Automation and Robotics News August 29 — from Tony Zaragoza

[Why, pray tell, does a newsletter devoted to labor and the arts make sure to include Tony Zaragoza’s compendium on robotics every 2 weeks?  The broad answer is that the field of automation and robotics describes a sea change taking place, which amounts to a massive cultural shift in society.  The short answer, within that massive shift, is that we see repercussions in every field of cultural/creative endeavor (like the one you are looking at now) and in rapidly eliminating the need for human labor in the production of commodities.  From Decatur Illinois to Silicon Valley to China and the United Arab Emirates, the effects of automation on job loss are reported below.  In one report on hospital automation we find the following stark but very honest quote:

The robot’s maker says his robots perform work that people find distasteful or hazardous, such as picking up infectious waste. Add, there’s another benefit, he says: “They don’t take breaks and vacation and you don’t have to pay them benefits.”

Hmmm. Please note that the same hospital has just announced they are going to lay off 140 workers.

Note also among the reports below the automated library book retrieval system and the “Espresso” self publishing machine.  This is not a “read and weep” report.  The point of view of the Chicago Labor & Arts Notes blog is that all of us are creative people — artists — and we can all think creatively to envision a better world.  The first thing that we can begin to question is why do we need private corporations, when the possibility of unleashing all this human potential is chained by a corporate system that views the problem as workers who need to take breaks and get vacations and require benefits like health care?  — Lew Rosenbaum]

Automation and Robotics News–Aug 29, 2010

Highlights: Software malfunction strays robo-drone; cheap, disposable military robots in development; robotic book publisher; Growth in automation of food production in UK; hospital workers and DoT workers replaced with robots; library robot; tree planting robot…



At Robot Show, Future of Warfare Is on Display

AOL News – Aug 27, 2010

DENVER (Aug. 27) — From robotic insects that can crawl and fly to spy drones that look and move like real hummingbirds, the future of warfare was on …

Drones Surge, Special Ops Strike in Petraeus Campaign Plan

Spencer Ackerman, August 18, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan — Ever since the Afghanistan war became a counterinsurgency fight, critics have charged that commanders’ cautions about using force only inhibit the fight against the Taliban. But in the shadows, NATO Special Operations Forces are engaged in an intensely lethal war of their own.

Automation Alley puts focus on defense work

The Detroit News – Louis Aguilar – Aug 20, 2010

Automation Alley, the state’s largest technology consortium, is stepping up efforts to nab more work in homeland and border security for Michigan companies.

US military to covertly deliver payloads with robot rockets

DVICE – Kevin Hall – Aug 20, 2010

Called the V-Bat, the rocket-shaped robot is able to take off vertically like a Harrier jet, and can autonomously proceed to its destinatio

Iran’s Robotic ‘Ambassador of Death’ is More Envoy of Annoyance (Updated)

Noah Shachtman, August 23, 2010

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad skipped onto a stage yesterday, drew back a blue curtain, unveiled a shiny gold drone, and pronounced it an ambassador of death” to Tehran’s foes. So does that mean Tel Aviv should be worried about Iranian robo-bombings? At the moment, probably not. . . .


Register – Lewis Page – Aug 26, 2010

A software error, combined with an unfortunate user action, led to a US military robot helicopter – developed from a manned version and capable of carrying a fearsome arsenal of weapons – straying into restricted airspace near Washington DC, according to reports.

Show features drones, robots; provides new hints about future of war

CNN – Charley Keyes, Reynolds Wolf -Aug 26

Denver, Colorado (CNN) — It was a glimpse into the future, when convoys rumble toward the battlefield without a driver behind the wheel, aircraft soar without pilots on board and robots glide forward to fight with machine guns and grenade launchers, all the while beaming back video. Hundreds of displays at the Colorado Convention Center this week in Denver allowed the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) to show off its sharpest designs and latest inventions. Some of these machines already are on duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. . .

