January 8, 2019

Chinese startup brings autonomous warehouse robot to CES show

Chinese startup brings autonomous warehouse robot to CES show

ForwardX says its AMR units are being used by JD.com for collaborative picking tasks.

By Ben Ames

The bustling market for warehouse robots got another entry this week when tech startup ForwardX Robotics made the North American debut of an autonomous mobile robot (AMR) now being used by Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com.

ForwardX showed off its AMR X150 intelligent warehousing robot at the giant consumer electrics show (CES) in Las Vegas, boasting of capabilities like a load capacity of 220 pounds, top speed of 5 feet per second, and 10 hours of operation per battery charge. The AMR also offers automatic planning and obstacle avoidance and carries tools like a radio frequency identification (RFID) card reader, barcode scanner, and adhesive label printer.

JD has already deployed 20 units of a similar model, the AMR X350, which carries heavier loads, ForwardX said in an email. A large third party logistics provider (3PL) is also using the robots to work collaboratively with its human workers, using either a follow mode or an auto-drive mode to accompany pickers on their routes, the firm said.

The Beijing-based firm also launched two additional robot platforms at the technology show, showing off Ovis—a suitcase that can automatically follow its owner through airports and hotels—and an autonomous lawnmower that uses computer vision sensors to take over the chore of grass cutting.

"We've pioneered several different technologies—most importantly unparalleled computer vision—to create the world's smartest suitcase,"  Nicolas Chee, founder and CEO of ForwardX, said in a release. "However, it's the underlying technology—the AI brain we've developed—that allows us to develop AI-powered robotic applications for an unlimited number of consumer and industrial uses."

ForwardX says its robots use deep learning-based computer vision for high level understanding, VSLAM (visual simultaneous localization and mapping) positioning, reinforcement learning-based navigation and avoidance, and automatic control technology. That bundle of technology allows robots to have a "smart brain" with perception, cognition, judgment and decision-making capabilities, the firm says.

"Most robots today are programmed to do a single task," said Chee. "Our AI-enabled robots can perform several different functions with very limited help from humans, similar to self-driving vehicles. We see that as the next true breakthrough in robotic technology."

About the Author

Ben Ames
Senior Editor
Ben Ames has spent 20 years as a journalist since starting out as a daily newspaper reporter in Pennsylvania in 1995. From 1999 forward, he has focused on business and technology reporting for a number of trade journals, beginning when he joined Design News and Modern Materials Handling magazines. Ames is author of the trail guide "Hiking Massachusetts" and is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.

More articles by Ben Ames

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