PRACE. A student experience among robots


An opportunity which a lot of technical-oriented college students are looking forward to is being part of a team developing the latest robot technology on the market. Add a well-known company to the equation and you get the perfect mix! My name is Lucian and I will be taking you through a brief journey of how it is like to participate in playing with and developing a Program-by-Demonstration robot, within the PRACE initiative.
So, what is PRACE? PRACE is an european FP7 project coordinated by Bosch and includes three SMErobotics partners Fraunhofer IPA, Danish Technological Institute and University of Lund in the partner group. As a short overview, the objective of PRACE is the development of a highly adaptable two handed, mobile robot system for automation of typical small batch assembly operations.  One of its biggest advantages is the training method it uses: learning by demonstration. Therefore, we are trying to pass on knowledge to robots similarly to how a new employee would learn new actions. There, a master teaches an apprentice by instructing certain skills by demonstration. The apprentice watches the actions and effects to categorize this newly gathered knowledge into his knowledge base. Then, while applying this new skill, the master corrects the execution by refining the experience. This loop is iterated until the master is satisfied with the result. In Real Life.
As an intern in project management and communication, I got to program the robot using its very intuitive commands and made it work; it does not take a highly experienced IT person to do it. On the contrary, it would take a completely tech-lost person roughly five minutes to understand the process.
You are using a remote control to show exactly where and what the robot should do. That is achieved by having 6D cameras placed above the robot which track the dongle you are holding in your hand. The movement waypoints and desired actions are stored in a sequence in the computer which can be saved. The sequence is then loaded and followed step by step, by the robot.  It may seem a bit far-fetched for the robot industry but really, the end users might just say goodbye to the countless lines of code needed for this until now.
The PRACE initiative comes to aid the customer specific production companies which need extreme flexibility, such as weekly changes of what the robot tasks are. This gives the user an infinite list of possibilities with the investment in a single machine.
We have put together a short clip showcasing the PRACE training method; make sure you don't miss it!
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