Chico State program making cheap robot

Enterprise-Record – Aug 23, 2010

CHICO — Providing the military with a robot it can afford to lose in combat is the aim of a program at Chico State University headed by Nick Repanich, …


Why Manufacturers are Giving Automation a Fresh Look

The market is in recovery. Finally, those who, over the last few years, have been forced to diversify to remain competitive – downsizing teams and stretching budgets in the process – can breathe a sigh of relief. “It has been a difficult period, but many [companies] have performed well [during the downturn]. They’ve remained competitive and [in some cases] even expanded. With the market beginning to recover, the race is on to find ways to improve efficiency, increase productivity . . .

One of the key benefits of automation is its ability to reduce labor costs, which in many instances represents the largest overhead in any given warehouse or distribution centre . . .

Can this ‘robot’ help save publishing?

University of Texas Co-op--the most profitable independent college bookstore in the United States--has purchased an Espresso Book Machine and is aiming is to "revolutionize how the store does business and interacts with the local community." The espresso will print and bind a 300 page paperback in 4 minutes.

Monday, August 16, 2010, David Carnoy

The $150,000 Espresso Book Machine can print a professional-looking paperback in about four minutes. More small presses are looking at it as an option to cut down on printing costs and better manage inventory.

Chinese labour disputes have silver lining

By Jing Ulrich, August 17 2010, Financial Times

China’s     large coastal manufacturing hubs have, for many years, been the     production base of choice for domestic and multinational companies     looking to take advantage of the country’s vast pool of     inexpensive labour. But along with a strengthening renminbi and     government action to curb pollution and overcapacity, an upsurge of     labour disputes since May suggests that the low-cost model of     production is no longer robust. Companies that traditionally relied     on China as a source of cheap labour are increasingly relocating     low-margin production lines to lower cost labour venues –     particularly in central China, by speeding up factory automation     plans . . .


Robot suit for old Japanese grower nearing completion.

FreshPlaza – Aug 27, 2010

Thanks to the robot, physically hard work like picking apples becomes easier. The farmer doesn’t have to hold his arm up himself but is helped by the suit.

Robots Take Over Food Manufacturing

Food and Drink Digital – Chris Farnell

Food and drink manufacturers purchased more automation and robotic equipment than the car sector in the second quarter of 2010

The food and drink sector has been buying in a great deal of packing, palletizing and handling equipment , according to a quarterly survey of members of the British Automation and Robotics Association. The Robotics Association found that the food and drink sector accounted for 17 percent of all robotics sales, making it second only to the pharmaceuticals industry. . .



Adept Technology Ships Major Order From Packaging Automation Solution Partner in China

PLEASANTON, Calif. — Adept Technology, Inc. (Nasdaq:ADEP), a leading provider of intelligent vision-guided robotics and global robotics services, today announced that Austong Intelligent Robot Technology of China placed an order for twelve Adept Quattro s650H robots to automate a secondary packaging operation for a leading dairy processor in China. . .

McKesson eyes automationfor distribution center

FiercePharma Manufacturing – George Miller – Aug 19, 2010

McKesson US Pharmaceutical will open a distribution center in Caroline County, VA. A local press report says plans call for a 340,000-square-foot center requiring a $50 million investment. The facility will include “solutions for the automated picking of fast- and slow-moving product, . . .

Kokoro shows off its latest android Actroid F News

Saturday, August 28, 2010 Posted by Tim Hornyak

Tokyo entertainment firm Kokoro shows off its latest fembot, Actroid F, in a PR video. The lifelike android is slated to go on sale to work as a receptionist or hospital worker.

A Robot Lawn Mower That Can Detect Darting Gophers

Timothy Hay, 08/18/10

Robotic vehicles have been used for space exploration, deep-water drilling, high-tech warfare and a range of other exotic applications. But one start-up is gaining traction by creating robots to mow lawns, shovel snow and repave parking lots. . . .

Who Wouldn’t Buy Ice Cream From A Cute Japanese Robot?

Rosa Golijan, Aug 16, 2010

As if ice cream doesn’t practically sell itself in the summers anyway, a Japanese theme park decided to hire a cute robot named Yaskawa-kun to hawk the delicious treat. I think you’ll understand their choice after you see a video of him at work.

