At Freedom Robotics, we’ve always heard from our customers that getting their robots out into the world faster is one of their top priorities. Whether it’s in logistics, automated delivery, inspection, agriculture, manufacturing environments or hospitals, shipping a robot quickly can have a huge impact on an industry’s efficiency and end consumer’s usage. Especially today, in light of COVID-19, robotics is no longer just about lowering the cost per unit work - it's about limiting human-to-human contact and meeting demand NOW.
The Struggle to Ship and Deploy Robots Fast ⏱️
There is a recent flurry of news promising big things from robots: headlines proclaim that The Covid-19 Pandemic Is a Crisis That Robots Were Built For and robots are The Unsung Heroes of the COVID-19 Crisis. But there is another narrative as well - one that states how we as roboticists are not living up to this promise, as seen in a recent WSJ headline: The Scramble for Delivery Robots Is On and Startups Can Barely Keep Up and another from Marc Andreesons recent blog ITS TIME TO BUILD, he demands “Where are the millions of delivery drones?” This struggle to ship and deploy robots in a timely manner is not new, but it is increasingly important. We have seen it come up over and over again and solving it is what we at Freedom Robotics have set out to do.
Many Freedom customers have shipped their first robot or a brand new robot (or use case) during COVID-19 - in under 45 days from concept to physical hardware and a working product. Others have gone from just a few prototype robots to large-scale deployments and still can’t keep up with demand.
Ship Your Robot Now 🚀
This scenario will sound familiar to any robotics developer: customers are waiting for your robot, but it has some bugs, and you still have to build out that one remaining feature that’s on the roadmap and should have been done last month. Then next month comes, there are only a few bugs left, and that component turned out to be a bit trickier than you thought, Just another month, and it will be done for sure.
As robotics developers, we have been there. But the reality is that you can in fact ship your robot now if you rethink what production-ready looks like. You and your customer will benefit from it in the long run. When setting out to help our customers ship their robots faster, one of the first problems we tackled was human intervention and teleoperation, which we call Pilot. Freedom Pilot is the ability to remotely intervene and teleop a robot with one line of code out of the box from any device (laptop, cell phone, tablet, etc.). This has empowered our customers to deploy in a matter of days across a large number of industries.
The Mythical Man-Month of Robotics Development 📅
Freedom Pilot gives every robotics developer in the world the ability to teleop, make decisions and implement solutions remotely on robots. It is a web interface that establishes a direct connection to a robot from anywhere and ensures a stable, low-latency teleoperations system for indoor and outdoor direct control and path planning. It also allows companies to start real-world testing with non-technical operators using the same interface at scale.
Ship your robot now with telop as a backstop. View real time camera feeds, teleop with a joystick, send commands, and see key metrics like battery, load and safety status.
During COVID-19, shipping newly designed robotics quickly (today!) has moved from a mere business concern to a global imperative. Robots are needed now to do the tough and dangerous jobs that humans can no longer safely complete- sanitizing, cleaning, temperature scanning, security, bin picking, fruit harvesting, contactless delivery and more. Freedom’s Pilot features allow you to ship these robots now and fill in the gaps of bugs and missing features with humans operators as you scale each deployment. You can also supplement your autonomous capabilities with a human backstop to make tough decisions and add in human-level intelligence before algorithms are fully tuned. By rethinking things to include remote human operators in the mix, you can be on the fastest path to a fully autonomous system that meets your customers' needs and also positively impacts the world.
Use Case: Build Your Way To Autonomy One Picture of Fruit At A Time🍊🍓
Using operators or teleop doesn’t mean you won’t add those autonomous features later and squash those bugs that you have to work around today - you still will, and when you do you will do it better because you will have knowledge and data from real-life deployments. Our robotics team created a technical blog and tutorial showing off how to create large real-world datasets using Freedom’s API while you or your operators pilot and telop robots.
A machine learning dataset that is generated while tele-operating a robot in the wild, while the data is automatically tagged and shipped back over the cloud so you can improve your algorithms
The successful robot companies we see are building their way towards autonomy one step at a time with humans as a backstop. They are continually shipping and improving their robots along the way. Every time your robot is shipped into the wild is an outstanding opportunity to gain information and knowledge that will make your robot better and stronger at what it does. You can develop better datasets faster and solve the real problems, not the shiny ones.
What is Pilot?
Freedom’s Pilot view enables robots to ship now, backed by operators:
- Built on Web, allowing mobile, tablet and desktop interfaces
- Drive - Use Pilot as a Driving Tool
- Realtime 3d Environment - Transformation trees, occupancy grids, static and dynamic costmaps, lidar, planned paths, odometry
- Custom Command Injection - Named static JSON payloads on topics or callbacks like unlock, dock, pause, play, brew coffee, pick a part or try again
- Navigation Stack Support including navigation waypoint injection, goals and relocalization commands through the Freedom Pilot UI
- WebRTC Teleoperation - View camera feeds and send commands with low latency browser to robot communication
- Fault Expectant - Buffering, compression and fast automatic reconnect to handle intermittent internet dropouts
Freedom Robotics Pilot allows you to view overlays of robotics data like indoor maps, GPS, transformations, planned path and lidar while giving you controls like joysticks, goal based navigation, saving routes, executing plans, commanding picks.
Ship Rock-Solid Robots - Backed by Humans
One key consideration with telop is reliable internet connectivity - or more likely - your lack thereof. We know poor and spotty internet is a reality when you deploy a fleet. All of our customers who use telop and Pilot have some number of connectivity issues. We built Pilot with a “fault expectant” architecture because of this.
We built robust infrastructure, efficient data compression and buffering, globally available APIs, automatic reconnects, event logging, tuned user interfaces for operators and tracking across all the data channels and robots in your fleet. You can see the moment an operator’s session begins and ends along with the internet interface used throughout all time on every robot in your fleet. You can extract all of this connectivity data and identify weak spots of connectivity within a building to identify where access points might need to be added.
Pilot is designed to measure, log and track internet bandwidth over time. This is integral to its design - our system expects you won't have perfect internet 100% of the time. You can go back in time to see which events happened and why.
The Squirrel Says Ship It
There are many ways you can use Pilot to fill the gap of a feature or bug that comes up on a robot, and we have helped companies ship robots in many different verticals. Here are just a few examples of how Pilot is used in the wild:
- Logistics: Deploy & Remotely Manage Material Handling Robots Now
- Launching a Last-Mile Delivery Robot with Freedom Pilot in a Week
- Quick and Clean: Deploy A Sanitizing Robot Without Full Autonomy
- Deploying AgRobots In Time For Harvest with Freedom Pilot
Try Pilot Today
By leveraging world-class tools which allow you to focus on delivering your robot’s value to your customers, you can massively accelerate your time to market and your quality once there. In many cases, this is the difference between failing 18 months late with a single prototype and actually getting successfully to market at scale in a short amount of time where you have the opportunity to positively impact the world.