Tag Archives: Automation

New Automated News Anchors

Robots – China’s state-run news agency Xinhua has unveiled two new robot news anchors. These new anchors will provide English and Chinese language news reports.

While not completely life like the English speaking anchor, at least in the video clip above, does a good job. This kind of technology isn’t going to be replacing your favorite anchors on the local news channels, at least not yet. This does show though that it is possible that robots might become part of the regular news team sooner than you might think!

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Robot Does Parkour

Robots – Most of the images we have seen of biped robots show them as slow, clumsy machines. This latest demo of the Boston Dynamics Atlas is far from that. Boston Dynamics bills Atlas as The World’s Most Dynamic Humanoid. Certainly watching the video above that seems like a valid claim.

Are You Ready for the Moxi Robot During Your Next Hospital Stay?

Robots – I came across the article “Moxi Prototype from Diligent Robotics Starts Helping Out in Hospitals” this morning. The Moxi is a robot from Diligent Robotics. Moxi is being piloted it right now. As they say about Moxi on the company website:

Moxi is a friendly AI healthcare robot that serves as a vital supporting member of healthcare professional teams by conducting the team’s non-patient facing logistical tasks, so the staff has more time to focus on patient care. 

We were inspired to create Moxi to help support clinical staff members in hospitals with their fast paced and demanding roles. Clinical staff balance patient care with massive loads of manual logistical responsibilities, such as fetching and restocking supplies or setting up patient rooms for new admissions. With an extra hand from Moxi, who autonomously completes those manual logistical tasks end-to-end without assistance, clinical staff focus on what they want to do and what they, as caring human beings, are best at: direct patient care.

So don’t look for Moxi to perform your next operation. It is there to help bring items from storage to patient rooms. Those non-medical, logistical tasks.

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This is Diligent Robotics second iteration of the product, they previously had Poli. I have to say that part of what caught my eye with this article was 1) the fact that the CEO and co-founder Andrea Thomaz is also a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. I am an EE alumnus of UT Austin. And 2) that the company is based in Austin, TX, where my home is.

Part of what impressed me about this robot was how many off-the-shelf component parts they have used to assemble the new Moxi. That says to me that the robotics industry is beginning mature, and more robots will be appearing soon among us. Certainly having robots freeing people from the mundane logistics tasks will allow more focus on patient care.

On the other side of this advancement in tech is the potential displacement of staff that such robots will cause. However, with the costs of health care constantly increasing, finding ways of reducing costs is inevitable.

I will be very curious to hear how the pilots of Moxi go.

Cool or Creepy?

Robots – I saw the short video above on “Video Friday: Lifelike Robot Heads, and More” published by IEEE Spectrum. The pair of synchronized heads, one with a human skin, one without, are built by Engineered Arts of Cornwall, UK. The robotic head looks and acts remarkably lifelike.

This second video show a differnt Engineered Arts project and a little more of what goes into these robots.

While these are robots intended for entertainment purposes, the results is very impressive. Given the stage of these robots today, one wonders where we will be in 20 years. In 50 years.

Coffee by Drone?

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Coffee – Coffee delivered by drone? Well, why not.

I saw the article “IBM Files a Patent for Coffee Delivery Drone Which Knows You Want Your Coffee” recently that describes how an IBM patent would work. A wearable device would determine the customer’s ‘need’ for a caffeine fix and make the delivery. The system might learn personal coffee preferences or when each day a delivery should be made.

When I worked at IBM my office was in an open cubicle farm area with a high ceiling. This would have worked great there. I am not so sure about other more closed office areas. Still, I think that this is ‘outside the box’ thinking on the part of IBM engineers. Something like this might well be the first use case for drone delivery.

Better yet, at least for me, would be a completely automated system for the home. My Apple Watch could signal it when I woke of a morning. The automatic device could grind the coffee beans, brew me a cup and deliver it to me by drone. Personally, I would much rather have a flying cup of coffee than a flying car.

