Industrial Voice-Controlled Robots Use AI to Facilitate Programming

Voice-controlled industrial robots incorporate AI and speech recognition to instruct robots and cut programming time by as much as 90 percent.  


Article Key

Image credit: Mitsubishi Electric

Anyone who’s parented a teenager knows the frustration of making a request to let the dog out or take out the trash and having it fall on deaf ears. Fortunately, technology is more responsive. Today, if we want information or an immediate response to our directive to turn on lights or play music, for instance, all we have to do is ask our devices. Our wish is their command.

Widespread use of voice-activated robots may be recent, but the technology has been around for nearly 85 years. Elektro the Moto-Man, a voice-controlled robot that walked, talked, sang and smoked in response to verbal commands, debuted at the 1939 World’s Fair. The technology evolved over the years, but it wasn’t until relatively recently that its full potential began to be realized. 

The general public has been able to ask computers to accomplish tasks just by uttering the right phrase into a device for more than a decade. For example, Alexa has followed voice instructions since November 2014. The capabilities are fun, helpful, and convenient.

The New Era of Voice-controlled Robotics

In industrial applications, robots can increase productivity, eliminate labor-intensive activities, perform dangerous or dirty tasks and accomplish their work with a high degree of precision and accuracy. According to the Material Handling Industry of America (MHI), robots are widely used in multiple industries, from aerospace and automotive to retail and warehousing and distribution. Robots armed with computer vision can accomplish many tasks, including food inventory management, load building, precision manufacturing, quality control, much more.

Robotic technology–and its capabilities and applications–has evolved significantly in the last year. Voice-controlled robots are now capable of performing tasks as quickly as humans who need to be taught by specialists. In addition, programming time is cut dramatically. Incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) takes robotic capabilities to a whole new level, opening them to exciting new uses and enabling real business benefits and efficiency outcomes. 

Teaching-Less Robotics Cut Programming Time

Mitsubishi Electric, a longstanding Intel® factory automation development partner, has developed a technology that allows industrial robots to perform tasks such as sorting and arranging as quickly as human workers. But the robots don’t need any lengthy and expensive specialized training. Instead, the technology uses speech recognition to instruct robots and enables them to be programmed in approximately 10 percent of the time it would take with more conventional approaches.

The idea for the functionality came out of Mitsubushi’s Maisart®–an abbreviation for.Mitsubishi Electric’s AI Creates State-of-the-art in Technology, which is the company’s consolidated AI technology brand. The technologies under the Maisart umbrella include deep learning, reinforcement learning, big data analysis, and knowledge processing.

Mitsubishi expects to officially launch this latest industrial robotics system in 2023. The teaching-less robot system incorporates the company’s Maisart AI technologies, including high-precision speech recognition. This allows operators to issue voice instructions to initiate work tasks and then fine-tune robot movements as required. 

For example, In a package processing plant, an operator could tell a robot equipped with this system to “pack three items in the first section of the box.” After receiving the spoken commands, the system scans the working area using a 3D sensor and programs the robot’s movements automatically. The operator can fine-tune the movements using further commands.

3D sensors detect information about the work area, including images and distances, which is processed using augmented reality (AR). The system creates 3D simulations that operators can view on tablets to confirm their instructions will have the intended results. The system can also recommend the ideal positioning of a robot in a virtual AR space, without needing a dedicated marker.

Mitsubishi Electric intends to commercialize the technology within the coming year, after further performance enhancements and verifications. It plans to target the technology for use in industrial facilities, including food processing plants. In these environments, products are changed frequently, and it’s been traditionally difficult to use robots because they would need to be re-programmed quickly. This technology changes all of that.

Mitsubishi Electric intends to commercialize the technology within the coming year, after further performance enhancements and verifications.


Intel, the Intel logo, and other Intel marks are trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries.

Find Intel® IoT Market Ready Solutions

Search the Intel® IoT partner ecosystem and discover 130+ end-to-end IoT solutions.

Become a Member of the Intel® Partner Alliance

If you are delivering repeatable and scalable IoT offerings using Intel technology, the Intel® Partner Alliance program gives you more opportunities to build your business. Get started.