What are Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR)?

October 18, 2023
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What are AMRs?

An AMR is a robot that can move around without being confined to a fixed path or routine. Think of it as a smart robot on wheels, equipped to navigate complex environments all on its own. AMRs are self-navigating robots. They decide their paths, adjust to obstacles, and can change their routes in real time.

Unlike Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) that need tracks or markers, AMRs use a combination of sensors, cameras, and software to understand and move through their surroundings. They're more like cars with advanced GPS systems, deciding their routes based on the environment and the task at hand.

Key components of AMRs

Sensors: These are the eyes and ears of AMRs. From lidar systems that map out surroundings to infrared sensors that detect obstacles, these components help AMRs perceive their environment.

Software: This is the brain of the operation. It processes the data from sensors, makes decisions, and ensures the AMR does its job efficiently.

Actuators: Think of these as the muscles. They move the robot, allowing it to turn, stop, speed up, or slow down based on the software's decisions.

The evolution of AMRs

The evolution of mobile robots did not happen overnight. It goes as far back as the early days of automation when the idea of machines moving materials was still in its infancy. The predecessors to AMRs, known as Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), were the first step in this journey. These machines relied on tracks and predetermined paths to move around. 

AGVs were revolutionary in their time, offering industries a glimpse into a future where manual labor could be minimized in certain tasks. However, as technology evolved, so did the vision for what these mobile robots could achieve. 

The rise of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning in recent decades provided the tools needed to take these robots from following fixed paths to navigating complex environments with ease. The integration of advanced sensors, like lidar and cameras, gave these robots the ability to perceive their surroundings in much the same way humans do. This combination of AI-driven decision-making and advanced sensing capabilities marked the transition from AGVs to  more sophisticated AMRs.

But it wasn't just about technology. The market's needs were changing too. Industries were looking for more flexible solutions, that could adapt to dynamic environments without the need for expensive infrastructure changes. AMRs, with their ability to make on-the-fly decisions and navigate without predefined paths, fit the bill perfectly.

How autonomous mobile robots work

Sensing the environment

First and foremost, AMRs rely heavily on their ability to sense the environment. This is where technologies like lidar, cameras, and other sensors come into play. Lidar, for instance, sends out pulses of light to measure distances, creating a detailed map of the robot's surroundings. 

Cameras, on the other hand, provide a visual feed, allowing the robot to recognize objects, read signs, or even identify people. These sensors continuously feed data to the robot's onboard computer, painting a real time picture of the world around it.

Processing and decision-making

Once the data is collected, the AMR needs to process it and make decisions. This is where the magic of artificial intelligence and machine learning shines. The onboard software analyzes the sensor data, identifies potential obstacles, and determines the best path forward. 

It's not just about avoiding a box in the aisle; it's about understanding the environment, predicting the movement of dynamic obstacles like humans, and adjusting the route in real time. This dynamic path planning ensures that AMRs can operate safely and efficiently, even in crowded or changing environments.


Knowing where to go is half the battle; getting there is the other half. This is where actuators come into the picture. These components convert the software's decisions into physical movement. Whether it's turning the wheels, adjusting the speed, or stopping on a dime, actuators ensure that the AMR's movement aligns with its decision-making process.


An often overlooked aspect of AMRs is their ability to collaborate. Whether it's working alongside humans in a warehouse or coordinating with other robots to complete a task, AMRs are designed to be team players. Advanced algorithms ensure that they can operate in harmony with their surroundings, making them not just efficient workers, but also safe companions in various settings.

Advantages of AMRs

The rise in popularity of AMRs isn't just because they're a shiny new piece of tech. Their integration into industries worldwide is driven by a range of tangible benefits that address both age-old challenges and modern-day needs.


One of the most significant advantages of AMRs is their flexibility. Unlike the AGVs, which require fixed paths and extensive infrastructure, AMRs can adapt to changing environments with ease. 

Whether it's a rearranged warehouse or a factory floor with new machinery, these mobile robots can quickly recalibrate and continue their tasks without missing a beat. This adaptability means businesses don't have to invest heavily in infrastructure changes every time there's a shift in operations.


