The Rise of Cloud Robotics

By Robert Huschka

Who doesn’t need more brain power? That’s true of robots, too.

That’s where cloud robotics comes in.

Cloud robotics is often defined as using network-connected robots to leverage the power of the internet to share data, drive AI-power learning and harness the power of parallel computing to improve performance.

As a small-scale example, consider a robot lawnmower. It can probably do a fine job on its own. But now imagine a dozen connected lawnmowers working the yards of a condo association. As one learns the terrain, that information is shared with the others. If it stumbles upon obstacles, other mowers are alerted. All performance data from every mower is analyzed in aggregate form with the computing power of the cloud. The operations of each mower can be optimized from that analysis.

Google offers up this simple video explanation of how cloud robotics might work.

Some of the benefits of cloud robotics:

  • Simplified implementation: Toolboxes of AI applications that are ready to use in your processes.
  • Access to big data: Large updated libraries of images, maps, and object/product data can be used in training your systems.
  • Processing power: On-demand computing power for statistical analysis, learning, mapping and motion planning.
  • Collective learning: Robots and systems share optimization data across facilities or even entire operations.
  • Large-scale orchestration: Large sets of robots operating in concert – picking and performing tasks, based on a wide set of variables.
  • Human collaboration: Connecting your processes to crowdsourced human skills for analyzing images and video, classification, learning, and error recovery. And for telepresence operations.

While the term has been around since 2010, this could be the year where the cloud robotics takes center stage.

AmazonGoogle and Honda have released or about to release cloud robotics platforms. Microsoft is working with Open Robotics and the ROS Industrial Consortium (ROS-I) to officially support the open-source Robot Operating System (ROS) in Windows 10 – which will link into its numerous cloud products.

CloudMindsC2RORapyuta RoboticsHit Robot GroupV3 Smart Technologies and others are working on cloud platforms for various applications – from logistics to face recognition to mapping and optimization.

Industrial robot manufacturers – FANUC, Kuka and ABB — are also learning to leverage the cloud both for predictive maintenance and optimization.

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