“Define the future. That’s what we want to do”, Voorn summarised the lab’s ambition. The AIRLab will be working on ‘ground-breaking solutions’ in retail, both for the short and long term. The entire robotics ecosystem around TU Delft is geared up to achieving this, as the energised pitches of all partners showed.
Design sprints and rapid prototyping
“Through design sprints in RoboHouse, we can quickly develop automation solutions for real-life problems”, general manager Jaimy Siebel said. YES!Delft delivers the ‘fast-paced startup style operation’ and expertise for rapid prototyping needed to crack difficult problems in a couple of weeks.
Of course, talented students are involved as well. Ahold Delhaize participates as a client in one of the Minor Robotics projects from TU Delft. “I liked the challenge they gave us to solve a lot”, student Paulien said. “I visit the supermarket several times a week. I think it is great to be working on something that can have a big impact on everybody’s lives.”
“All industries are trying to make up a robotisation strategy. In AIRLab Delft we try to take the lead in retail robotics”
Professor Martijn Wisse – President TU Delft Robotics Institute
PhD’s and researchers will be working on the fundamental scientific problems at hand. “Digital and artificial intelligence strategies are becoming mainstream in most companies, but a robotics strategy is still on the horizon”, professor Martijn Wisse, president of TU Delft Robotics Institute, explained. “All industries are trying to make up a robotisation strategy. In AIRLab Delft we try to take the lead in retail robotics.”
The research will focus on ethics, manipulation, software architecture, planning and fleet planning. The ethics approach, led by assistant professor Aimee van Wynsberghe, will be something quite special, Wisse said. “Normally, we analyse problems such as the effects on privacy, after they have manifested themselves. In AIRLab Delft we’re going to address them before any robots are being built. It is a unique Delft approach.”
The opening ceremony was attended by Farhan Siddiqi, Chief Digital Officer at Ahold Delhaize, rector magnificus and president of TU Delft Tim van der Hagen and alderman Bas Vollebregt from the municipality of Delft. The lab fits perfectly well in Ahold Delhaize’s digital strategy. “Our customer’s expectations and behaviours are significantly changing. We have to accelerate in digital”, Siddiqi said. “Our AIRLabs enable our digital ambition today, tomorrow and in the future.”
“Our AIRLabs enable our digital ambition today, tomorrow and in the future”Farhan Siddiqi – Chief Digital Officer Ahold Delhaize
Besides the AIRLab Delft, AIRLab Amsterdam has been up and running for some time now. The two labs will collaborate, professor Maarten de Rijke from AIRLab Amsterdam said. In terms of methodology, both labs have lots in common, for example in reinforcement learning and deep learning. “We’ll organise joint events and focus on a contentwise connection between the two labs.”
Impact for a better society
“Our ambitions are perfectly aligned”, Van der Hagen responded to Siddiqi. “As a university, we want to have impact, we want to change society. Our ambition is impact for a better society. But we cannot do it alone. We need companies, we need the involvement of the public. And that is precisely what you are doing.”
“As a university, we want to have impact, we want to change society. Our ambition is impact for a better society. But we cannot do it alone”
Tim van der Hagen – president TU Delft
The location of AIRLab Delft is chosen well, Vollebregt said, before performing the opening ceremony: shaking hands with a robot. “You’re bringing together the worlds of the shop-owners in the city centre who are sometimes struggling to innovate with the problem-solving researchers on TU Delft Campus. It couldn’t be at a better place!”
Keynote Pieter Abbeel
The event in RoboHouse concluded the AIRLab Delft kick-off week, that started last Tuesday with a well-attended keynote speech in the TU Delft Aula from renowned robotics professor Pieter Abbeel (UC Berkely) about the state-of-art in reinforcement learning.
AIRLab Delft is a cooperation between YES!Delft, TU Delft, RoboValley and Ahold Delhaize, set up to conduct research into artificial intelligence and robotics and develop state-of-the-art innovations for the retail industry. The lab is located in our smart industry fieldlab RoboHouse.