Cartman, a budget priced robot from Australia triumphed in an annual contest to create a machine that can identify, pick up and stow warehouse goods commonly known as ‘pick and place’. The bot was designed from scratch to take part in 2017's Amazon Robotics Challenge and used a radically different design to past winners. Instead of building a robotic arm, the victors used a sliding mechanism that picked up products from above.
The four-day event was held in Japan. The winning Australian Centre for Robotic Vision (ACRV) squad were engineers from Queensland University of Technology, the University of Adelaide and the Australian National University. They walked away with the $80,000 cash prize. The parts for the robot were cheap by the standards of typical industrial robots and it could be built for under 30,000 Australian dollars (USD $23,935) including its sensors, according to Prof Jonathan Roberts, robotics lab leader at Queensland University of Technology. Amazon already uses robots to move goods about its warehouses, but relies on humans to pick up and pack them. Finding a cheap, universal solution to package the millions of items Amazon sells on a daily basis is something of a “holy grail” in the robotics industry. It began hosting the competition in 2015 to ‘promote shared and open solutions’ to automating the tasks. A total of 16 teams from 10 countries took part in the latest challenge in the city of Nagoya.