Robots are actually old hat. Back in 1954, George Devol invented the first industrial robot, which then celebrated its premiere at General Motors in 1961 for the removal and separation of injection molded parts. With the rapidly advancing development of artificial intelligence however, the topic is currently receiving a lot of attention again, most recently at the Automatica trade fair in Munich in June 2023.
When it comes to AI robots, many people think of robots for the home, such as vacuum cleaner robots from iRobot and Xiaomi or educational robots for children like Miko and ROYBI. In our article, however, we focus on the models that companies use in industry and service. We will show you what types of AI robots are already available on the market, where and how they are used and what they cost. We also explain what benefits AI robots bring to companies and what challenges they have to overcome when using them.
This article was written in German, automatically translated into other languages and editorially reviewed. We welcome feedback at the end of the article.
The most Important in a Nutshell
- AI robots are robots that use artificial intelligence to perform tasks that were previously carried out by humans.
- Common types of AI robots include autonomous mobile robots and cobots.
- Key technological elements of AI robots include machine learning and natural language processing.
- Companies work more efficiently with AI robots and achieve higher product quality.
- Konfuzio has intelligent digital AI robots with which you can optimize and automate complex document processes. Talk to one of our experts now!
What are AI robots?
A robot is a mechanical device that is programmed to perform tasks automatically. These are often tasks that are normally performed by humans. A robot either works autonomously or is controlled by external devices or humans. The term robotics describes the field that deals with the development, construction and application of robots.
This means that AI robots are robots that use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to understand, learn and perform tasks.
They are equipped with algorithms and computer technology that enable them to develop human-like abilities such as perception, decision-making, speech recognition and problem-solving.
Companies are using robots with artificial intelligence in various areas, including industrial production, healthcare, transportation, aerospace, entertainment and the home. Advanced models act autonomously, adapt to different situations and perform human-like tasks - often even in complex and changing environments.
AI robots use various technologies, such as 2D/3D cameras, proximity sensors, vibration sensors and accelerometers, to record countless measurement data, which they analyze and react to in real time. What makes them "intelligent" is a broad class of systems and algorithms that enable them to imitate advanced human capabilities. These include, among others, Machine learning, neural networks and computer vision.
AI Robots in the Industry
Artificial intelligence and robots are no longer an exception, especially in logistics, production and assembly. Companies use various forms of robotics for different purposes and tasks. The most common types of robots with AI include the following:
Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR)
Autonomous mobile robots (AMR) are able to move independently in their environment and perform tasks without human assistance. These AI robots are equipped with sensors, actuators and advanced software that enable them to perceive their environment in real time and make decisions. To do this, they have 3D cameras, LiDAR sensors (Light Detection and Ranging), infrared and ultrasound, among other things, which they use to capture information, analyze it and adapt to situations. In contrast to conventional industrial robots, which are often mounted in fixed positions, AMRs move freely in dynamic environments.
Companies use AMR in various areas, such as logistics, warehouses, manufacturing, healthcare and agriculture. AMRs perform tasks such as transporting goods, feeding materials into production lines, checking inventories, disinfecting rooms in the healthcare sector and harvesting agricultural produce.
The price of autonomous mobile robots varies greatly depending on the specific functions and requirements. Suppliers for AMR include Baumüller and Génération Robots.
Articulated robots, also known as robotic arms or industrial robots, are mechanical devices with joints and arms that companies use to perform various tasks in industrial environments. These robotic arms are designed to perform human-like movements. This means that they are able to grip, lift, rotate and position objects. Among other things, they have image sensors and advanced AI control systems as well as several interconnected joints that allow them to move in different directions. Motors or actuators drive the joints so that the robot arms move precisely.
Companies often use articulated robots in the manufacturing industry to automate repetitive tasks such as product assembly, material handling, welding, painting and packaging.
This increases the efficiency of these processes. Robots with artificial intelligence are also used in medicine, space travel, research and the entertainment industry.
Articulated robots are generally more expensive than AMRs as they perform more complex tasks. Suppliers include Igus and Génération Robots. Prices for articulated robots from Igus start at around 2,700 euros for a robot arm with four degrees of freedom and range up to a good 4,000 euros for a model with five degrees of freedom.
Cobots, also known as collaborative robots, work together with humans. Unlike conventional industrial robots, which operate in isolated environments without human interaction, cobots are designed to work safely in a shared environment with humans - without the need for a protective barrier.
