Category Archives: Future

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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An Overview of the New space Race

Space – I came across the article “Private companies are launching a new space race – here’s what to expect” this morning. it gives a very good overview of the companies and governments that are currently pursuing space programs.

If you are interested in space exploration, as I am, you will find this article of interest. The next decade will see many significant events if todays forecasts can be believed.

Future of Interstellar Travel

Space – I came across the article “Here Is the Future of Interstellar Spacecraft” yesterday and thought it was a good overview of the propulsion technologies that are likely to take future spacecraft beyond the Solar System.

In short the alternatives that are covered are:

  1. Thermonuclear propulsion
  2. Lightsail
  3. Bussard ramjet
  4. Antimatter rockets
  5. NASA’s Eagleworks Lab “Warp bubble” drive

None of these are really going to be ready in the near future, with possibly the exception of the Lightsail. I am glad to see though that the ideas are being kept in front of people, particularly those budding STEM students who will lead the way over the next few decades.

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.

Trailer for “Mars: Our Future on the red planet”

I came across this article today “HOW WILL WE GET TO MARS? NEW BOOK AND TV SERIES PROVIDE THE DETAILS” and now I am looking forward to the National Geographic series. This will be a six-part documentary series to be aired on the National Geographic Channel beginning November 14. The series is based on the book by space journalist Leonard David also titled, “Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet.”

The story being told is set in 2033 and tells of the fictional story of the first six humans and their mission to Mars. There is the drama of the three men and three women who take the journey to Mars interspersed with ‘flashbacks’ to the present with documentary footage on how technology evolved to enable the eventual mission to Mars.

This series will be of interest to any thinking about Mars and its eventual colonization. If you go to National Geographic Channel website you can watch the first hour and twenty minute episode of the series now.

Asgardia: The First Nation in Space(?)

This may not be the effort that succeeds, but I do believe that new “countries” will appear in space.

Tek22

Igor Ashurbeiyli has some grand plans. His dream is to build a sovereign nation in orbit aboard a massive space station. Its citizens will be “free from the constraint of a land-based country’s laws” and must apply for citizenship.

Apparently Ashurbeiyli believes that science is too constrained by terrestrial laws and “economical and political considerations often take precedence over purely scientific
ones and ethical boundaries are considered necessary to sustain safety.” I don’t like to put words in peoples’ mouths, but it seems to me that he views things like ethics and morals to be things that are holding the human race back. His goal is that this country/station will eventually house 150 million people – yes, 150 million – and is looking to crowdfunding to help finance the endeavor.

Putting the whole “let’s throw out morals and ethics” argument to the side, let’s just take a quick look at the costs required…

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AI Used to Compose Music

AI

I have written quite a bit about AI over the past few months. I came across the article “This AI-written pop song is almost certainly a dire warning for humanity” today and found it interesting. Certainly I am no music expert or even listen to music very often (I put on a local popular radio station when I am driving granddaughters around), but the tune in the video below is not bad.

Now as the article explains, the AI just creates the melodies and a real human composer takes that and turns it into the final music track. The melodies were produced by Sony’s Flow Machines.

The AI pulls data from about 13000 songs in its leadsheet database when a user inputs the selected style for the music to be created. The example above was created in the “Beattles” style.

Is this a sign of another career sector that will be impacted by AI in the years ahead? It is too early to tell, but Sony plans to release a music album of AI created pop music in 2017. If it is successful who knows what the long term impact may be.

 

A Transportation Revolution

I cam across the article “The Road Ahead” this morning and found that it gives some interesting predictions as to the future of transportation. For instance one of the statistics it quotes is that “The average vehicle is used only 4% of the time and parked the other 96%.” That leads to these three changes in transportation:

  • Autonomous vehicle fleets will quickly become widespread and will account for the majority of Lyft rides within 5 years.
  • By 2025, private car ownership will all-but end in major U.S. cities.
  • As a result, cities’ physical environment will change more than we’ve ever experienced in our lifetimes.

Other interesting facts mentioned:

  • there are at least 700 million parking spaces in the U.S. That means our country has more than 6,000 square miles of parking
  • A full shift to “Transportation as a Service” is finally possible, because for the first time in human history, we have the tools to create a perfectly efficient transportation network.

It is too early to tell if these predictions have merit, though I think it is more of a ‘when’ not an ‘if’. I have read elsewhere that some predict that larger cities will eventually declare non-human driving zones restricting transportation within the area to autonomous vehicles. If this interests you, check out the full article.

6% of Jobs Lost to Robots by 2021?

Forrester is selling ($499 currently) the report “The Top Emerging Technologies To Watch: 2017 to 2021“. The gist of it is that robots are likely to replace up to 6% of the work force by 2021.

The 15 minute video above gives a great overview of the impact of robots, AI and automation. It is unlikely that anything could be done to stop this, even it that was deemed desirable. What we must do is prepare. The right training and education is the key to avoiding falling into that predicted 6%.