Canada: AI In Focus - Robotics

Last Updated: May 17 2019
Article by Isi E. Caulder and Ray Kovarik

The next application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to be examined in our AI in Focus series is in the area of robotics. The 2019 WIPO report on AIi reports: "Those AI functional applications with the highest growth rates in patent filings in the period 2013 to 2016 were AI for robotics and control methods, which both grew on average by 55 percent a year."ii

Many large companies are working in the robotics space. The companies include Siemens and Toshiba, which have significant presences in Ontarioiii (with Siemens Canada headquartered in Oakville and Toshiba Canada headquartered in Markham), as well as Alphabet (the parent company of Google Canada, which plans on setting up its headquarters in "Sidewalk Toronto").iv In 2018, Siemens was ranked 4th in the list of top applicants by AI functional application in robotics, while Alphabet was ranked 7th, and Toshiba was ranked 10th.v There are also a number of homegrown companies investing in the future of AI in robotics, such as Kitchener-based Clearpath Robotics. Regardless of their size, companies developing robotics pursue a variety of strategies to protect their intellectual property namely seeking protection under patent, trade secret, copyright and trademark law.

Not only are robotics companies investing in AI, but so too is academia. "Despite the dominance of companies in AI, universities and public research organizations play a leading role in inventions in selected AI fields such as distributed AI, some machine learning techniques and neuroscience/neurorobotics."vi For example, The Canadian Centre for Field Robotics at York University has created a field robotics laboratoryvii to test robotic vehicles capable of operating on land, under water, or in the air at low altitudes (e.g., indoor quadrotors).viii

Back in the corporate world, certain trends have been seen with regards to the association of certain functional applications with specific application fields. One expected example is the association of the application of natural language processing with the field of personal devices. In the field of robotics and control methods, however, they have been particularly associated with transportation applications.ix

A recent example of the application of AI in robotics can be seen in a published Siemens patent application for "Optimizing an Automated Process to Select and Grip an Object Via a Robot".x This published application describes an artificial neural network (ANN) that is used as an automated learning algorithm to optimize the entire packaging system in terms of energy consumption. The ANN is trained to optimize energy consumption during a learning phase during which output data is generated from the input data of a camera image. The input data is the objects with their positions. The output data indicates an assignment to one of the robot gripper arms for each object, as well as a prioritization that must be adhered to by the assigned robot.

It is not surprising that ANNs are being used as the AI method of choice in robotics, as they have been found to be successful in the case of convolutional neural networks in recognizing images and patterns, as well as in the case of recurrent neural networks in recognizing and predicting sequences.

Another recent example of the application of AI in robotics is the TossingBot, a picking robot developed at Robotics by Google. The TossingBot is a picking robot that "learns to grasp and throw objects into selected boxes outside its natural range."xi TossingBot uses a convolutional neural network to learn both grasping and throwing.xii "Using overhead cameras to track where objects land, TossingBot improves itself over time through self-supervision."xiii A recent New York Times article suggested that such a robot could be useful in warehouses and distribution centers where humans sort through the items going in and out.xiv It remains to be seen whether Google will pursue a patent to protect its TossingBot.

Since patents covering technologies at the intersection of robotics and AI are relatively new, there has not been any litigation testing the validity of such patents or their effectiveness at preventing infringement. However, if the experience of iRobot, the company behind the Roomba cleaning robot, is any indication of things to come, patent protection may indeed be effective. In 2017, iRobot asserted patents that it had filed between 2002 and 2015 covering its robotic vacuum products, with some success.xv Granted, these patents describe only limited AI – one of them describes learning programs that "allow a mobile robotic device to map out a room and remember where the objects in the room are placed".xvi

However, iRobot plans to bolster its patent portfolio with robotics inventions that use more advanced forms of AI. This is evident in a published patent application iRobot filed in June 2018 for a "Mobile floor-cleaning robot with floor-type detection".xvii The published application describes a machine-learning approach for implementing floor-type detection. It will have to be seen whether the published application will be allowed and issue to a granted patent and then whether iRobot will choose to enforce their patent rights.

This has been the third article in our AI in Focus series. You can read the first two articles here:


i WIPO (2019). WIPO Technology Trends 2019: Artificial Intelligence. Geneva: World Intellectual Property Organization, available at

ii Ibid, p. 14.

iii Invest in Ontario, "Industrial Automation and Robotics", retrieved on April 7, 2019.

iv Alex Bozikovic,"Google's Sidewalk Labs signs deal for 'smart city' makeover of Toronto's waterfront", The Globe and Mail, June 12, 2018, retrieved from

v WIPO (2019), supra, p. 72.

vi Ibid, p. 16.

vii Invest in Ontario, supra.

viii Canada Foundation for Innovation, "Canadian Centre for Field Robotics", retrieved on April 7, 2019.

ix Ibid, p. 55.

x U.S. Patent Publication No. 2019/0084153, available at

xi Andy Zeng, "Unifying Physics and Deep Learning with TossingBot", Google AI Blog, March 26, 2019, retrieved from

xii Andy Zeng et al., "TossingBot: Learning to Throw Arbitrary Objects with Residual Physics", arXiv:1903.11239 [cs.RO], March 27, 2019, retrieved from

xiii Zeng, "Unifying Physics and Deep Learning with TossingBot", supra.

xiv Cade Metz, "Inside Google's Rebooted Robotics Program", The New York Times, March 26, 2019, retrieved from

xv Dani Kass, "ITC Order Recommends Banning Roomba Rivals' Imports", Law360, July 26, 2018, retrieved from

xvi U.S. Patent No. 9,486,924, available at

xvii U.S. Patent Publication No. 2018/0289231, available at

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Isi E. Caulder
Ray Kovarik
In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions