Home Food & Shopping Ocado to use Star Wars-style C-3PO robots at warehouses

Ocado to use Star Wars-style C-3PO robots at warehouses

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Ocado will roll out Star Wars-style C-3PO humanoid robots to help its warehouse workers complete tasks using artificial intelligence

Ocado plans to wheel out Star Wars-style C-3PO humanoid robots at its warehouses as early as 2025.

The ‘SecondHands’ robots will pass spanners and move ladders to workers using artificial intelligence and speech recognition.

Ocado has already built a prototype, marking the latest move from the online grocery specialist to cut its reliance on human workers.

Ocado plans to wheel out Star Wars-style C-3PO humanoid robots at its warehouses as early as 2025. The 'SecondHands' androids will pass spanners and move ladders to workers using artificial intelligence and speech recognition. Pictured is a SecondHands prototype

Ocado plans to wheel out Star Wars-style C-3PO humanoid robots at its warehouses as early as 2025. The ‘SecondHands’ androids will pass spanners and move ladders to workers using artificial intelligence and speech recognition. Pictured is a SecondHands prototype

IS OCADO REMOVING HUMAN WORKERS?

Ocado delivers groceries for both Morrisons and Waitrose in the UK, and has invested millions of pounds into developing home delivery technology for global grocery retailers. 

Its newest depot in Andover, Hampshire, uses hundreds of robots to move boxes of groceries stored in a giant grid. 

The firm’s work with automated warehouse systems, including SecondHands, has led to worries it is phasing out human employees.

An Ocado spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘The idea of SecondHands is not to replace people, it is to take away an element of a technician’s job that is physically demanding, boring or unpleasant.

‘We are removing the physical labour but you will still need the human. The idea is they work together and are more productive as a pair.’

The SecondHands prototype resembles Star Wars android C-3PO, but with wheels at its base instead of legs.

It is designed to assist human engineers looking after Ocado’s handling systems using AI to predict workers’ needs.

The robot listens to commands and interprets human reactions to decide how to help in different situations.

Workers can call out instructions, such as ‘pick up that spanner’ or ‘hold this for me’, and the robot responds with the appropriate action.

According to Ocado, the robot ‘learns through observation’ to take on jobs that require a level of precision or strength unmatched by human workers. 

An Ocado spokesperson told MailOnline that the android’s development will complete in 2020, with the project’s £6.2 million ($8.4 million) cost provided by an EU funding board.

SecondHands robots could be installed into Ocado warehouses as early as 2025, the spokesperson said.

Graham Deacon, robotics research leader at Ocado, said the company’s aim is to develop an autonomous robot that can help in ‘a fluid and natural interaction between robot and technician’.

SecondHands was developed at the Institute for Anthropomatics and Robotics at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), in southern Germany.

Ocado is now working with experts at University College London, Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and Sapienza University in Rome to further develop systems that recognise human actions and speech. 

SecondHands is designed to assist human engineers looking after Ocado's handling systems using AI to predict workers' needs. The robot (pictured) listens to commands and interprets human reactions to decide how to help in different situations

SecondHands is designed to assist human engineers looking after Ocado’s handling systems using AI to predict workers’ needs. The robot (pictured) listens to commands and interprets human reactions to decide how to help in different situations

Ocado delivers groceries for both Morrisons and Waitrose in the UK, and has invested millions of pounds in developing home delivery technology for global grocery retailers. 

The Ocado prototype robot resembles Star Wars' C-3PO (pictured)

The Ocado prototype robot resembles Star Wars’ C-3PO (pictured)

The firm is currently building a robotic warehouse for French supermarket Groupe Casino as part of a huge international deal.

Its newest depot in Andover, Hampshire, uses hundreds of robots to move boxes of groceries stored in a giant grid.

Ocado is also developing robots that can recognise and grip a range of products, from delicate eggs to toxic bottles of bleach.

The firm’s work with automated warehouse systems, including SecondHands, has led to worries it is phasing out human employees.

An Ocado spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘The idea of SecondHands is not to replace people, it is to take away an element of a technician’s job that is physically demanding, boring or unpleasant.

‘We are removing the physical labour but you will still need the human. The idea is they work together and are more productive as a pair.’

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