Scalability is another strong suit of AMRs. Since each AMR operates autonomously, adding more to the fleet doesn't require a complete overhaul of the system. It's just like adding more employees to a team, where each new member brings their own set of skills and doesn't disrupt the existing workflow.


Safety is a paramount concern in any industrial setting. Thankfully, AMRs have advanced sensors and AI-driven decision-making that they can use to navigate crowded spaces without collisions. They're designed to recognize and predict human movements, ensuring that they can coexist with workers without posing any risks. This focus on safety doesn't just protect employees but also ensures the AMRs themselves have a longer operational life by avoiding accidents.


the long-term cost-effectiveness of AMRs can't be ignored. While the initial investment might seem steep to some, the returns over time, in terms of efficiency, reduced downtime, and minimized labor costs, make them a financially sound choice for many businesses. Their ability to operate round the clock without fatigue, combined with their adaptability, means they can consistently deliver high performance, leading to faster ROI.

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Applications of AMRs in different industries

AMRs are very versatile and can be applied in various sectors. Their ability to seamlessly integrate into different environments, combined with their efficiency, has made them a sought-after solution in numerous industries.

In warehousing and logistics, AMRs have become indispensable. They've transformed the way inventory is managed, picked, and transported. Gone are the days when workers had to traverse vast warehouse spaces to pick items. 

Now, AMRs can be dispatched to retrieve goods, streamline restocking processes, and even assist in packaging. Their precision and speed have significantly reduced the time taken for order fulfillment, leading to happier customers and more efficient operations.

Manufacturing is another sector where AMRs have made a notable impact. Material handling and transportation within large factories can be a complex task. AMRs simplify this by ensuring that raw materials reach the production lines just in time and that finished goods are transported to storage or dispatch areas promptly. Their ability to work around the clock ensures that production cycles aren't disrupted, leading to higher output and reduced operational costs.

The healthcare sector, with its unique challenges, has also embraced AMRs. In large hospitals, AMRs are used for the delivery of medicines, samples, and even meals. They reduce the burden on the staff, ensure timely delivery, and minimize human errors. In scenarios like pandemics, where minimal human contact is essential, AMRs play a crucial role in maintaining operational efficiency while ensuring safety.

Retail spaces, especially large ones, are leveraging AMRs for both backend and frontend tasks. While they assist in inventory management and restocking in the backend, they're also being used in customer-facing roles. Some advanced AMRs can guide customers to specific aisles, provide information on products, and even assist in checkout processes.

The applications of AMRs are only limited by imagination. As the technology continues to evolve and industries recognize their potential, it's likely that AMRs will become an integral part of our daily lives, operating silently in the background, ensuring the world runs a little more smoothly.

The Future of AMRs

Advancements in AI and Machine Learning

While AMRs are already leveraging AI, the rapid advancements in this field suggest that their decision-making capabilities are only going to get better. Future AMRs might be able to learn from their environments more quickly, adapt to new tasks without extensive reprogramming, and even collaborate more effectively with humans, understanding verbal commands or gestures.

Broader Applications

As AMRs become more advanced and affordable, we can expect them to move beyond industrial applications. We might see them playing more prominent roles in public spaces, assisting in tasks like waste collection, public transportation, or even urban planning. Their potential in personal spaces, as household helpers or personal assistants, is also an exciting avenue to explore.

Ethical Considerations

As AMRs become more integrated into our daily lives and workplaces, there will be a growing discourse on their ethical implications. Questions about job displacement, data privacy, and their role in society will become central to the conversation. It will be crucial for industries, policymakers, and the general public to engage in these discussions to ensure that the rise of AMRs benefits society at large.


If you're thinking about diving into the world of automation, AMRs are definitely worth a look. But, like any business decision, it's not a one-size-fits-all deal. It's all about what works for your specific operation. 

Now, here's the cool part about AMRs: they're kind of like building blocks. You can start small with a Proof of Concept (POC) system, see how it goes, and then decide if you want to go big. And the best part? If you decide to scale up, most of what you've set up in the POC can be integrated into the bigger system.

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