Automation and Robotics News–Dec. 2012
Rise of the Robots
By PAUL KRUGMAN, NY Times, December 8, 2012,
Catherine Rampell and Nick Wingfield write about the growing evidence for “reshoring” of manufacturing to the United States. They cite several reasons: rising wages in Asia; lower energy costs here; higher transportation costs. In a followup piece, however, Rampell cites another factor: robots.
Robots and Robber Barons
By PAUL KRUGMAN, NY Times Op-Ed December 9, 2012
The American economy is still, by most measures, deeply depressed. But corporate profits are at a record high. How is that possible? It’s simple: profits have surged as a share of national income, while wages and other labor compensation are down. The pie isn’t growing the way it should – but capital is doing fine by grabbing an ever-larger slice, at labor’s expense. Wait – are we really back to talking about capital versus labor? Isn’t that an old-fashioned, almost Marxist sort of discussion, out of date in our modern information economy? Well, that’s what many people thought; for the past generation discussions of inequality have focused overwhelmingly not on capital versus labor but on distributional issues between workers, either on the gap between more- and less-educated workers or on the soaring incomes of a handful of superstars in finance and other fields. But that may be yesterday’s story. More specifically, while it’s true that the finance guys are still making out like bandits – in part because, as we now know, some of them actually are bandits – the wage gap between workers with a college education and those without, which grew a lot in the 1980s and early 1990s, hasn’t changed much since then. Indeed, recent college graduates had stagnant incomes even before the financial crisis struck.
Increasingly, profits have been rising at the expense of workers in general, including workers with the skills that were supposed to lead to success in today’s economy. Why is this happening? As best as I can tell, there are two plausible explanations, both of which could be true to some extent. One is that technology has taken a turn that places labor at a disadvantage; the other is that we’re looking at the effects of a sharp increase in monopoly power. Think of these two stories as emphasizing robots on one side, robber barons on the other. …
China: Robotic Growth Tied to Factory Automation Advancements
Automation World-Dec 21, 2012
Morgan Stanley (www.morganstanley.com) recently released a Blue Paper, entitled, China – Robotics: Automation for the People and it includes growth factors, …
Da Vinci Surgery Robot Lawsuits Mount, as Bernstein Liebhard LLP …
San Francisco Chronicle (press release)-11 hours ago
According to a recent report issued by Citron Research, Intuitive Surgical has been named in at least nine Da Vinci Robot lawsuits alleging bad outcomes …
2013: The rise of the robot cars
ZDNet-Dec 21, 2012
The face of today’s robot car owes a lot to the autonomous vehicles developed for Google by Stanford’s Sebastian Thrun. His work on Stanford’s entries in the …
The rise of the robot
Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard-Dec 18, 2012
“In whatever form they take, it’s darned exciting to think that we are not far off from having armies of robots all around us that collectively make it easier to be a …
TERROR, MILITARY, POLICING, SURVEILLANCE
12/26/12 — The city of Berkeley, Calif., this week took the first steps toward a ban on drones as the autonomous aircraft deployed in the war on terrorism are being embraced for local law enforcement. The debate over creating a No Drone Zone in this famously left-wing stronghold is likely to be repeated across the U.S. as ever-smaller drones equipped with high-definition cameras and sensors take to the skies with the ability to collect vast amounts of data on citizens. While the Federal Aviation Administration is drafting rules for the deployment of drones in domestic airspace the use of drones to collect…
Chip Johnson, Chronicle Columnist, Updated 11:22 am, Tuesday, December 18, 2012
If everything goes according to plan, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office will soon have a drone, a small unmanned aircraft, to aid with crowd control, search-and-rescue missions and other law enforcement duties that could use a set of eyes in the air. Think of it as the newest tool for law enforcement. Not surprisingly, not everyone is happy about this. The chief concern of critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union, is that the drones threaten the privacy rights of everyday citizens. The Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission went as far as to propose a ban, a “No Drone Zone” in Berkeley airspace for all but hobbyists. But despite the commission’s stern stance, in the not-too-distant future the skies above American cities will host unmanned flying vehicles.
By Angela Woodall, Oakland TribunePosted: 12/04/2012
Outcry from privacy advocates prompted Alameda County Board of Supervisors to postpone or possibly scrap plans to purchase a surveillance drone for the Sheriff’s Office.Last minute intervention Tuesday morning by the American Civil Liberties Union prompted supervisors to require explicit authorization to use grant money the Sheriff’s Office received to purchase the drone. Now the proposal will have to go to the public protection committee for approval then back to the full board of supervisors. That is likely to happen early next year. Concern has been mounting among privacy groups for months that Sheriff Greg Ahern was forging ahead without rules for deploying a drone in the skies above Alameda County. The ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation are concerned about the lack of privacy protections. They were dismayed to find that the Sheriff’s Office was asking the supervisors on Tuesday to approve a $31,646 grant to help pay for a drone, indicating that the department was far closer to acquisition than they had led the public to believe.
