Category Archives: Automation

Robots at Walmart

Apparently even Walmart is looking at automation in its stores. Two different initiatives seem to be under evaluation by Walmart.

EMMA (Enabling Mobile Machine Automation), an autonomous machine for scrubbing store floors, is under evaluation at five stores. After a training run controlled by a human operator to identify the desired operational path, the machine will autonomously clean the floor. It has built in sensors and cameras similar to autonomous vehicles currently on the roads that allow it to navigate around obstacles at a sedate 2.5 miles per hour. EMMA is a product of Brain Corp.

In a separate trial, Walmart has deployed shelf-scanning robots in 50 stores. These machines will scan store shelves to verify inventory, prices and misplaced items. These units are from Bossa Nova Robotics.

Will these attempts at automation cost jobs? Well, probably over the long term, but it is unlikely that the impact will be significant. It is clear though that robots and automation will be in our future.

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Self Driving Autonomous Trucks NOW on Texas Roads

I saw an article “Self Driving, Robotic Trucks Now Hauling Appliances From El Paso To California” yesterday. I was not aware that autonomous trucks were being tested in Texas, if only for a short distance, along I-10 towards California.

Frigidaire, robotic truck tech maker Embark and fleet management provider Ryder Systems have been using automated trucks to deliver appliances from El Paso to a warehouse in California since October. While the trucks employ Level 2 system now with a driver aboard, their goal is for full autonomous operation.

I think that we will see more and more of this, with fully autonomous trucks on the road before long. You will find a little more on this pilot operation in “Embark’s semi-autonomous trucks are hauling Frigidaire appliances“.

Large Military Quadcopter in Development

A large “hoverbike” like quadcopter is being developed for the military, the JTARV(Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle) intended for autonomous delivery of supplies to troops. The current vehicle can carry up to 300 pounds over short distances. The goal is to increase the range to 125 miles and to increase the payload to 800 pounds.

The prototype was flown recently at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

If the development is successful, and the goals are met, then these could serve many uses in the front lines.

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AI Composes Christmas Song

Artificial Intelligence . . . Christmas . . . music, you would think that would make a winning combination. Maybe not so much if you listen to the new “Christmas Carol” above that was created by a machine.

Researchers at the University of Toronto used a neural network to ‘write’ the song. It did so after being exposed to several other Christmas songs to ‘learn’ how to write one itself.

Not exactly a tune you will be singing around the Christmas tree this year, but it has to start somewhere. This is not the first music related AI article this year. Just a heads up to everyone that AI and robotics is beginning to have an impact over a wide range of job categories.

Disney to Soon Fly Drones

Disney – Disney Springs is the expanded and rebranded Downtown Disney shopping, dining and entertainment area within Disney World Florida. Now that the FAA has relaxed overflight regulations, Disney has announced that drones will be part of the light show for the upcoming Holiday season.

As Intel has recently demonstrated, hundreds of drones can be controlled by a single operator in complex re-programmed displays. I am not surprised that Disney is looking to augment and someday even replace the nightly fireworks displays with drone light shows.

Intel Introduces Light Show Drones

In early October 2016 Intel demonstrated its new “Shooting Star” drone. This drone has been designed specifically for multi-drone light shows. The drones weigh less than a pound and are capable of displaying more than 4 billion colors from the build in LED lights. This drone is designed specifically for entertainment and has a 20 minute flight time.

In the demonstration conducted near Munich, Germany,  500 drones were flown by a single pilot, setting a new Guinness Book of World Records for the most drones operated at one time by a single pilot.

Intel had set a record almost a year ago flying 100 drones in an exhibit. One can easily imagine light shows in the near future at many events that are drone based instead of fireworks.

The White House Takes Action on AI

AI

The White House has just (Octoberr 2016) issued the report entitle “Preparing For the Future of Artificial Intelligence“.

In short the report:

  • highlights the benefits of AI
  • talks of the need for standards
  • brings up how AI should be regulated
  • raises the issue of job loss due to automation

If you are interested in Robots, AI and Automation, your time would be well spent reading this 48 page report.

Dubai to Deploy Police Robots

The Dubai Police may be deploying a robot as early as 2017. The robot shown above was on display at Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX) Tech Week in recently Dubai. There may only be the one unit in use next year, but by 2020 more extensive use of robots is planned.

The robot could salute and shake the hands of conference attendees. The touch screen on its chest can be used to report crimes and pay for traffic violations. The robot also has the capability for facial recognition. The Dubai police are working with IBM Watson as well as Google to enhance the robots skills, particularly with verbal communication.

This is another example of robots beginning to work side-by-side with humans. It is also another example of how robots could begin to gradually displace humans in some jobs.