Cobots are equipped with various sensors that recognize people and their movements.
The AI robots are also able to respond to human speech and gestures without having to be trained by employees.
In practice, cobots support human workers in their processes, take on repetitive or dangerous tasks and thus increase efficiency in the workplace. Companies use cobots in various industries - from manufacturing and assembly to logistics, healthcare and research.
The cost of cobots varies depending on the model and functions. Suppliers of AI robots are Universal Robots and Igus. Prices for cobots from Igus start at just under 3,000 euros.
AI Robots in Service
In the service sector, companies use robotics with artificial intelligence primarily in the healthcare, retail and hospitality industries. These AI robots are three striking examples of this:
Robots in the healthcare sector (care robots)
Nursing robots are used in care facilities to support staff in caring for patients. One example of this is the robot "Paro". Paro is a therapy robot in the shape of a seal that is used in Germany to provide emotional support to Alzheimer's patients. Paro recognizes emotions, reacts to touch and has a calming effect on patients. It costs around 4,000 euros.
Service robots in the store
Service robots in retail answer customer questions, provide product information and show the way to specific products. In this way, they improve the customer experience. One example of artificial intelligence and robotics in this area is the AI robot "Pepper". It is interactive, recognizes human emotions and responds to customer requests. Depending on requirements, Pepper costs between 5,000 and 20,000 euros.
Hotel service robots
Hotel service robots assist guests with various tasks, such as checking in and out, issuing room key cards and delivering towels or other required items. One example is the AI robots at the "Henn na Hotel" in Japan. They ensure that hotel operations run smoothly. Other providers of hotel service robots are Sebotics and Robotise. The exact prices are available on request.
Key technological Elements of AI Robots
To enable AI robots to act "intelligently", they are generally equipped with the following future-oriented technologies:
Machine learning enables AI robotics to learn independently from data and thus make predictions and decisions. The robots use real-time data and contextual information to develop new learning paths and functions. The more data the robots receive, the better they act and react in situations. The humanoid robot "Justin", developed at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), recently demonstrated what this can look like in practice. At this year's "Automatica" robot trade fair, the robot turned a cube with the dexterity of a human - without having been taught how to do so.
The AI robot had independently developed the solution for handling the cube.
This can be attributed to deep reinforcement learning - a combination of deep learning and reinforcement learning - which brings us to the next technological pillar:
Deep Learning / Deep Reinforcement Learning
Deep learning is a sub-area of machine learning based on artificial neural networks with many layers (deep neural networks). These networks are able to recognize and internalize complex patterns from large amounts of data. This means that with deep reinforcement learning, robots learn to make optimal decisions independently by interacting with their environment. As part of a trial-and-error process, they receive rewards and punishments for their behavior. Put simply, deep (reinforcement) learning shows robots how to learn autonomously and make decisions for themselves.
Natural Language Processing (NLP)
Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a branch of artificial intelligence that enables robots to understand, interpret and react to human language in real time. NLP is based on a combination of linguistic rules and statistical models. The technology breaks down text data into tokens, i.e. individual words or phrases. It then analyzes these tokens in order to understand grammatical structures and relationships. This is done using algorithms based on machine learning that process large volumes of text data to recognize patterns. In practice, this is how humans control the aforementioned cobots, for example. And: AI robots interact with customers in service or automatically translate languages.
Conversational AI uses situational and contextual data, NLP and machine learning to optimize the interaction between AI robots and humans. In each interaction, robots record the dialog, process it, react to it - and learn from the reaction of their counterpart for the next interaction. Conversational AI helps AMRs in particular to work more efficiently with humans. The technology also supports robots in customer service. This was demonstrated by the fast food chain Lee's Famous Chicken Restaurants in Ohio in the USA, for example, when it used a conversational AI solution to serve customers in the drive-thru due to a shortage of staff.
Use Case of AI Robotics at E-Commerce Company Otto
The Otto Group recently demonstrated that robots with advanced artificial intelligence are already being used by large companies. It ordered more than 100 AI robots from the Californian start-up Covariant, which are to take over the packaging of goods. This will start with 8 robots at the Haldensleben (Saxony-Anhalt) and Altenkunstadt (Bavaria) sites. At the start, they will assemble and pack products from individual orders. However, it will not stop there.
Otto has already defined 300 possible fields of application for the use of robots with AI.
