Category Archives: Robots

Automation Forecast to Impact Jobs

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(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.

 

Uber Chooses Frisco, TX for Flying Taxis Tests

(See my other Robot related posts) – Earlier this week Uber announced that their Frisco Station helipad site would be the test site for Uber Elevate. Uber Elevate is their “flying car” division. The plan, per their website, is to develop:

shared air transportation—planned for 2023—between suburbs and cities, and ultimately within cities. We’re working with our Elevate Network partners to launch fleets of small, electric VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft in Dallas, Los Angeles, and our first international market in Melbourne.

The Frisco Station site is located on the Dallas North Tollway and is being built larger than the typical helicopter landing pad. Uber is estimating a 7 minute average flight time from the facility to their terminal at DFW.

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.

Another Strong Quadruped​ Robot – HyQReal

(See my other Robot posts) – The HyQReal was developed at the Dynamic Legged Systems Lab at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT). In the video above (uploaded to YouTube in May of 2019 by Dynamic Legged Systems lab) the robot is shown towing a 7275 lb (3300 kg) P180 Avanti aircraft.

The HyQReal is 4 ft 4.4 in (1.33 m) long and 35.5 in (90 cm) tall, and weighs 286.5 lbs (130kg). About 33 lbs (15 kg) of that weight comes from the onboard Li-Po battery that can power the HyQReal for two hours. The HyQReal is also water and dust resistant.

While most of these quadruped robots are still in the research I doubt it will be too long before we begin to see some in the field.

References:

  1. Watch the HyQReal Robot Pull an Airplane

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.

More Robots at Walmart

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(See my other posts on Robots) – Walmart has been impacted by online sales from Amazon and other sources. As part of their cost-cutting efforts to stay competitive and improve the customer experience, they have begun deploying robots within their stores.

Walmart recently announced on their Blog (“#SquadGoals: How Automated Assistants are Helping Us Work Smarter“) that they would be deploying 1,500 new “Auto-C” autonomous floor cleaners, 300 “Auto-S” shelf scanners, and an additional 1,200 “FAST” unloaders to scan and sort items as they come off delivery trucks. To expedite online orders, Walmart will add 900 “Pickup Towers”. These will let customers order something on the company’s website and just pick up it up from a vending machine at a nearby Walmart. ”

Walmart’s stated intention with the effort is to use “pioneering new technologies to minimize the time an associate spends on the more mundane and repetitive tasks like cleaning floors or checking inventory on a shelf. This gives associates more of an opportunity to do what they’re uniquely qualified for: serve customers face-to-face on the sales floor.“.

For now, the new robots and human employees will be working side-by-side.

Celebrate National Robotics Week!

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Robots – This week, actually it started yesterday, celebrates robotics in the US. Per the National Robotics Week website:

National Robotics Week (RoboWeek) is a series of grassroots events and activities during the month of April aimed at increasing public awareness of the strength and importance of the U.S. robotics industry and of the tremendous social and cultural impact that robotics will have on the future. Activities come in all shapes and sizes from a robot block party, university open house, or a robotics competition. The mission of RoboWeek is simple — to inspire students in STEM-related fields and to share the excitement of robotics with audiences of all ages. Celebrate RoboWeek by hosting an event in your community, sponsoring or attending a local event, or spreading the word on social media.

National Robotics Week was first celebrated in 2010 after university and industry leaders appealed to the Congressional Caucus on Robotics to create a “national roadmap” for robotics technology. On March 9, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives passed resolution H.Res. 1055, officially designating the second full week in April as National Robotics Week.

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.