The future of industrial robotics is driven by AI

By Patrick Heimburger, Managing Director, fruitcore robotics 

By Patrick Heimburger, Managing Director, fruitcore robotics 

For the last couple of years, we have seen an incredible growth in the hype around artificial intelligence (AI) technology. The attention affects all industries and professions, including those of us who are concerned with the future of industrial robotics and automation. 


Sometimes it's hard to separate reality from speculation. What should someone considering important investments in automation solutions make of the busy AI landscape? How big a difference is AI really making to industrial robotics now, and what will it mean in the near future? 


I recently spoke about this very topic to an international audience at HANNOVER MESSE '24, the platform for all technologies related to industrial transformation (you can watch that here if you were an attendee). I was joined by Dr. Werner Kraus, Head of the Robotics Department at the renowned Fraunhofer IPA for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation. 


We both agree: AI is already having a huge impact on all aspects of industrial robotics and automation, and it will only become more important in the future. I can say this with great confidence because the company we founded in 2017 has been AI-driven from the very start. Without it, we wouldn't be where we are today. 


fruitcore robotics, the AI pioneer 


Right at the beginning of our journey at fruitcore robotics, we used machine learning algorithms to develop and perfect the innovative drive system of our industrial robots, which makes our Digital Robot Platform completely unique. It was the use of this AI technology that allowed us to bring a new approach to industrial robotics from the research lab to production. 


And we continue using machine learning to push the boundaries of what’s possible. Our latest model in the product range is HORST1500. By improving the machine learning algorithm, the new robot achieves cycle times up to 40% faster than its predecessor. As such it is our expertise in AI that has enabled us to design robot hardware that offers drastically increased performance for our customers. 


But industrial robotics is about a lot more than just hardware. AI also helps us to fulfill our mission: creating an industrial automation solution for customers that is easier to set up and operate than any other system. 


Our central control system, horstOS, was developed from the start to radically simplify the operation of our industrial robots. By enabling users to commission their robots quickly – it takes less than 60 minutes to graphically program new components – and control all components in one place, regardless of the manufacturer, we have been able to significantly reduce the cost and effort involved in automating industrial processes. And now generative AI is taking this development a step forward. 


Voice-controlled digital robot HORST 


OpenAI unveiled its ChatGPT interface for its Large Language Model (LLM) in 2022, and then soon afterwards opened up APIs that allowed others to integrate it into their own applications. We at fruitcore robotics began working with it immediately. For quite some time, we had been collecting our training data and waiting for this breakthrough to train the LLM to understand everything about our systems and how to operate them. We also focused on what we shouldn't do. For example, you won't find any AI features that overlap with safety-critical functions. Nor will we allow any data transfer that could disclose sensitive information about customers, their processes or products to third parties. We have also developed our AI Copilot to be compatible with any provider, not just OpenAI. 


In the summer of 2023, we were ready. We announced our AI Copilot for horstOS, the world's first of its kind in the field of industrial automation. 


With our AI Copilot, users of horstOS can find solutions to almost any problem by simply asking a question. Whether it's setting up the robot and components, troubleshooting or even writing entire programs, the AI Copilot helps to further increase the speed and efficiency of implementing automation processes. 


As it is an AI and we are constantly training it, the AI Copilot has continuously improved since its launch and will continue to do so in the future. The regular software updates that are part of our Digital Robot Platform mean that our customers and partners will always benefit from these improvements. 


AI leadership in an AI-driven industry 


At fruitcore robotics, we are proud to have been at the forefront of the AI technological revolution since our founding, blazing a trail in a transformation that is sweeping the entire industry. 


We are privileged to work with a wide range of vendors and OEM partners who are also moving forward with AI. horstOS is already built to integrate their services seamlessly. It's going to be an exciting future where our customers will have the benefit of so much innovation. 


There may be a lot of hype around AI, but I can say that our team at fruitcore robotics is implementing a lot of it (also heard in this interesting episode of The Industrial AI Podcast), and none of it is speculation.