Category Archives: Robots

Robots Are Costing Jobs

AI

(See my other Robot related posts) – A new study gives a better estimate of how many jobs robots are taking from humans. The study “Robots and Jobs: Evidence from US Labor Markets” was recently published. It appeared in the Journal of Political Economy. An overview, “How many jobs do robots really replace?” appeared May 4 in Science Daily.

This report is the result of work by MIT economist Daron Acemoglu and Boston University economist Pascual Restrepo. They were attempting to quantify the jobs lost due to automation and robotics.

They are not seeing a complete take-over by robots. They do see robots causing a major negative impact on jobs. They looked at the period from 1990 to 2007. They found that for each robot added, on average 3.3 workers were replaced. They also found that each robot caused an average 0.4% decline in wages.

The deployment of robots in the US lags behind Europe. During the period studied about one robot was added in the US for every 1000 workers. In Europe, the rate was 1.6 per 1000 workers. More than 50% of the robots added in the US went into the automotive and electronics industries. The automotive sector was the most affected by robots.

They also found that robots have a direct impact on income inequality. The introduction of robots has caused income to fall for blue-collar workers.

References

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “How many jobs do robots really replace? New research puts a number on the job costs of automation.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 May 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/05/200504150220.htm>

Are 47% of US Workers at Risk?

AI
(See my other Robot related posts) – We have all heard a lot about robots and automation taking jobs from humans. The article “Are Robots Coming for Our Jobs? Careful, It’s a Trick Question” tries to dispel some of those fears. It is from 2019, but the points are still valid today.

Much of that concern was generated by the paper “THE FUTURE OF EMPLOYMENT: HOW SUSCEPTIBLE ARE JOBS TO COMPUTERISATION?“. It was published in 2013 by Oxford economists Michael Osborne and Carl Benedikt Frey. In it, they claim that their research identified 47% of American jobs at risk.

Those jobs most susceptible were “insurance underwriters, telemarketers, tax preparers and sports officials“. Automation is least likely to affect jobs “requiring creative and social intelligence“. These would be “recreational therapists, mechanic and repair supervisors, and emergency management directors“. Other professions likey to avoid replacement are “dentists, dietitians, and elementary school teachers“. There will be some short-term impact but after worker skills adapt to the technology they do well. British economic historian Robert Allen calls this the “Engel’s Pause”.

Since then Frey has published the book “The Technology Trap: Capital, Labor, and Power in the Age of Automation”. In that book, he addresses the 47% claim in detail. Part of his explanation is that just because 47% can be replaced, there is no expectation that they will.

Historically the introduction of new technology has created more jobs than it has destroyed. The long term employment picture should be fine. Frey does make a couple of suggestions. Companies should provide some sort of wage insurance. Governments should also take financial measures.

Schools and universities must plan for the future. They need to prepare their students with the necessary technical knowledge. Frey suggests that worker’s attitudes will dictate how much automation will impact us.

 

Further Reading

  1. Are Robots Coming for Our Jobs? Careful, It’s a Trick Question
  2. THE FUTURE OF EMPLOYMENT: HOW SUSCEPTIBLE ARE JOBS TO COMPUTERISATION?
  3. ENGEL`S PAUSE: A PESSIMIST`S GUIDE TO THE BRITISH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
  4. The Technology Trap: Capital, Labor, and Power in the Age of Automation

Ava Telepresence Robot Helps in Hospitals

See my other Robot related posts) – Robots keep showing up in our workplaces. One of those that have made appearances is the Ava Robotics telepresence robot. Ava is a spinoff of iRobot in 2016. They are being used in the corporate world and for hospitality applications.

It is easy for a user to safely navigate the Ava Telepresence robot. The remote environment can be a workspace, an event space, or a retail space. The Ava unit provides HD video up to 1080p along with full-fidelity audio. The user controls the Ava via an iPad, iPhone, or computer web browser. The Ava units are fully autonomous and use depth cameras and lidar to navigate on their own.

Now the Ava is being tried in the hospital. In the COVID-19 environment we are in, the telepresence robots are even more important. They allow quarantined medical staff to visit patients and assist at hospitals. The Ava also allows staff to enter patient rooms without exposing themselves. The robot relies upon a HIPAA compliant communication system to ensure patient privacy.

Use of the Ava is also saving on protective gear. Usually every time a medical staff member enters the room of a COVID patient, they must ‘suit up’. When they leave the room, they must take off all their protective gear and disposed of it. Hospital staff can go through a lot of protective equipment in a day. With the Ava, staff can make a virtual visit to patients. Then the robot is cleaned and disinfected. It can be sterilized like other hospital equipment.

 

Further Reading

  1. Telepresence Robots Are Helping Take Pressure Off Hospital Staff

Nuro Delivery Robot

(See my other Robot related posts) – Automation continues to advance in spite of the coronavirus. The California DMV has issued the company Nuro with a permit for testing. Nuro will be testing its completely self-driving Nuro R2 vehicle. Only specific parts of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties are part of the limited test.

Nuro was founded in 2016. Their purpose:

to harness the power of robotics and artificial intelligence to solve new challenges at a global scale

This is not the first use of Nuro delivery robots. The company already has an agreement in place with Kroger groceries. The robot is delivering in selected areas (77005, 77007, 77025, 77035, 77096, and 77401 zip codes) of Houston already. Order items through the App and the Nuro robot will appear at your curb. The delivery costs only $5.95. See the Nuro website for details.

