By breaking an intractable problem into smaller chunks, a deep-learning technique identifies the optimal areas for thinning out traffic in a warehouse.


Copyright: – “New AI Model Could Streamline Operations In A Robotic Warehouse”


SwissCognitive_Logo_RGBHundreds of robots zip back and forth across the floor of a colossal robotic warehouse, grabbing items and delivering them to human workers for packing and shipping. Such warehouses are increasingly becoming part of the supply chain in many industries, from e-commerce to automotive production.

However, getting 800 robots to and from their destinations efficiently while keeping them from crashing into each other is no easy task. It is such a complex problem that even the best path-finding algorithms struggle to keep up with the breakneck pace of e-commerce or manufacturing.

In a sense, these robots are like cars trying to navigate a crowded city center. So, a group of MIT researchers who use AI to mitigate traffic congestion applied ideas from that domain to tackle this problem.

They built a deep-learning model that encodes important information about the warehouse, including the robots, planned paths, tasks, and obstacles, and uses it to predict the best areas of the warehouse to decongest to improve overall efficiency.

Their technique divides the warehouse robots into groups, so these smaller groups of robots can be decongested faster with traditional algorithms used to coordinate robots. In the end, their method decongests the robots nearly four times faster than a strong random search method.

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In addition to streamlining warehouse operations, this deep learning approach could be used in other complex planning tasks, like computer chip design or pipe routing in large buildings.

“We devised a new neural network architecture that is actually suitable for real-time operations at the scale and complexity of these warehouses. It can encode hundreds of robots in terms of their trajectories, origins, destinations, and relationships with other robots, and it can do this in an efficient manner that reuses computation across groups of robots,” says Cathy Wu, the Gilbert W. Winslow Career Development Assistant Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), and a member of a member of the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems (LIDS) and the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS).[…]

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