Category Archives: AI

Automation Forecast to Impact Jobs



(See my other posts on Robots & Automation ) – In the “Morning Brew” economic newsletter this morning was the following:

The Economist this week laid out just how quickly automation is taking over finance. Funds run by computers that follow human-set rules account for…

  • 35% of the U.S. stock market
  • 60% of institutional equity assets
  • 60% of trading activity

Last month, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds automatically tracking stock and bond indices hit $4.3 trillion invested in American equities, surpassing the sum run by humans for the first time.

Technological efficiencies” will lead to about 200,000 job cuts in the U.S. banking industry over the next decade, Wells Fargo said this week. And PwC found last year that about 30% of finance and insurance jobs in developed economies will be at risk of automation by 2029.

Too often we think of automation just affecting manufacturing jobs. It will affect many other sectors. This trend is inevitable in a worldwide economy. Industries have to stay economically competitive and automation will be essential to compete. Those who want to succeed in the workforce will need the right skills.

What skills are needed for the years ahead? (also from the “Morning Brew”)

  • artificial intelligence
  • machine learning
  • data science



Robots Just Keep Getting Better – More Atlas Abilities

(See my other Robot  related posts) – Boston Dynamics released another video showing more skills, this time more into the gymnastic variety. Per the Boston Dynamics’ website, Atlas is comprised of the world’s most compact hydraulic systems including custom motors, valves and a hydraulic power unit that drive its 28 hydraulic joints. The robot stands 1.5 meters tall (4.9 feet), weighs 80kg (176lbs) and moves at 1.5 meters per second (3.35mph).

The robots have come a long way since the DARPA contest a few years ago where many were falling when simply trying to walk.


Autonomous Vehicle Pilot Begins at Austin Airport

(See my other Robot related posts) – I saw today in the Community Impact News that a driverless shuttle program has begun a pilot evaluation at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The Easy Mile EZ10 driverless shuttle provides service between the Terminal building and the rental car and ground transportation areas.

The EZ10 shuttle is an all-electric vehicle which was launched in 2015. The vendor claims that the EZ10 is the “most deployed driverless shuttle in the world.” Each shuttle can seat 6, with additional standing room for up to 15 passengers and operates in all weather conditions and will run up to 16 hours on a charge. While the shuttle is autonomous, an AUS attendant will be present to assist travelers and for safety purposes during the pilot phase.

New Robots on Way to the ISS

(See my other posts on Robots) – Today’s Cygnus cargo flight with 7,600 pounds of science, supplies & cargo for the ISS includes a pair of new robots. These will replace the current SPHERES robots on the International Space Station (ISS). The Astrobee robots have been developed by the Intelligent Robotics Group at the NASA Ames Research Center.

The new Astrobee robots are autonomous cubes designed to be flown around the ISS. The first pair of Astrobee robots are named Honey and Bumble. A third named Queen is scheduled to fly to the ISS later this year. These are very modular robots with hardware and software designed for a wide range of tasks and experiments. 

The robots are intended to fly around the ISS autonomously, perform experiments, and take video. While they will generally be operated by humans from the ground, they will occasionally operate without any supervision.

Each Astrobee robot is about 12 inches (30 cm) square.  They will use pressurized air from 12 different nozzles to propel themselves around the ISS. They can rotate in any direction and have no need to refuel as air is compressed and used from the ISS atmosphere.

The Astrobees are based on ROS and are equipped with six cameras, sensors, and enough computing power to allow them to operate autonomously. They can be fitted with modular payloads in their three different payload bays for a variety of experiments. Later this year a small arm will become available for manipulating objects and grabbing hold for maintaining their position. The robots will be able to undock, redock and perch within the ISS independently of the crew.

The robots should complete their checkout before the end of April. After that, they will map and be calibrated for the ISS modules. Final commissioning of the entire Astrobee system should be complete before the end of the year.

Boston Dynamics ‘Handle’

(See all of my Robots posts) – Most of us think of the biped or quadruped robots when we hear of Boston Dynamics. The ‘Handle‘ is a much more immediately useful robot.

Per the Boston Dynamics website the ‘Handle’ is:

Handle is a robot that combines the rough-terrain capability of legs with the efficiency of wheels. It uses many of the same principles for dynamics, balance, and mobile manipulation found in the quadruped and biped robots we build, but with only 10 actuated joints, it is significantly less complex. Wheels are fast and efficient on flat surfaces while legs can go almost anywhere: by combining wheels and legs, Handle has the best of both worlds.

Handle can pick up heavy loads while occupying a small footprint, allowing it to maneuver in tight spaces. All of Handle’s joints are coordinated to deliver high-performance mobile manipulation.

The all-electric ‘Handle’ can pick up items weighing up to 100 lbs (45 kg). The robot itself weighs just over 230 lbs (105 kg). With the grasping attachment shown in the video above, 11 lb (5 kg) boxes are being manipulated. Boxes up to 33 lbs (15 kg) can be accommodated.

These are much more likely the kind of robots we will first see working beside humans.

Is AI As Smart As We Think?


Robots – Articles appear all the time touting how ‘intelligent’ a new system is. But are they really as smart as claimed? The article “How intelligent is artificial intelligence?” raises the point that we should look harder at how these systems have reached their conclusions.

This article is based on work done by researchers from TU Berlin, Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute HHI and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). Among the points raised in the article:

  • Some seemingly successful AI systems employ flaky or even “cheating” problem solving strategies
  • Some AI systems sometimes use so-called ‘Clever Hans Strategies’ [1]
  • It is quite conceivable that about half of the AI systems currently in use implicitly or explicitly rely on such ‘Clever Hans’ strategies.

The researchers used a technology developed earlier by TU Berlin and Fraunhofer HHI, the so-called Layer-wise Relevance Propagation (LRP) algorithm. This algorithm allows visualizing which input variables an AI system uses to make their decisions




  1. Clever Hans was a horse that could supposedly count and was considered a scientific sensation during the 1900s. As it was discovered later, Hans did not master math but in about 90 percent of the cases, he was able to derive the correct answer from the questioner’s reaction.

Japan’s Plan for the 2020 Olympics Includes Robots

Robots – We will have another Olympic event coming up next year in Tokyo, Japan. Part of that event will be the “Tokyo 2020 Robot Project.” That project plans to have many different robots doing “useful things” for attendees.

The two robots that have been identified as helpers at the games are the Toyota’s Human Support Robot (HSR) and the Delivery Support Robot (DSR). Plans are for these two robots to work together to assist disabled visitors. They will direct visitors to their seats and will fetch food or other items visitors order through a tablet interface. Current plans include up to 16 HSR robots and 10 DSR robots for the games.

Clearly, with these numbers, the use of these robots at the games will still be more in the realm of research. The goal is to develop robots that can help take care of people. As the population ages, it is hoped that robots like these can provide assistance when no human helpers are available.

Studies Show Humans Discouraged When Working With Robots



Robots – There have been many reports as to how robots and automation may impact human jobs. In “Your new most annoying overachieving coworker is a robot” studies are mentioned that show that humans who are performing a dull, repetitive work task alongside a robot may suffer declines in productivity and self-esteem.

The ‘real-world’ impact of this problem is already being seen at Amazon fulfillment centers. Last December were pushing to unionize saying “We are not robots. We are human beings. We cannot come into work after only four hours of sleep and be expected to be fully energized and ready to work. That’s impossible.”

This research points to a more immediate concern than job loss – How robots in the workspace may impact the productivity and emotional well-being of the humans they work beside.