UBC grads' new A.I. robots will clean campus floors by themselves
Artificial intelligence in autonomous cars and in the medical field still have a long way to go before being fully integrated into society but, one day, a trio of University of British Columbia grads could help that happen.
Anson Kung, co-founder of A&K Robotics, envisions a future where humans and robots will work more closely together.
"A future where robots and people will work hand in hand to increase productivity, safety and, most importantly, quality of life,” he told CTV Vancouver.
Kung and his team have been working on seven robots that will patrol and clean the UBC campus. He said his robots, including one named George, can learn on the job.
"If obstacles change, it learns to adapt to that. And we're constantly improving the backend algorithms so it becomes more and more intelligent and can adapt to more scenarios," he said.
Their company specializes in artificial intelligence which “transform manual machines into self-driving robots,” according to its website.
Their robots will likely be a welcome help for the university’s 386 custodial staff who are responsible for cleaning about nine million square feet of floor space.
Head custodian Ariel Ramirez initially thought, “I'm going to lose my job.”
But UBC officials said it doesn’t have any plans to lay off any of their staff because of these machines. The university added that custodians have even come around saying the robots will actually free up time to work in other areas.
"It's actually really good. It will help us with our daily stuff,” Ramirez said. “It won't do everything.”
Vancouver International Airport bought the company’s intelligent navigation system, which has also been bought by companies in the United States and Europe.
A&K Robotics plans on building a variety of different task-oriented machines at their Vancouver headquarters.
“People want to be able to come to a job and focus on things that are a bit more challenging, a bit more fulfilling, and robots are very good at doing simple, repetitive tasks,” said the company’s chief operating officer Jessica Yip.
Their next endeavor is developing and implementing similar artificial intelligence and sensors to improve mobility for people with disabilities. As for the company’s future in general, she says they plan on continuing to build their machines in the city.
"When people think about Vancouver, they don't really think about robotics and we want to change that,” Yip said. “Our schools here produce some of the best robotics talent in Canada and at A&K Robotics, we want to create an opportunity for that talent to stay right here."
With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Ben Miljure
The robots are here floor scrubbing robot, developed by A&K Robotics (UBC alumni) performs live cleaning demonstration using artificial intelligence. pic.twitter.com/YDsBGFDjCe— UBC Media Relations (@ubcnews) October 26, 2018