Ahold Delhaize, The Netherlands, partnered with Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), The Netherlands, to expand the company's Artificial Intelligence for Retail (AIR)Lab. The expansion comprises a robotics research program and test site for developing state-of-the-art innovations in the retail industry. 

This is the first expansion of Ahold Delhaize's AIRLab, an industry-academic collaboration set up to conduct research into artificial intelligence (AI). By expanding its focus to robotics, AIRLab Delft will further drive innovations for daily business while building more knowledge of the intersection among retail, AI and robotics.   

Based in RoboValley, this robotics research center developed by TU Delft Robotics Institute and a team of international researchers will explore robotic solutions that can be applied throughout the retail supply chain, from warehouses and stores to customers. To ensure these explorations result in tangible solutions, Ahold Delhaize will open a test site where researchers can work with partners, students and start-ups, supported by the technology incubator of TU Delft called YES!Delft to build and test prototypes of robotic solutions. The test site, which will be operational in early 2019, will explore how robotics can be deployed in a retail setting, how robotic grippers can handle delicate items such as fruits and vegetables and how to improve image recognition of products and packaging. 

“At AIRLab Delft, scientists will study how employees can teach their robots to do repetitive tasks, or develop methods to optimize the motion and coordination of mobile robots and of delivery vehicles,” says professor Martijn Wisse, director of the TU Delft Robotics Institute and supervisor of AIRLab Delft. "This collaboration with Ahold Delhaize allows us to solve real-world challenges by focusing on fundamental issues in robotics, such as how to learn and safely execute tasks in the context of uncertainty, how to safely navigate and interact in environments shared with humans and how to efficiently and effectively plan the routes of fleets of last-mile delivery. We are very excited."

"The rapid advancements in AI and robotics provide us with significant opportunities to make everyday shopping even easier for our customers and develop new solutions for our warehouses and last-mile delivery,” adds Frans Muller, president and CEO of Ahold Delhaize, said. “Working together with academic partners such as TU Delft will enable Ahold Delhaize and AIRLab to shape a technology-driven world in a responsible way. It helps us become a frontrunner in AI research and development for retail and ultimately build capabilities that are scalable for the group."