Talerico reports that Sana Ali is an applications engineer at Pittsburgh-based Seegrid, a nine-year-old spinoff of Carnegie Mellon University's mobile robot lab. The company's robotic industrial trucks are revolutionizing how inventory moves across floors at manufacturing and distribution sites.
The typical unmanned industrial vehicle requires floor magnets, buried wires, or costly lasers to pick up and move materials in a warehouse. But Seegrid's two robotic stars – a pallet truck that lifts 8,000 pounds and a tow tractor that hauls 10,000 pounds – incorporate state-of-the art vision technology that saves businesses time and money.
Telerico describes how it works: Cameras mounted on a robot take pictures of the environment. The images are recorded in the robot's memory, and converted into maps made up of 3-D grids. The robot is able to see the grid – hence the company's name – and understand where it is at all times as it lugs heavy loads from one place to another autonomously. If someone or something gets in its way, the robot stops or slows down until the obstacle moves away.
"No other company has this technological ability to move from point A to point B using cameras," explains Ali, who hails from Qatar and received her master's in engineering management from RMU. "The robot remembers, 'I am going to make that turn and follow that path.'" The technology, she adds, "is so smart and yet so simple."
In time, Ali sees Seegrid's vision-guided solutions adapted for various industries, including defense and medicine. "This technology could be the right path to so many things," she says. But with the excitement of artificial intelligence and the arrival of "thinking" robots come concerns about what happens when mechanical workers replace real people on the job.
Talerico reports that Seegrid is the magnum opus of co-founder Hans Moravec, the company's chief scientist and an adjunct robotics professor at CMU. The Austrian-born Moravec is known as a visionary in the field of artificial intelligence, and his books include Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence and Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind. In "Rise of the Robots," a 2008 essay he wrote for Scientific American, Moravec predicted that by 2040, robotics will introduce "a freely moving machine with the intellectual capabilities of a human being." These human-like automatons, according to Moravec, will have a conscience and be capable of reasoning.
Pittsburgh-based Seegrid Corp. (www.seegrid.com)