Make warehouse automatic sorting “smarter”, Shandong University laboratory and Meituan jointly develop smart robotic arms

On October 27, the reporter learned from the Visual Perception and Intelligent System Laboratory of Shandong University (hereinafter referred to as “Shandong University VSISLab”) that it has recently jointly launched a scientific research project with the technology retail company Meituan, aiming to break through the autonomy of industrial robotic arms. The problem of perception and decision-making enables it to accurately identify and sort messy department stores without human intervention. After the breakthrough of this practical application-oriented scientific research, it is expected to be applied to warehousing and sorting of fresh food and department stores, providing “first mile” support for the automated logistics system in the retail industry.

Data shows that in 2021, China’s industrial robot output will reach 366,000 units, an increase of 68% over the previous year; the service robot output will be 9.214 million units, an increase of 47% over the previous year. China has become the world’s largest application market for robots. Among them, the application of precision robotic arm technology for industrial production scenarios such as automobile assembly and welding has become mature. For the retail industry, the intelligent robotic arm that can identify and make decisions independently and realize functions such as precise sorting and palletizing still needs further breakthroughs.

Focusing on the above-mentioned key issues, the Shandong University team proposed an autonomous perception and decision-making algorithm for the robotic arm, and completed the realistic version of the “Tetris” task – the robotic arm can identify the attributes of objects, and judge grasping and placing only through a picture. Location. The robotic arm changes from “clumsy” to “smart” through autonomous learning, and achieves “accurate grasp and alignment”.

It is understood that the Shandong University team has invested more than 3 years of research and development in this project. In order to further promote the implementation of cutting-edge technologies, the Shandong University team and Meituan carried out joint research to explore and develop a softer, smarter, and more versatile robotic arm, which can also be applied to warehousing scenarios such as fresh food and department store retail in the future to help operations. The personnel further improved the efficiency of sorting, stockpiling and replenishment.

Ma Lin, a senior researcher at the Visual Intelligence Department of Meituan, said that the two sides hope to jointly develop a set of overall solutions based on visual recognition + robotic arms, which can realize replenishment, inventory and other links for products with more specifications and more packaging types. automation.

Professor Zhang Wei, head of Shandong University’s VSISLab, believes that this joint research and development project is of great value. Meituan can provide rich verification scenarios for the laboratory’s cutting-edge technologies, and put forward more specific application requirements for robotic arm sorting, packing and palletizing. “This is also a process of exploratory research. I hope that through school-enterprise cooperation, we can work out a set of practical and effective solutions and bring some inspiration to the industry.”

In recent years, our province’s scientific and technological innovation has taken the lead in “going ahead and opening a new situation”, and has made great efforts in “leading”, “landing” and “attracting talents” in scientific and technological innovation, accelerating the implementation of the innovation-driven development strategy, and accelerating the construction of high-level innovation. The carrier, accelerate the emergence of high-level innovation achievements, accelerate the cultivation of high-quality innovative enterprises, accelerate the gathering of high-level innovative talents, and continuously improve the regional innovation capabilities.

As the first productive force of science and technology, the first resource of talents and the first driving force of innovation, colleges and universities play a huge role as the main force of basic research and the source of major scientific and technological breakthroughs. The innovation momentum from scientific research in universities is also accelerating and catalyzing industrial technological innovation in all walks of life.

The Ministry of Commerce’s “Report on the Development of China’s Online Retail Market in the First Half of 2022” clearly mentioned “instant retail” as one of the new consumption scenarios. Especially with the wave of instant retail, many brick-and-mortar businesses have accelerated the construction of omni-channels, and the demand for technological innovation applications has become stronger and stronger. At present, technology companies including Microsoft, IBM, and Meituan are actively involved in retail technology innovation, constantly launching integrated products based on artificial intelligence, machine learning and other technologies to help the industry improve efficiency with technological innovation.

Zhang Wei said that scientific research and innovation should further serve the development of the industry, “especially as applied research, we should actively seek changes. In the past, we customized scenarios to verify algorithms, but now we develop algorithms for scenarios. Do research from an application perspective to solve problems. Only by being oriented can we help companies and industries solve their pain points.”

(Reported by Duan Tingting, a reporter from Dazhong Daily, Dazhong Daily)