Meet Toru, the German robot coming to a warehouse near you

At the back end of last year I wrote about the latest device from Simbe Robotics that aimed to automate much of the stock management function in retail stores. The device, called Tally, trundles along the aisles of a store or storeroom and automatically records the shelves that need to be restocked.

The process of restocking shelves is a pretty straightforward one, but doing it efficiently is hugely important for retailers.  Huge sums can be lost if it’s done poorly, and the process can take up huge chunks of time in each store.

The makers already believe the robot is capable of functioning well in a small store, and can scan the contents in around an hour.  They suggest a larger store might require a fleet of robots to ensure efficient operations.

Expanding fast

Now, a German company, called Magazino, are getting in on the act with their own warehouse robot.  The device, called Toru, is capable of navigating warehouses and picking the appropriate items from the shelves, which is something that already makes it more advanced than the robots used in Amazon’s warehouses.

The team believe that such capabilities come into their own when robots are required to obtain several items in one swoop.  For instance, if a customer orders multiple items, it can collect them all in one go rather than the large number of trips required by current robots.

Toru utilizes a 3D map of each warehouse it operates in to begin with, and then uses this to create its own map using a couple of laser sensors to scan the warehouse.  This approach allows it to identify potential obstacles, be they walls, shelves or even human legs.  As with other robots, this data can then be shared with other Toru’s operating in the same building.

Dynamic thought

The bots are not only capable of dealing with relatively static or standard objects, but also things that aren’t quite where they should be.  For instance, if an item is not where it should be on the shelf, the robot can use lasers and cameras to locate it and realign its gripper to successfully grasp the item.

At the moment, there are three types of Torus in operation, with each designed to manage different types of object.  For instance, Toru Cube is designed for rectangular items, Toru Flex for irregular pieces, and Toru Box for standard, box shape items.

There are currently five Toru robots in operation, although a much larger cohort is being tested by DHL in Germany.  It’s a fascinating product that will undoubtedly make waves in the industry, especially as its capabilities grow.

Check out the video below to see Toru in action.

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