Drives and Controls Magazine
‘Control tower’ tracks people and vehicles on factory floors
Published:  05 May, 2021

The Israeli-Japanese automation joint venture MusashiAI has announced a spin-out company which claims to be offering the world’s first “control tower” for monitoring and managing the activity of robots, materials and people on factory floors. The flexible, modular system uses computer vision and AI (artificial intelligence) to control and monitor movements of goods, forklifts and fleets of AGVs (automated guided vehicles) and AMRs (autonomous mobile robots) using spatial mapping. It avoids the need to install expensive tracking hardware on robots or machines, making it possible even for small companies to automate their indoor operations.

The new business, called 634 AI, will focus on developing the control tower technology. A combination of advanced computer vision processing and Internet cameras gives the Maestro control tower a real-time view of a factory or warehouse floor from above, and can predict potential obstacles, clashes, and accidents that could affect robots or people. It claimed to be safer and more efficient than existing technologies.

“What has been happening in the AMR and the industrial floor automation industry over the last few years has been like spending millions on developing zero-gravity pens, when all we’ve needed has actually just been a pencil,” says 634 AI CEO, Onn Fenig. “Our motivation for creating Maestro was to give businesses a practical and affordable tool that will enable them to enjoy safer and smarter indoor mobility. We’re on a mission to make any indoor task autonomous and affordable.

“A simple kit can turn even a mechanical pallet jack into a fully autonomous vehicle that can connect to Maestro,” he explains. The control tower “plots routes for AMRs, spots and classifies hazards and obstacles, anticipates potential collisions ahead of time, and orchestrates the safe and efficient completion of different tasks – for robots, people and traditional, non-robotic vehicles.

“Most AMRs today suffer from tunnel vision, with their eyes and ears embedded within the robot itself,” Fenig suggests. “This limited point-of-view represents a safety risk, so to mitigate against it, they have to move very slowly and require an army of engineers and technicians to keep them on track – which, in turn, lowers productivity and makes them even more expensive and not really autonomous.”

634 AI CEO Onn Fenig: on a mission to make any indoor task autonomous and affordable

MusashiAI, the company from which 634 AI has been spun out is a joint venture between Israel’s SixAI and Japan’s Musashi Seimitsu (a Honda affiliate). It offers smart technologies including quality control inspectors, autonomous forklifts and mobile robot fleet management systems, and rents robots to companies by the hour, or charges a “salary” based on the completion of tasks.

634 AI: LinkedIn