robotics integrator Vicarious. The solution leverages a collaborative robot (cobot) arm and AI-driven vision guidance to locate and acquire items out of vertical bins contained on a mobile storage unit (MSU).
Vicarious has raised more than $122M since 2012, and includes some high profile investors, such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Mark Benioff and Mark Zuckerberg. Vicarious’s investors believe that the company’s robots-as-a-service (RaaS) business model is the way of the future for scaling robotics in markets like warehousing and logistics. Vicarious leverages RaaS to enable customers to deploy in more robots during peak periods and then remove them if demand subsides.
The GreyOrange AMRs automate the movement of MSUs into and out of the cobot’s workcell as needed to fulfill customer orders. The complete solution is an example of warehouse automation workflows called Goods-to-Robot (G2R).
Vicarious bin picking
Vision guided bin picking has been one of the “holy grail” robotics applications for several decades. This application has been difficult to automate, due in part to the complexities of identifying the pose of items in the vision camera’s field of view and then moving a robot gripper into position to accurately and repeatedly acquire an item. The application of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms have evolved quickly in the last decade, due in part to research by companies like Vicarious.
Robots have been able to acquire randomly located items from conveyors and loosely fixtured items for decades. The hurdle has been how to teach new items to the vision system quickly and to figure out how to pick up a diversity of items with a single gripper design. This has been especially difficult given the variety of items found in a typical e-commerce warehouse or 3PL distribution center.
Vicarious is one of the few companies to solve this problem, first for items on a flat surface like a conveyor belt, and now for bin-picking. Bin picking adds an extra level of difficulty because items can be stacked on top of each other within the bin.
GreyOrange continues to expand globally
GreyOrange has a broad portfolio of AMRs, however, they are emerging as a global market leader in the G2P application segment. The company started in India, expanded to Asia and now is selling their solutions in North America and Europe. The company has raised more than $170M since it was founded in 2011, the last round was in 2018. E-commerce has seen a big bump over the past year, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift in buying patterns from consumers. GreyOrange has grown in response to the expanding needs of warehouse operators.
Up until now, G2P applications have relied on human pickers to pull items from MSUs at manual picking stations. This solution automates the picking station with a collaborative robot, that can fit into the existing picking station footprint.
This announcement is one of the first of its kind and provides an automated solution for the picking station operation in current G2P operations. This collaboration could position the combination of GreyOrange AMRs and Vicarious bin picking workstations as early leaders in the G2R market. Robots-as-a-service remains one of the leading business models for warehouse robotics with most of the vendors offering some form of RaaS to help make automation affordable to new clients.