Evan Ackerman / Fri, December 28, 2012
We know, it’s Friday. And usually, we post a whole bunch o’ videos on Fridays, but since we’ve done that for two out of our last three posts (!), we figured we’d give you a bit of a break. Instead, we’ve got this little quadrotor from Japan that’s trying to be the next level of paranoia in private security.
12/05/12 — The U.S. Defense Department has issued a new directive on the use of autonomous and semi-autonomous weapon systems, an attempt to regulate a technology that officials say could be years from becoming reality. The directive, released Nov. 27, is focused on systems that can select and engage targets without the…
Posted 10/09/12 at 05:17 PM
… senseFly, a Swiss start-up, launched their new eBee aerial photography drone with funding from a recent equity investment by Parrot (of AR.Drone quadcopter fame). With it’s 3’ wingspan the eBee can fly for 45 minutes in up to 25 mph winds.
… Two kinds of software drive the eBee: one to create a flight path and the other to turn the 2D geotagged images into 3d maps and reports.
… Two videos explain the process.
By Spencer Ackerman, 01.03.13
It’s barely three days into 2013, and the Obama administration’s lethal campaign of drone strikes has resumed in earnest. Missiles fired by remotely piloted planes struck targets in Pakistan and Yemen three times in the past several hours, killing several people, including two prominent militant commanders. In Pakistan’s South Waziristan province, at least 4 MQ-1 Predators or MQ-9 Reapers operated by the CIA killed a Pakistani Taliban commander, Maulvi Nazir, according to media reports that cite unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials. Nazir had struck a detente with the Pakistani government but, according to drone watcher Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal, maintained ties to al-Qaida and attacked U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The drones fired on Nazir’s vehicle, killing him and at least five others.
The Navy’s next wave of robots will take on one of the most dangerous missions on the open water: destroying mines. Anti-mine warfare is a critical mission for the Navy, as nations like Iran can mess with the global economy just by threatening to plant mines in crucial waterways.
By Noah Shachtman, Monday, December 31
Drones may be at the center of the U.S. campaign to take out extremists around the globe. But there’s a “pervasive vulnerability” in the robotic aircraft, according to the Pentagon’s premier science and technology division — a weakness the drones share with just about every car, medical device and power plant on the planet. The control algorithms for these crucial machines are written in a fundamentally insecure manner, says Dr. Kathleen Fisher, a Tufts University computer scientist and a program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. There’s simply no systematic way for programmers to check for vulnerabilities as they put together the software that runs our drones, our trucks or our pacemakers.
By Spencer Ackerman, Thursday, December 27
Submariners like to say there are two kinds of ships: subs and targets. The Pentagon’s futurists want to turn that on its head, with a new kind of robotic surface ship that can pinpoint a sub.
By Spencer Ackerman, Wednesday, December 26
They’re grabby. They use microbes as fuel. They’re the robots the Navy wants to send to outer space.
By David Axe, 12.08.12
The Air Force’s multi-billion-dollar drone fleets may have helped against the insurgents of Iraq and Afghanistan. But in a fight against a real military like China’s, the relatively defenseless unmanned aerial vehicles would get shot down in a second. So once again, the air will belong to traditional, manned bombers and fighters able to survive the sophisticated air defenses. At least that’s the Air Force’s official position. Secretly, however, the flying branch could be working on at least two new high-tech UAVs optimized for the most intensive future air wars. Ace aviation reporter Bill Sweetman has gathered evidence of new stealth drones under development by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman — the latter potentially armed, and both drawing on classified funds. If these robots are real, the Air Force’s drone era is not only not ending — it’s barely begun.
By Spencer Ackerman, 12.06.12
The soldiers and marines are packing their bags. The pilots are sitting on the tarmac. But the armed robotic planes are busier than they’ve ever been: Revised U.S. military statistics show a much, much larger drone war in Afghanistan than anyone suspected. Last month, military stats revealed that the U.S. had launched some 333 drone strikes in Afghanistan thus far in 2012. That made Afghanistan the epicenter of U.S. drone attacks — not Pakistan, not Yemen, not Somalia. But it turns out those stats were off, according to revised ones released by the Air Force on Thursday morning. There have actually been 447 drone strikes in Afghanistan this year. That means drone strikes represent 11.5 percent of the entire air war — up from about 5 percent last year.