Unfortunately, California testing will not begin until the state gives final approval. That will likely be after the coronavirus threat has ended.

Robots Flourish as Workers Stay at Home

(See my other Robot related posts) – With so many ‘sheltering-in-place’ at home, robots are taking more of a role. I saw a short note in the Morning Brew Emerging Tech Brew newsletter yesterday. The story “U.S. Retail Robots Are Working Overtime” tells how more robots are being placed into service.

The essentials from the article:

  • Starship Technologies says its autonomous food delivery service has expanded.
  • Alphabet’s drone subsidiary, Wing, is dropping off packages in Virginia
  • Amazon is testing its Scout delivery robot
  • Autonomous mobile robots (AMR) are currently doing 8,000+ hours of cleaning work a day

Screen Shot 2020-04-13 at 11.06.41 AM

Businesses short of workers are supplementing their workforce with robots. Typical of those robots being used to clean store floors is the Tennant T7AMR Rider-Scrubber.

These and similar commercial autonomous robots can be used to scrub & vacuum floors, make deliveries, scan the product shelves, and assist with security. The machines can typically navigate dynamic public spaces autonomously, avoid obstacles, and the general public. They also can manage data, generate reports, and interact with human users. The COVID-19 crisis is definitely going to accelerate the adoption of robots.

Contrary to what you might expect, the impact of the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 may be an increase in automation. A report looking at the three recessions in the last 30 years shows that 88% of job loss took place in “routine,” automatable occupations. We have already seen robots replace workers at places such as Amazon and Walmart. Their deployment is expected to significantly increase during any recession. [See Further Reading #2]

Further Reading

  1. Grocery stores turn to robots during the coronavirus
  2. The robots are ready as the COVID-19 recession spreads
  3. Robots Are Cleaning Grocery Store Floors During The Coronavirus Outbreak
  4. How Autonomous Cleaning Robots Can Help Retailers During A Crisis

COVID-19 and its impact on robots and automation

AI

I came across two articles on SingularityHub a few days ago. I thought that these were particularly interesting given our current situation.

In ‘Robots to the Rescue’ the main points are:

  • social distancing is in wide use, but it’s also bringing many jobs to a standstill
  • key areas where robots could help are clinical care, logistics, and reconnaissance
  • outside of medicine, robots could help keep the economy by replacing humans in industry
  • robots have already been deployed to disinfect hospitals and public spaces
  • automation of test sample collection and analysis

Some of the points in ‘Coronavirus May Mean Automation’ include:

  • as of late 2019 Amazon employed around 650,000 humans and 200,000 robots—and costs have gone down as robots have gone up
  • ‘shelter-in-place’ creating the biggest remote-work experiment in US history
  • more automation will help us stay healthy during times like the present, it will drive down the cost of goods and services, and it will grow our GDP in the long run

Robots and automation are filling the voids that the spread of COVID-19 has created. The longer this continues, the more automation that will slip into place. Even after COVID-19 has become history, much of the automation will remain in place. Companies and universities will continue their research. Automation and robots will be part of their contingency plans for the next emergency.

Further Reading

This is National Robotics Week

NRW2020-728x90

I just saw this announcement. This is National Robotics Week. It runs from April 4 thru 12.

From their 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.

The Purpose of National Robotics Week

    1. Celebrate the U.S. as a leader in robotics technology development
    2. Educate the public about how robotics technology impacts society, both now and in the future
    3. Advocate for increased funding for robotics technology research and development
    4. Inspire students of all ages to pursue careers in robotics and other Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields

If you visit here between now and April 12 you will find:

★  WATCH the entire film Me & My Robot for free
★  LEARN to program your own virtual robot

Robots Tasked to Help Control Coronavirus

The above video was uploaded to YouTube in October of 2016 by Blue Ocean Robotics

(See my other Robot related posts) – I came across the article “Autonomous Robots Are Helping Kill Coronavirus in Hospitals” a few days ago. It was published on the IEEE Spectrum website. Concern runs high with many that robots will take their jobs. The Coronavirus outbreak has emphasized the need to prevent the spread of the virus. In hospitals, keeping surfaces disinfected is incredibly important. This can take up manpower and time as well as exposing more people to the virus. Robots have stepped in to fill this need.

Some of these come from the Danish company UVD Robots.Their robots can disinfect patient rooms, operating theaters, and hallways. The robots carry an array of powerful short-wavelength ultraviolet-C (UVC) lights. They emit enough energy to destroy microorganisms exposed to them.

Exposing a surface to the UV light for a couple of minutes will disinfect it. Since the UV light can cause damage to human skin and eyes, they must avoid exposure. A room exposed to the UV light for about 15 minutes will disinfect it. This process kills 99.99% of the germs. The robots are better at this tedious process.

The robots consist of a mobile base with an array of UV lights mounted on top. The light array emits 20 joules per square meter per second of 254-nanometer light. Operators use a computer to teach the robot the route they should follow. The on-board Lidar sensors map the route. The route is then edited with detailed operational instructions. After that, the robots operate autonomously.

Robots leave their charging station to follow their programmed route. They will even use elevators if necessary before returning to their charging station. While traveling their route, onboard sensors detect the presence of people. The lights are shut down until the area is clear. The robots cost between US $80,000 and $90,000 each.

UVD spent years developing these robots and began sales in 2018. The robots are already in use in Chinese hospitals.

Automation Forecast to Impact Jobs

AI

 

(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.