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13 June, 2024

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Siemens, Rockwell and others adopt AI technologies

04 June, 2024

The chip-maker Nvidia has announced a series of tie-ups with industrial automation suppliers including Siemens, Rockwell Automation, Teradyne Robotics (which owns Universal Robots and MiR), the Chinese industrial giant and car-maker BYD, and Intrinsic, the software and AI robotics subsidiary of Alphabet/Google. Nvidia says that the collaborations could lead to tens of millions of AI-powered autonomous machines being deployed around the world.

The latest announcements – made at the Computex exhibition in Taiwan – come just months after Nvidia unveiled an AI platform that has been adopted by humanoid robot developers including Agility Robotics, Apptronik, Boston Dynamics, Figure AI, Fourier Intelligence, Unitree Robotics and Xpeng Robotics.

The new announcements cover more than dozen robot and automation developers that are adopting Nvidia’s Isaac platform for the next generation of AI-enabled autonomous machines and robots. They include:

Siemens, which is using the Isaac Sim simulation application to accelerate the development and testing of advanced robotics applications, such as its Simatic Robot PickAI and Robot Pack AI technologies. The AI vision software enables robots to pick-and-pack arbitrarily-located items autonomously and reliably without prior training of the AI. The companies plan to announce new capabilities at the SPS exhibition in Germany later this year.

Rockwell Automation, which is expanding an existing collaboration with Nvidia to help develop safer, smarter, more powerful and more efficient industrial mobile robots. “Rockwell's industrial AI expertise, combined with Nvidia AI and robotics technologies, is going to help drive an exciting new generation of autonomous mobile robots,” says Ryan Gariepy, chief technology officer at the AMR manufacturer Otto Motors, which Rockwell acquired in 2023.

Intrinsic, the software and AI robotics subsidiary of Alphabet, which acquired the Open Source Robotics Corporation in 2022, has tested Nvidia’s Isaac Manipulator technology in its robot-agnostic software platform. This offers the potential for a scalable, universally applicable robotic-grasping skill that works across grippers, environments and objects.

BYD Electronics (BYDE), a subsidiary of China’s BYD Group which operates in the electronics, automotive, new energy and rail sectors. BYDE is developing a range of AMRs (autonomous mobile robots) to provide logistics for factories, using Nvidia’s Isaac Sim and Perceptor technologies.

Universal Robots (UR) and Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) (both owned by Teradyne Robotics), are using the Isaac platform to integrate AI into automation. UR is building Isaac Manipulator into its PolyScope X software to for new cobot applications, while MiR is using Isaac Sim to generate synthetic data and simulate its MiR1200 Pallet Jack for real applications. “With Nvidia Isaac’s advanced AI and simulation capabilities plugged into our large installed base of AMRs and cobots, we will push the envelope of innovation to achieve swift solutions for multiple industries,” predicts Teradyne Robotics’ president, Ujjwal Kumar.

Digital twins are helping manufacturers to simulate factories, saving time and boosting efficiencies

Vention, the Canadian company behind the cloud-based Manufacturing Automation Platform (MAP), is working with Nvidia to bring industrial automation to small and medium manufacturers, using AI and accelerated computing to advance cloud robotics. Vention's AI-enabled, cloud-first MAP draws data from 100,000 robot cells. It plans to use this to simplify the user experience on the cloud and the edge, using AI to create digital twins faster so manufacturers can test projects before they invest. Several products resulting from the collaboration are expected to be announced in Q3 of 2024.

“The era of robotics has arrived,” says Nvidia’s founder and CEO, Jensen Huang. “We are working to accelerate generative physical AI by advancing the Nvidia robotics stack, including Omniverse for simulation applications, Project Gr00t humanoid foundation models, and the Jetson Thor robotics computer.”

In his keynote address at Computex, Huang demonstrated how robots are being used for transport and healthcare, as well as manufacturing. In one demonstration, Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer, showcased a simulated autonomous factory with fleets of AI robots developed by Nvidia’s robotics partners.

Foxconn, which operates more than 170 factories around the world, is using a digital twin of a new plant in Mexico to define processes, and to place and train robots virtually. It expects the virtual simulations to boost manufacturing efficiency at the site and to cut its energy use by more than 30%.

The Isaac platform consists of a suite of accelerated libraries, AI foundation models and simulation technologies that robot-makers can build into their technology stacks. The modular platform allows users to adopt individual technologies or use several together.

More than 100 companies are now using one element – Isaac Sim – to simulate, test and validate robotic applications. They include Hexagon, Husqvarna and MathWorks. Isaac Lab has been adopted by Agility, Boston Dynamics, Figure AI, Fourier Intelligence and Sanctuary AI, while companies using Isaac Perceptor to develop advanced perception-based AMRs include ArcBest, BYD, Gideon, idealworks and RGo Robotics. Solomon, Techman Robot, Vention and Yaskawa are using Isaac Manipulator to build AI-based robotic arms.

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