University of Bremen: University spin-off Ubica wins European robotics award

Intelligent robots for more efficient logistics and more comprehensive customer service in stationary retail – the REFILLS research project at the University of Bremen started with this idea in 2017. Three years later, the start-up Ubica Robotics emerged, which successfully put the scientific results into practice. Together with dmTECH GmbH – the IT subsidiary of the drugstore chain dm-drogerie markt – Ubica and the Institute for Artificial Intelligence at the University of Bremen (IAI) have now been awarded the important Technology Transfer Award 2022 at the European Robotics Forum in Rotterdam.

The latest generation of robots navigates independently
The latest generation of Ubica robots is capable of independently navigating through a retail store and recognizing the stocks of the products on the shelves. Based on this scan, a so-called digital twin of the branch is generated, i.e. a virtual version that provides a lot of important information about the operation of the branch – from the need for refills and the best product placement to the ideal packing of the pallets in the central warehouse in order to fill the shelves in the store as much as possible efficiently and with little disruption for customers.

“The Ubica technologies can become a disruptive innovation in the field of intelligent robotics,” emphasizes Professor Michael Beetz, head of the Institute for Artificial Intelligence (IAI) at the University of Bremen. With the IAI and the Collaborative Research Center EASE, also headed by Professor Beetz, the university is one of the world’s leading research institutions at the interface of artificial intelligence and robotics. “The euRobotics Award is a nice confirmation that the transfer of our research results into industry is successful and that it also attracts international attention,” says Beetz.

Digital twins: A virtual environment is generated
Ubica’s autonomous scanning robots use state-of-the-art artificial intelligence and machine learning to generate the virtual environment in the form of the digital twins. “What is unique about it is that the robots are able to understand these digital models in detail and link them to background knowledge,” explains Beetz. This ability is made possible by a combination of semantic models and data-supported learning algorithms.

Up until now, there are no comparable technologies in brick-and-mortar retail. “Our robots enable a significant improvement in the internal processes in a shop,” explains Georg Bartels. Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Ubica. “Retailers receive a detailed and data-fully integrated insight into their branches, which allows the flow of goods in the branch to be supported in a targeted manner.” In addition, the range can be better optimized to meet customer needs and arranged in the store. The connection of shopping apps is also conceivable in the future.

“Using machine learning and large amounts of data, Ubica offers the opportunity to develop innovative service offers for customers,” says Jan-David Walter from the dm subsidiary dmTECH. “For example, individual product recommendations or the connection of delivery services are conceivable. We would like to offer many of the advantages of online shops to customers of stationary shops as well.”