Time will tell exactly which ones will be used in the end. Otto is incorporating robotics and AI into its processes for two main reasons: Firstly, logistics must be organized as cost-efficiently as possible. Robots will optimize processes here. And secondly, the use of AI robots is due to the shortage of labor. Otto therefore came to the conclusion that AI will be a key success factor in logistics in the future.
6 key Benefits of AI Robots for Companies
The available technological possibilities and their areas of application in various sectors show that Companies are generating comprehensive competitive advantages with artificial intelligence and robots. What improvements does AI robotics bring in detail?
Increased efficiency and cost savings
Intelligent robots automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks. They perform these tasks with little or no human intervention. This makes processes more efficient and reduces production costs. For example, manufacturers use robots in automotive production for precise assembly processes, which leads to faster and more consistent results.
Robots with AI check products for defects and detect even the smallest faults. This improves product quality. Companies often use robotics early on in the manufacturing process to detect and avoid defects in good time. In the electronics industry, for example, companies use robots with camera systems to inspect products at micro level and thus ensure the highest quality standards.
Optimization of warehousing
Robots with artificial intelligence optimize warehousing processes by independently organizing shelves and transporting goods. This significantly reduces the need for manual warehouse work. Large companies such as Amazon, for example, use autonomous robots in their warehouses to improve inventory management and speed up shipping times.
Minimization of downtimes
Robots with AI analyze sensor data to predict the condition of machines and indicate maintenance needs in good time. Through this preventive maintenance, companies minimize unplanned downtime, which ensures productivity and business continuity.
Adaptability and flexibility
AI robots are able to switch quickly between different tasks and production requirements, which increases a company's adaptability. In other words, companies are making their production more flexible. One example of this is an automotive company that produces both sedans and SUVs on the same production line. Using conventional methods, the company would have to change the production line every time the car model changes, which costs time and resources. With AI robots, the manufacturer seamlessly switches between models as the robots are able to quickly adapt their tasks. This significantly increases the company's flexibility and efficiency.
Improved occupational safety
Robots with artificial intelligence take on dangerous or demanding tasks that are risky or highly stressful for humans. For example, they lift heavy loads in factories or work in high-temperature environments. One concrete example is the use of robotics with artificial intelligence in metal processing. Robots carry out welding work with high precision. This means that employees are not exposed to the risk of burns or other injuries.
4 Challenges of AI Robotics
To realize these benefits, companies need artificial intelligence and robotics that are technological market leaders. These 4 pillars in particular are proving to be a challenge:
High AI requirements
In order for robots to take over tasks that were previously largely performed by humans, they need an AI that harmoniously combines the pioneering technologies of machine learning, deep learning, NLP, conversational AI and computer vision. Only then will AI robots be able to not only understand simple commands, but also reliably process contexts and nuances and then execute them mechanically.
The integration of robotics with artificial intelligence into existing production lines is complex and requires customized solutions to ensure smooth communication with other machines and systems as well as with people. It is therefore important to adapt the artificial intelligence and mechanics of the robots to the individual requirements - for example in the warehouse or in assembly.
Need for specialist knowledge
Employees need training in order to interact with AI robots. In doing so, they acquire the specific specialist knowledge required to work efficiently and safely with the machines. Companies should therefore not only carefully plan the integration of robotics, but also the preparation of employees for the new way of working.
Collaboration between human employees and robots with AI requires strict safety protocols to prevent accidents and protect the physical integrity of employees. To do this, companies need to implement state-of-the-art safety systems, such as sensors and cameras that enable real-time monitoring. They should also introduce clear safety guidelines to educate employees about the risks and safe working practices when dealing with robots.
Konfuzio as a powerful Partner for digital AI Robots
Driven by advanced AI robots, numerous industries are currently experiencing a small revolution. However, the days when robots only performed mechanical tasks are over. Robots no longer have to appear in machine form in order to be integrated into human processes. They support companies as intelligent software (with AI) in digital processes, particularly in areas of application outside of material production. For example, in customer conversations conducted by chatbots, a "robot" talks to humans. And in automated document processing, a robot reads, understands and analyzes texts.
Konfuzio is your powerful partner for digital AI robots. The German provider not only has advanced AI, but also has the expertise to efficiently utilize the complexity of machine learning, natural language processing and deep (reinforcement) learning.
Konfuzio specializes in the intelligent and efficient evaluation of documents. In practice, this means that companies are able to use AI to optimize and automate comprehensive document processes with digital AI robots.
Contact Konfuzio now and let's explore the possibilities of integrating AI into your document processes together!