November 26, 2018updated 03 Jan 2019 3:03pm

Amazon launches RoboMaker, a cloud-based solution for robot building

By Ellen Daniel

Cloud platform Amazon Web Services (AWS) has announced the launch of AWS RoboMaker, a service that aims to make it easier and quicker for developers to build robots.

The robotics market is estimated to be worth almost $500bn globally by 2025, meaning that many companies are investing heavily in the technology, including Amazon, which has rolled out robotics in its warehouses in many locations.

Although robots in some form are becoming an increasingly important part of our everyday lives, developing and testing robotic applications requires a high level of knowledge of machine learning, and running the simulations needed to test the robot takes months.

AWS RoboMaker aims to address these challenges by providing an integrated set of software and services for customers to “develop, test, and deploy intelligent robotics applications” more easily.

Customers are able to develop code using AWS Cloud9, which they can then test in Gazebo, a robot simulation platform. They can use pre-built worlds, such as rooms, retail stores and racing tracks, to simultaneously test their robots in different virtual environments before deploying them for real. This is designed to drastically cut down the amount of time spent on application testing.

AWS RoboMaker also combines Robot Operating System, the most commonly used robotics middleware, with connectivity to AWS services, including machine learning, monitoring and analytics services to enable the robot to “stream data,  navigate, communicate, and learn”.

Roger Barga, general manager at AWS RoboMaker explains that the software can help streamline the time-consuming process of developing a robot:

“When talking to our customers, we see the same pattern repeated over and again. They spend a lot of time setting up infrastructure and cobbling together software for different stages of the robotics development cycle, repeating work others have done before, leaving less time for innovation.

“AWS RoboMaker provides pre-built functionality to support robotics developers during their entire project, making it significantly easier to build robots, simulate performance in various environments, iterate faster, and drive greater innovation.”

As well as this, users will be able to make use of technologies such as Amazon Kinesis Video Streams ingestion; Amazon Rekognition image and video analysis; Amazon Lex speech recognition; Amazon Polly speech generation and Amazon CloudWatch logging and monitoring in their robotics development.

A number of companies have shown an interest in RoboMaker

A number of companies have said that they are planning to use the technology to develop their own robotics. Manufacturing company Stanley Black & Decker said that it is planning to use autonomous ground vehicles and drones to reduce construction rework costs. The company plans to use AWS RoboMaker to test 3D site models used for planning construction activities.

Robot Care Systems, a company that uses technology to enable elderly and disabled people to live safely and independently, said that AWS RoboMaker could be used to improve Lea, its autonomous robot assistant for the elderly and disabled.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab is also thought to be utilising the service.

Brad Porter, VP and Distinguished Engineer, Robotics at Amazon said:

“Robotics has played a significant role in creating global solutions that help faster deliveries and lower costs for our customers. We’re excited to have supported the creation of AWS RoboMaker and to stand behind a service that will help accelerate robotics development and commercial deployments. We believe AWS RoboMaker will be impactful to advanced robotics operations across the world by greatly decreasing cost and time to production.”

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