By Noah Shachtman and Spencer Ackerman, 12.04.12
The Navy talks about its drone helicopter the way Apple geeks gushed over the first-generation iPhone in 2007. The MQ-8 Fire Scout does it all, from hunting for drugs at sea to spotting insurgents over the battlefields of Afghanistan. But like that early iPhone, the Fire Scout is seriously buggy — so much so that the Defense Department has conceded it will be forced to seriously delay buying all the robocopters it wants.
By Spencer Ackerman, 12.03.12
This drone may have an awkward name. But several European governments think the nEUROn is their ticket to a future of flying killer robots. The video above shows the first flight of the nEUROn, a drone with a 41-foot wingspan and an empty weight of five tons, which on Saturday launched from France’s Istres air base. The takeoff of the stealthy, batwing-shaped drone, jointly developed by six European countries, was nearly a decade in the making, and tests will continue in France, Sweden and Italy for years to come. In fact, the nEURON won’t actually join any European air forces. Much like the U.S. Navy’s stealthy X-47B — which, as David Cenciotti of The Aviationist notes, the drone kinda resembles — it’s just a demonstrator aircraft, meant to show that European companies can successfully develop an attack-sized, stealthy unmanned plane. Concept proven, the follow-on aircraft will
CBS2 Chicago-15 hours ago
MUNSTER (CBS) — Police in Northwest Indiana are questioning a man suspected of beating his estranged wife to death, then holding police at bay outside the …
Haaretz-Dec 26, 2012
Better the refusenik than the robot. ‘What will become of this country if everyone refuses orders?’ ask the hysteria-mongers. Unfortunately, soldiers of conscience …
News – Dec 20, 2012, 4:39 PM | By Christopher MacManus
DARPA researchers continue to add new functionality to the four-legged robot originally developed by Boston Dynamics.
INDUSTRY AND MANUFACTURING
December 11, 2012
The weeks after Chinese New Year are typically peak recruiting season for the factories in southern China, which for three decades have produced toys, jeans and electronics for retailers around the world. This year was markedly different. Factory owners in Dongguan, a city a couple of hours drive from Hong Kong that consists of constellations of factories specialising in different products, reported that they were confronted with a labour shortage.
Manufacturing Business Technology-Dec 21, 2012
Today the manufacturing of control panels is traditionally a labor intensive process with few options for process automation. Most operations are done manually …
ARC Advisory Group-Dec 20, 2012
Automation Expenditures for Discrete Industries Global Business … This environment created tremendous growth opportunities for automation equipment for …
RubberNews.com-Dec 10, 2012
HEBRON, Ky.—Automating certain rubber product processes once was thought to be unthinkable, but not anymore. Now it’s looked on as a way to minimize …
Wall Street Journal-Dec 11, 2012
Automating production for such items as television sets, game consoles and Apple’s iPhones could be a game changer for Hon Hai, helping it become more …
AGRICULTURE AND FOOD PRODUCTION
The company’s flexpicker robots dramatically impact production and changeover time
By Robotics Trends’ News Sources – Filed Dec 26, 2012
“After three weeks of production, a brand-new product was introduced in less than an hour without the need for any new investment from Honeytop.” FOOD AND BEVERIDGE PACKAGING: Robots help packagers work more efficiently, increasing output and reducing change over time. But they address hygiene concerns too. One company in the UK saw firsthand the benefits of automation, which helped the pancake producer streamline its packaging process.
Perception of Australia as the future “food bowl” for the Asian market is driving innovation
By Robotics Trends’ News Sources – Filed Dec 13, 2012
Professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems Salah Sukkarieh at the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies leads a team that is developing robotic devices with the ability to autonomously sense, analyse and respond to their own surroundings.
NPR (blog)-Dec 28, 2012
We all have an inkling of how our food is grown these days, but increasingly we don’t really know what it looks like. You’d probably recognize a tomato plant or a …
December 8, 2012 – Technology is marching ever forward and the medicine is no exception. CNN’s Fortune Tech predicts tech will eventually take over 80 percent of what doctors do today, and that might be great, but would you feel comfortable putting your life in the hands of Dr.
December 8, 2012 – We may not have had the wide variety of radiation-resistant robots we needed before Fukushima, but we’re certainly getting it now. Following Toshiba’s four-legged dogbot, Mitsubishi is rolling out their own four-tredded tankbot that aims to fix up a disaster site without sending anyone in.
