kuka robots automatica

Artificial Intelligence Explained

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Who knew diesel engined vehicles or even just diesel engines along with some other great mechanical engineering companies would have so much geography in common. Who knew that physics and engineering can make the invisible suddenly visible. What does the word KUKA mean and how does this all fit together and why should anyone even care? The answer is artificial intelligence.

A good philosophy to define AI 

An intelligence that is real and definable with perceptions, which align with science and can be characterised, represented and used, but the sum of which still remains independent, yet interactive, thus evidencing a process of an intelligently declarable outcome.

Let’s break this down to 7 points of defining artificial intelligence:

  1. An intelligence that is real and definable with…
  2. Perceptions which align with science
  3. And can be characterised
  4. And represented and used
  5. But the sum of which still remains independent
  6. Yet is interactive
  7. Thus evidencing a process of an intelligently declarable outcome.

Such a system could more easily adapt to mechanical responses rather than emotional ones. It is hard to know though how it could deal with chemical infarctions resulting in, say, addictions. However, it could be used to deduce a sound intervention treatment for example.

Let’s take the case of perceived intelligence, where we react to new sounds. A singular act brought about by electro-mechanical means suddenly looks like intelligence. But is it?

Automatica by Nigel Stanford

Automatica is the title of a work by Nigel Stanford.  He is a musical artist but he does things a bit differently. For example, he uses sound waves projected into granular materials to show the effect the waves have on clustering the materials into patterns. It makes the sound waves visible in much the same way as iron fillings illustrate a magnetic field.

Now, How Does KUKA Come into Play?

Augsburg is a Bavarian town and in the mid-1800s it had a population of around 30,000, today it is ten times that. It is home to Sulzer Brothers famous as mechanical engineers to the textile industry from which their present-day global contribution continues to grow. Augsburg was also a host to Rudolf Deisel, the inventor of the fuel and engine.

By 1890 a new company emerged and was run by Johann Keller and Jacob Knappich, with their work majoring in lighting.  It has had some high profile ownerships and associations over the years and last changed hands for over €4.0 Bn. Strangely and somewhat modestly they don’t think about themselves in terms of size. The Germans are far more vocational than that. For KUKA (Keller Und Knappick Augsburg) have seen the light as being in Artificial Intelligence and are famed for their engineering in Robotics.

kuka artificial intelligence


Meanwhile, around six years ago somewhere in New Zealand a little-known musician whose work with sound wave visuals inspired him to explore other relationships in music, now turned his attention to robotics.  The art world is used to improvising, begging and borrowing anything it can get its hands on to get the next project underway. This is in stark contrast to engineering that would often do the same thing but with many restrictions, regulations and procedures to justify the ideas and opportunities. I guess this is called synergy.

robots feeding

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So here we have two situations both singing the same song, just to different music. Could the results of an ultrasound, for example, be robotically driven to produce procedures that could be productive? Could this be a fair test for A.I.? Well, let’s apply these examples to the 7 points we outlined above.

Let’s Test Artificial Intelligence

1. An intelligence that is real and definable

Can a robot make up a song?

2. With perceptions aligning with science

Such a song must follow the laws of science, for example, rhythm so it works well with lyrics.

3. And that can be characterised

What would it sound like? Rock, opera, etc.

4. And represented and used

Sound and entertainment tugs emotional strings.

5. But the sum of which still remains independent

It could have been a warning note or how to weld components so out-of-context responses are achievable but not confusable.

6. Yet is interactive

Play music but keep welding components and not mix up the football results with its work and understand the difference.

7. Thus evidencing a process of an intelligently declarable outcome.

A song, a finished job, a fan club – the final outcome, intent or purpose.

How Many Robots are in the Video?

KUKA had to write out a simple format from which Nigel could tell the robots what to do. When you view the video it looks like there’s a small army of robots. In fact, Nigel Stanford was only given three. He then had to learn to use them. The tasks you see in the video are very simple, but not without help and not if you have never tried to turn a KUKA Robot into a rock star before!

A bass guitar is probably a good place to start – no complicated sequences. You can see why he moved onto the two-fingered piano shortly afterwards. By looping music (improvising your backing group electronically) it all starts to come together.

I don’t want to in any way belittle what happened here. On the contrary, the multibillion-euro company that has survived two wars, slumps and recessions has taken the trouble to help a musician showcase the future of our planet.

Far from detracting from what Nigel Stanford achieved, his vision is drawing attention to the ground we have to cover to arrive at artificial intelligence. The frustration of this is summed up nicely in his excellent work, which in no small way was made possible by KUKA’s assistance.

Automatica, the Exhibition

Automatica somewhat fittingly is also an exhibition in Munich – Bavaria (June 16-19 2020). This is less than 50 miles from KUKA, the amazing base of mechanical engineering that has grabbed the world’s attention. No doubt they will be exploring what A.I. means there. I am sure KUKA will be looking at how robotics can help save the planet and where we might end up in another 100 years. Sometimes it is the singers, not just the song.

There is no doubt that in the art world artificial intelligence can be represented by a graphic piece of musical theatre with robots taking over the role of humans and, for example, playing guitars as well as cutting metal. However, the reality of AI is much more complex. The more machines we have the greater the need these systems have for integrating. I would cite the recent events of the last 20 years where the growth of electronic storage and programmable intervention has exploded.

robotic organisation

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Therefore, it is just a question of time before new electronic languages and techniques evolve that respond to what is likely to become the auditable laws of artificial intelligence to prove it truly exists. Meantime along with their many other colleagues and competitors, KUKA continue to respond to the ever-increasing demand for automation without losing sight of the end game.

Written by the Material Handling Hub correspondent, Paul Casebourne.

Cover Image © KUKA