Like C-3PO and R2-D2, some robot pairs are a match made in mechanised heaven. Now, a new team, Fetch and Freight, can eliminate much of the efficiency-botching human labour from warehouses, and apparently get that Amazon shipment to your door faster than ever.
It’s a system Fetch Robotics developed to help retailers be faster and more agile in their deliveries. Companies are adapting as online buying options like Amazon Prime, Google Express, and eBay Now have gained popularity.
Fetch, the taller of the two, grabs goods with its product-picking arm and dumps them in Freight, the short, squat, bin bot that follows Fetch around and then scuttles items to the shipping area at speeds hitting three metres per second.
The duo can both be built upon the open source robot operating system, ROS. They work alongside human counterparts, eliminating the fleshbags’ more mundane, time-sucking tasks like packing for delivery. And when they need juicing up, they cruise back to their charging stations automatically.
But Fetch’s telescoping spine can only reach about 1.5 metres, and its back-drivable 7DOF arm can only lift about six kilos. Amazon, for example, already has robots of its own in its warehouses, and are far heavier lifters.
But what F&F lack in cargo-heaving brawn they make up for in adorable sidekick helpfulness. Plus, these guys (scheduled to ship later this year) can be plopped in any ol’ warehouse, unlike Amazon’s robot-filled ones, which require special shelving and infrastructure.
Either way, more robots are going to staff warehouses in the near future: E-commerce sales hit over $300 billion last year, a 15 per cent spike from 2013. The battle between Fetch and Freight versus brick and mortar has only just begun.
Image credit: Fetch Robotics