Fetch Robots Will Automate Warehouse Work

Fetch Robotics is the developer and manufacturer of the Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) collaborative project. Its robots are designed to be used in warehouses and markets. In early December last year, Fetch announced that they have reached $25 million in the funding of their Series B. Now, they have purchased a new building space for their base of operations that is big enough to house multiple facilities.

The new headquarters, located in South Bay, San Jose, has enough space for offices, meeting rooms with robotics-themed decorations, and even a large space that imitates a warehouse that serves as a testing ground for their autonomous robots.

Fetch was established by former members of robotics company Willow Garage after the latter went out of business in 2014. During the first several months, Fetch gained funding by selling its Freight Mobile and Mobile Manipulator robots to universities. These cheap-to-produce machines were intended for research and are capable of a wide variety of functions, similar to the popular PR2 by Willow Garage.

Recently, TechCrunch conducted an interview with Melonee Wise, the CEO of Fetch Robotics. Wise states that while some of their work is based on Willow Garage’s tech, they soon started to look for ways they could improve the market. The CEO says that manufacturing and work in warehouses soon caught their attention, as they seemed to be ‘tractable problems’ when it comes to robotics.

Fetch developed a series of modular robots to help in warehouses. Similarly to a Roomba, albeit larger, their base is round and equipped with wheels. The programming features an intelligence system that navigates the robot in the ‘semi-structured’ setting of a warehouse and is capable of easily avoiding other robots and humans as well. In the practice warehouse of the new Fetch headquarters, a few additional obstacles are randomly laid out in order to monitor how the robots behave.

The robots are controlled by Fetch’s very own cloud platform and a graphical user interface, through which even people who are not experts in robotics can set up the system and issue commands. The system is flexible and features several modules, including a radio-frequency identification system that the robots use to locate items and shelves.

Fetch announced the addition of two new system: a transfer system featuring conveyor belts, and one that can move shelves. Company CEO Wise also states that they are building another modular robot that will be able to pick up and place objects. The construction of such a robot would give Fetch a great competitive edge.

The increasing number of robots in any area could make one think that they will replace human workers. However, Wise shares the opinions of many others in the industry: that the robots will be put to work in areas where there is already a shortage of personnel. Online retailers especially are experiencing these shortages when it comes to shipping, and a few of them, like DHL, are already using Fetch robots.

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