Library ‘robots’ now operational

SF State Campus Headlines – Aug 20, 2010

August 20, 2010 — This summer, J. Paul Leonard Library faculty and staff gave members of the campus community a preview of the computerized crane system that will retrieve most books stored in the expanded and renovated Library when it is expected to reopen in early 2012. The library retrieval system, or LRS, fills three floors of the Library’s new west addition. . . [An} online request cues the crane to retrieve the bin holding that book, and immediately delivers the bin to a crew of trained student assistants and Library staff. The book is removed by hand, and delivered to the Library’s distribution desk for the patron — all in about five to 10 minutes.

Bleep it and weep: the frustration of using self-service checkouts -Alastair Jamieson – Aug 22, 2010

But Britons are embracing automation faster than any other country in Europe. Two-fifths of Britons refuse to queue for longer than two-and-a-half minutes, … Some 15,000 automated tills will be in operation by the end of 2011 . . .

Robots Redefining Cancer Surgery

UC Irvine Healthcare to perform robotic thyroidectomies.

By Marcida Dodson – Filed Aug 23, 2010

UC Irvine’s innovative Robotic Oncology Center offers minimally invasive treatment in multiple disciplines. In the ever-evolving battle against cancer, the surgical robot is gaining ground. . .

Frog eggs could help robot noses sniff pollutants

CNET (blog) – Leslie Katz – Aug 24, 2010

It’s not often here at Crave that we get to write about frog eggs and robot noses in the same story, so when we saw this report in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we smelled an opportunity. . .


Scientists’ Robot Submarine Discovers Plume of Oil in the Gulf – Aug 20, 2010

Scientists used robot submarine to wander across the deep of the gulf water and discovered plume of oil under the deep of the Mexican Gulf.

Robots Swarm Oil Spills

Posted 26 Aug 2010 at 22:41 UTC by Rog-a-matic

In spite of new and unexpected findings by a Berkeley Lab research team that microbes have done an amazing job taking care of the underwater oil plume in the Gulf of Mexico, oil on the surface can cause a lot of damage to wildlife and property if it washes ashore. Researchers at MIT are working out ways to skim that surface oil using a swarm of robots. The robots communicate with each other using a WiFi network, and using GPS then coordinate their movements with software inspired by natural swarms. Oil is dealt with on the spot by heating it thus avoiding a lengthy trip to shore. See the video.


Hospital hires robots, cans humans

Orlando Sentinel – linda shrieves – Aug 27, 2010

Feeling expendable?  It’s little wonder when you read stories like this.

At El Camino Hospital in Silicon Valley, hospital officials are leasing 19 robots to do work that humans used to do. The robots deliver medication, food and take out trash.  Hiring humans to make deliveries would have cost the hospital more than $1 million a year, said Ken King, vice president of facilities. Leasing the robots costs $350,000 a year, which helps the hospital cut costs. The robot’s maker says his robots perform work that people find distasteful or hazardous, such as picking up infectious waste. Add, there’s another benefit, he says: “They don’t take breaks and vacation and you don’t have to pay them benefits.” Hmmm. Please note that the same hospital has just announced they are going to lay off 140 workers.

DoT terminates staff as part of automation

Khaleej Times – Anwar Ahmad, Asif Zaidi – Aug 20, 2010

AL AIN, UAE — The Department of Transport (DoT), Al Ain, is in the process of restructuring as part of its move towards automation. The aim is to provide better services. As a result, DoT has had to lay-off some employees who will be provided three months’ salary and other benefits as per labour laws, officials from DoT assured. . . .

Companies are boosting their spending: Could jobs be next?

USA Today – Paul Davidson – Aug 18, 2010

Caterpillar had nearly $4 billion in cash and short-term investments last month. “Shareholders typically don’t like companies that sit on a lot of cash, so we’ll put that to work,” Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman recently told Bloomberg TV.