I have read where there are some restaurants in China that deliver orders to tables via robots. How far of a jump is it to coffee delivery by drone?

Are we on​ the brink of the ‘End of Work’?

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Robots – I read the article “The Beginning of the End of Work” this morning and I think that it brings up many good points. I have touched on this in prior posts, but it is good to reiterate it here.

Some of the points the article brings out:

  • 47 percent of all jobs are threatened in the United States
  • Robots and AI are going to cut an even deeper swath through the middle class, blue and white collar, and there are no replacement jobs
  • Universal basic income (UBI) might be an answer

I am not a fan of UBI, nor have the pilot programs tried so far been much of a success. In my opinion, the move towards AI, robotics, and automation is inevitable. Any company or country that ignores this or which tries to impede (i.e. through legislation) the tech will find themselves trailing those who embrace it.

How should this be dealt with? I don’t know. But we can’t ignore the potential problem and hope it goes away. People need to be thinking about and discussing this now.

Review of Eufy Smart Plug

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Product Review – My old mechanical timer for a lamp in my office finally failed after several years of service. I decided that this was an opportunity to take a look at one of the smart plugs. I found the Eufy Smart Plug on sale (it looks now like this product has been discontinued and replaced with the eufy Smart Plug Mini, about $22 now on Amazon) so I ordered it.

This is not the most ‘brilliant’ of smart plugs, but then neither did my application require much. I can set a schedule to turn the plug on and off, which is what I was primarily looking for. I can also turn the plug on and off remotely with the EufyHome App (availble on the App Store for free) on my iPhone. It was very easy to set up and pair with the Eufy App running on my iPhone.

While this unit does everything I need for my limited application, I would not buy another one. Any future purchases I make need to be compatible with HomeKit, preferably without the need for a controler.

 

Pros

  • Low cost (about $13 when I purchased it)
  • Easy to set up
  • Does everything advertised
  • Works With Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant
  • Set on/off Schedules
  • Track energy usage
  • WiFi enabled
  • Can be controlled remotely from the App

 

Cons

  • Not Homekit compatible

Will Robots Cause Job Loss?

Robots – I came across this video today. It was published to YouTube back in November of 2017. While I think it brings up a number of good points, I am still concerned that the increasing introduction of robots and automation will have a detrimental effect on jobs. While I do agree that automation will create new jobs, I fear that the bulk of the new jobs created will be lower paying than those that are eliminated.

I guess only time will tell. All we can do, as far as I can see, is to prepare through continuing education. It is also important for students to choose their professions after some consideration of the future work environment. I do hope that High School councilors are equipped to guide these students into what will turn out to be long-term professions.

Disney Autonomous Animatronics

Robots – I have always liked the animatronics that Disney has placed in their parks. Now they are headed in a new direction with some new self-contained, autonomous animatronic characters – the Vyloo. I read about these today in the article “Disney has begun populating its parks with autonomous, personality-driven robots“.

These creatures have embedded cameras and sensors as well as the control electronics to make them come to life. These little robotic figures are programmed with actions and motions, but what makes them unique is the way they can sense their audience and interact with them.

I look forward to seeing these little guys and even more advanced versions in the years ahead. I can easily see where autonomous robots like these are going to be key to establishing the immersive experience that Disney wants to offer their visitors.

Robots Aid Restaurant Servers

Robots – Robots are coming. Some places they are already part of the workforce, like the Kang Nam Tofu House, a Korean restaurant in a strip mall in Milpitas, California.  A former Google engineer who owns the Kang Nam Tofu House developed a delivery robot he named Penny. The robot is being built by another company he co-founded, Bear Robotics.

The robot, which has supplemented servers rather than replacing any, delivers food and bills to tables. They claim this has freed the employees to focus more on customer service. The robot is small enough to navigate between the tables and has sensors to avoid obstacles. The robot is now being evaluated in pilot operations at a few other Bay Area restaurants.

How would you feel if a robot such as this delivered you food at your next restaurant visit?