Teradyne Robotics names James Davidson chief AI officer

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Teradyne Robotics has named James Davidson as its chief artificial intelligence officer, effective May 28, 2024. This move comes as Teradyne Robotics, which owns Universal Robots (UR) and Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR), has embraced AI as part of its strategy.

Davidson most recently served as chief architect at MiR, where he guided the technical direction for the new MiR1200 Pallet Jack. His broad application of AI spans diverse projects, Teradyne pointed out, from implementing Google’s pioneering AI-generated ads and developing healthcare fraud detection systems at MITRE to advancing robotics in various forms.

Davidson’s career spans over 20 years and includes deep expertise in AI and robotics. Initially focused on satellite technologies at Sandia National Laboratories, he shifted to robotics, fueling his passion for the field through doctoral work in reinforcement learning at the University of Illinois. He has held lead research roles at Google Brain/DeepMind and MITRE, where he contributed extensively to both academic research and commercial products. James then embraced entrepreneurship, steering Talos Robotics as CEO and shaping the technological vision of Third Wave Automation as CTO.

“James’ exceptional track record in AI and robotics aligns perfectly with Teradyne Robotics’ mission to revolutionize manufacturing through innovative automation solutions,” said Ujjwal Kumar, group president of Teradyne Robotics. “We are excited to welcome him to our team and are confident that his leadership will drive significant advancements in our AI capabilities.”

a picture of James Davidson, the new chief AI officer at Teradyne Robotics

James Davidson

Kumar keynoted the Robotics Summit & Expo, which is produced by The Robot Report. He talked in part about how AI is enabling advanced robotics to be more productive for small and medium-sized businesses. Teradyne Robotics also highlighted advanced robotics during the opening of its new headquarters in Odense, Denmark. Kumar was joined by Deepu Talla, vice president of robotics and edge computing at NVIDIA, and Rainer Brehm, CEO of Siemens Factory Automation, for a panel discussion on the future of advanced robotics. You can watch the discussion atop this page.

“The advent of generative AI, coupled with simulation and digital twins technology, is at a tipping point right now, and that combination is going to change the trajectory of robotics,” Talla during the discussion.

UR recently integrated NVIDIA’s accelerated computing into its collaborative robot arms (cobots) for path planning 50 to 80 times faster than today’s applications. Teradyne and NVIDIA cited benefits including ease of programming and lower computation time for planning, optimizing, and executing trajectories. For customers, this technology can simplify the setup of common industrial applications, facilitating robot adoption for high-mix, low-volume scenarios.

And MiR uses the NVIDIA Jetson AGX Orin module for AI-powered pallet detection. MiR said this enables it to identify and precisely move objects, navigate autonomously, and operate in complex factory and warehouse environments.

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Speaking of AI, OpenAI is best known for ChatGPT and its work on large language models (LLMs). But the San Francisco-based company is returning to its robotics roots after a three-year break. OpenAI shut down its robotics group in July 2021, prior to all of the interest in generative AI.

OpenAI is again hiring again for its robotics team, with an open position for a research robotics engineer. It is looking for someone capable of “training multimodal robotics models to unlock new capabilities for our partners’ robots, research and develop improvements to our core models, including exploring new model architectures, collecting robotics data, and evaluations.”

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