The company last week said it will break ground in September on a new factory in Victoria, Texas, that will make excavators and employ 500 when it opens in 2012. Caterpillar is also increasing capacity to make mining trucks in Decatur, Ill., and enlarging a factory in Aurora, Ill., to manufacture mining shovels, a new product. The initiatives are aimed at meeting rising long-term demand for electricity and construction in both Asia and North America, executives say. The company, which laid off 9,000 U.S. workers last year, is adding about 4,200 in 2010 to operate added plant capacity and meet new demand,  . . .


Azerbaijani IT company starts implementing project on automation of state tax

Trend News Agency (subscription) – Aug 26, 2010

Azerbaijani SINAM IT Company started implementing the project of automation of the State Tax Service of Kyrgyzstan, SINAM director for business development …


Adept Technology strengthens 0.4%, outperforming 94% of stocks

OptoIQ – Aug 19, 2010

The Robotics segment provides intelligent motion controls systems, vision inspection and guidance systems, production automation software and robot …


Velodyne Introduces HDL-32E LiDAR Sensor

By Robotics Trends Staff – Filed Aug 21, 2010

Velodyne Lidar, Inc., a manufacturer of high definition LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors, announced the introduction of the HDL-32E to meet the demand for a smaller, lighter, and less expensive product for autonomous vehicle and mobile mapping applications.

Mission to Mars: The next rover (roundup)

Friday, August 20, 2010, CNET News staff

Exploration of the Red Planet will shift into a higher gear in 2012 with the arrival of a car-sized, instrument-laden robotic rover named Curiosity.

Concept: Tree Planting Robot Keeps Our Earth Green

UberGizmo (blog) – Aug 19, 2010

If watching movies such as The Matrix or Terminator has taught anything, it’s probably that robots might not be too interested in protecting the environment (and humankind), but the Tree Planting Robot concept design is quite the opposite, as it’s designed to help with reforestation projects. This robot is capable of carrying 320 seedlings at one go, . . .

Cyborg Fly Pilots Robot Through Obstacle Course

The fly, in other words, believed to be airborne when in reality it was fixed to a tether ("A" in the image above), watching LEDs blink ("B") while remote controlling a robot ("C") from a virtual-reality simulation arena ("D"). Is this The Matrix, or Avatar, for flies? Graetzel tells me the goal of the project was to study low-level flight control in insects, which could help design better, bio-inspired robots. "Our goal was not to replace human drivers with flies," he quips.

Erico Guizzo  /  Thu, August 26, 2010

Swiss researchers have used a fruit fly to steer a mobile robot through an obstacle course in the lab. They call it the Cyborg Fly. Chauncey Graetzel and colleagues at ETH Zurich’s Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems started by building a miniature IMAX movie theater for their fly. Inside, they glued the insect facing a LED screen that flashed different patterns. . . . Is this The Matrix, or Avatar, for flies? Graetzel tells me the goal of the project was to study low-level flight control in insects, which could help design better, bio-inspired robots. “Our goal was not to replace human drivers with flies,” he quips.

Astrobotic Technology Announces Caterpillar Inc. Sponsorship of Robotic Mission to the Moon

Astrobotic will also leverage Caterpillar’s autonomous mining and construction machinery expertise.

By Robotics Trends Staff – Filed Aug 23, 2010

Carnegie Mellon University spin-off Astrobotic Technology announces that Caterpillar Inc. is a sponsor of the first of Astrobotic’s robotic expeditions to the lunar surface, which will collect data for NASA and extend the Internet to the Moon for the first time. . .  The expedition also will claim a financial trifecta: up to $24 million in the Google Lunar X Prize, a $10 million data sale to NASA, and Florida’s $2 million bonus for launching from that state.

Remote-controlled robots are entering the workforce

San Jose Mercury News – Troy Wolverton – Aug 26, 2010

The robot, which resembles a Segway scooter, uses telepresence capabilities and is being operated in the next room by Kris Magri, the Anybots Engineering …

Robot plants Chinese flag on seabed – Aug 26, 2010

A robot was used to plant a Chinese national flag at the bottom of the South China Sea, CCTV said.

Total recall – Plymouth leads European project into robot memory (press release) – Aug 27, 2010

A multi-million pound project has begun to design a new breed of robot that can form memories and engage in social interaction.


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