Robots for Hire: MusashAI Launches as World’s First Robotics Employment Agency
Looking to hire a new employee? A new partnership between an AI robotics company and an automotive parts manufacturer argues that maybe it should be a robot.
The partnership—dubbed MusashiAI—began as a consortium announced in April of 2019 with a goal of producing high-level AI industrial robotics solutions that were first demoed at AI Expo Tokyo 2019 in April.
Now, the partners have today launched what they're calling a "robot employment agency" to bring AI-powered robotics into more workplaces.
Robots by the Hour
One of the most unusual parts of the new agency is that the robots in question will be available for rent on an hour-by-hour basis. This means that even smaller companies without the ability to commission full fleets of AI-powered robotics may be able to test the waters of AI in their facilities.
A promotional image from SixAI
Because MusashiAI claims the machines in question are fully autonomous rather than automated, they are capable of learning as they work. In theory, a company need not program every minute task and motion into the robots as they would be at least partly trainable like any temporary worker.
SixAI's Six Projects for AI Robotics
SixAI is an Israeli-founded company founded by Ran Poliakine, an entrepreneur with a track record of spearheading technology startups with a future-tech feel. One of his most famous properties is Powermat Technologies, an inductive charging wireless power transfer (WPT) technology company he founded in 2007 which has since served as a core technology for major WPT applications across industries.
When speaking about the new "employment agency," Poliakine said that the goal was to offload "repetitive, but essential work" to robots so that humans could focus on more engaging tasks "where they have a competitive advantage over machines."
SixAI is so named because of its core founding interest in six AI robotics projects.
The six defined robotics goals paint a picture of the challenges facing the robotics industry, the first two of which are currently being brought to life by their partnership with Musashi Seimitsu:
- Visual inspection: Automated visual inspection that combines accurate environment sensing with machine vision has long been a staple in the dawn of Industry 4.0. SixAI reports that their partnership with Musashi Seimitsu's MusashiAI has already yielded a working prototype of this concept that is anticipated to be available commercially available mid-2020. At present, the SixAI website claims that their solution offers 98% defect detection accuracy achieved in under two seconds—a 1% accuracy increase in the same time frame compared to an experienced human in the same role, according to the announcement's press release.
A rendering of the visual inspection system for product defects. The blue lines indicate the positioning of several cameras around the objects to be inspected. Image used courtesy of MusashiAI
- Forklift materials transport: While forklift transport may seem oddly specific in comparison to some of the other entries on this list, it represents a huge swath of opportunity for AI in industry. In reality, SixAI is here referring to the portion of an industrial facility where material must be ferried from one location to another. Robotic forklift drivers all attached to the same ERP (enterprise resource management) system would be a remarkably complex system for AI to master. Like the visual inspection solution, the combination of SixAI and MusashiAI has created a product that is anticipated to be available mid-2020.
The "fully autonomous forklift" for materials transport. Image used courtesy of MusashiAI
But SixAI's goals lie far beyond the industrial parameters set by MusashiAI's partnership with Musashi Seimitsu, as demonstrated by their four remaining projects:
- Autonomous materials handling systems (AMHS): AMHS is a broad term that is common in the automation space due to the fact that such systems have significantly increased efficiencies across industries. SixAI has specifically identified semiconductor manufacturing as a focus industry for this solution, though many of its specific pain points (e.g., materials in electronic components that are sensitive to electromagnetic interference) are represented in other applications, as well.
- Last-mile delivery automation: The concept of the "last mile" is the idea of getting a product from, say, a discrete manufacturing facility to the end destination. SixAI reports that they are currently designing automation solutions for last-mile delivery, meaning that industrial robotics could theoretically source, produce, and deliver goods entirely autonomously.
- Placement agencies service-related robotics: This is perhaps the most ambitious of the six projects, as it aims to fill in the "gaps" of human services. While some roles can be accomplished by creating AI for rote tasks (e.g., cleaning an espresso machine in the case of AI baristas), SixAI specifically identifies more socially-focused services such as human resources hiring and training, as a role their AI could help fill. Replicating human social behavior is not something AI has done easily or well in the past, particularly not in extended situations such as a permanent role in a business.
- Security AI robotics: SixAI states that they hope to develop "violence and theft-recognition AI." This concept would be applicable anywhere from a drug store attempting to reduce shoplifting to border crossings attempting to identify violent behavior.
MusashiAI's Potential: "Monozukuri Meets AI"
Musashi Seimitsu is known for manufacturing parts for automotive powertrains and has over 35 locations globally with over 80 years of manufacturing experience. The MusashiAI consortium represents the lion's share of Musashi's AI project that officially launched in April.
An overview of MusashiAI's industrial workflow, interweaving AI with their manufacturing technology. Image used courtesy of Musashi Seimitsu
Where SixAI provides AI know-how, which Poliakine gleaned from years of developing machine-learning solutions in other industries such as healthcare, Musashi represents the real-world industrial backbone to the partnership. One of the key factors to understanding Musashi is, according to Musashi Seimitsu's philosophy, the Japanese concept of monozukuri: dedication to a craft embodied at every step of the production process.
Whether the robotic employees that the newly minted agency produces will be able to demonstrate the same monozukuri spirit that the company has prided itself on will be seen in the coming years as AI in robotics becomes more prominent.
Featured image (modified) used courtesy of SixAI.