AIrobots that can "think" like a human and work on "any assembly line" have been developed by British scientists.
The machines with the "decision-making capability of a human operator" are hoped to slash manufacturing costs in factories around the world.
Experts at Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry made the breakthrough using machine-learning and vision sensors, CoventryLive reports.
They said their bots "dramatically improve the productivity and flexibility" of worker droids which can only do one repetitive task.
MTC senior research engineer Mark Robson said: “Giving robots the decision-making capability of a human operator can dramatically improve their productivity and flexibility in variable conditions.
“Our demonstrator project shows how machine learning can be applied to achieve this.”
He added, “This work has shown that deep learning-based vision can provide robots with a robust ability to find and work with objects.
“The MTC has demonstrated methods to overcome the challenges in translating this ability into the physical domain of robotics which will enable the use of other machine-learning algorithms in industrial solutions.”
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In trials the MTC’s system returned a 99 per cent successful detection rate and demonstrated that it was possible to swap the input tray and change the component mix with little effect on performance.
The MTC’s chief automation officer Mike Wilson added: “We now have a blueprint for developing and implementing intelligent vision systems to industrial problems in an effective way, opening up potential applications in human-robot collaboration.
“We have eliminated the need for part fixtures as this system can adapt to new layouts without reprogramming.
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“Completely traceable decision-making allows errors to be addressed quickly and effectively, and the system can be trained to apply to any new assembly process.”
The roboticists said their machines can be taught to make assembly decisions based on the components put in front of it.
Traditional industrial robots need expensive reprogramming and retooling to adapt to switch tasks.
MTC has now shown off the ability of its "flexible automation demonstrator" to create a low cost, reactive assembly system.
Its system mimics a typical electronic assembly using multiple components and is trained to recognise components and assembly variables and retrieve solutions from its database.
It combines a robot operating system with a collaborative robot and low-cost vision sensors.
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