News – Dec 16, 2012, 4:37 PM | By Tim Hornyak
Fresh from its maiden flight, this drink dispenser promises to speed up relief for thirsty passengers.
ZDNet-by Heather Clancy-Dec 26, 2012
Summary: This isn’t just potty talk. The experimental EcBot III uses the microbes in human waste to generate electricity, creating power from the water it cleans.
12/19/12 — Science fiction has always positioned the idea that one day our human jobs would be replaced by machines. For those working in burger assembly lines, that day might be sooner than you think. Introducing a machine that makes burgers. Literally, it’s a burger making machine, in prototype, that takes unprepared ingredients like whole tomatoes, onions, uncooked patties, untoasted buns, and spits out a completely assembled burger: Momentum Machines, the San Francisco-based robotics company responsible for the concept, notes that they are aiming to have a functional demo model by June 1st, 2012. About a month ago, the company got a quick…
PACKING, SHIPPING AND TRANSPORTATION
By Tom Gara, December 26, 2012
Unions and employees will have one last chance this week to reach a deal and avoid port closures that could cripple trade…
ENERGY AND RESOURCE EXTRACTION
Times of India-Dec 29, 2012
HUBLI: Hereafter, people can expect to get unadulterated petrol as petroleum companies have started installing automation machines in their petrol pumps in …
Wired-Dec 11, 2012
Big Data, cloud computing and mobile devices continue to be the business IT megatrends of the 21st Century’s second decade. Intimately linked to all three, as it …
PR Newswire (press release)-Dec 19, 2012
LONDON, Dec. 19, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Every year, nearly 100 million samples are added to biobanks worldwide. Over 1500 bio repositories exist today and …
IT Business Edge (blog)-Dec 5, 2012
Click through for six IT automation predictions for 2013, as identified by Ben Rosenberg, CEO of Advanced Systems Concepts, Inc. IT environments are …
Forbes-Dec 18, 2012
Robot Data Collectors: How to Win in a Device-to-Data Center World … You can think of them as robot data collectors—collecting, culling, and sending back data …
JOB DISPLACEMENT DEBATE
FT Alphaville, December 10, 2012
It seems more top-tier economists are coming around to the idea that robots and technology could be having a greater influence on the economy (and this crisis in particular) than previously appreciated. Paul Krugman being the latest. But first a quick backgrounder on the debate so far (as tracked by us).
AlterNet / By William Lazonick
Worrying about automation distracts us from the real problem: misuse of corporate profits.
Patrick Thibodeau, December 13, 2012
The problem with unions is they can’t protect jobs. They can’t stop a company from moving jobs overseas, closing offices, or replacing workers with automation. I grew up in Connecticut, a heavily unionized state. In the post-war period, the state’s industries made typewriters, appliances, bearings, locks, tools. None of them survived. Through the 1960s and into the 1980s, thousands of factory workers lost their jobs, including my father. These jobs were lost because of globalization and changes in technology. The unions did not cause these job losses, and IT workers provide a good example as to why. In Connecticut, the big IT employers are financial services firms, insurance companies mostly. These firms aren’t unionized. In the late 1990s, financial services firms began offshoring work and IT jobs were cut. The same forces that dismantled manufacturing jobs were now attacking highly skilled, knowledge-based jobs.
New Yorker (blog)-by Gary Marcus-Dec 29, 2012
Slowly, but surely, robots (and virtual ‘bots that exist only as software) are taking over our jobs; according to one back-of-the-envelope projection, in ninety years …
By Kevin Kelly, 12.24.12
Imagine that 7 out of 10 working Americans got fired tomorrow. What would they all do?
It’s hard to believe you’d have an economy at all if you gave pink slips to more than half the labor force. But that—in slow motion—is what the industrial revolution did to the workforce of the early 19th century. Two hundred years ago, 70 percent of American workers lived on the farm. Today automation has eliminated all but 1 percent of their jobs, replacing them (and their work animals) with machines. But the displaced workers did not sit idle. Instead, automation created hundreds of millions of jobs in entirely new fields. Those who once farmed were now manning the legions of factories that churned out farm equipment, cars, and other industrial products. Since then, wave upon wave of new occupations have arrived—appliance repairman, offset printer, food chemist, photographer, web designer—each building on previous automation. Today, the vast majority of us are doing jobs that no farmer from the 1800s could have imagined.
Businessweek-Dec 13, 2012
The robots are coming. Resistance is futile. From car factories to microprocessor plants to fulfillment warehouses, a single robot can now handle tasks that once …
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Tucson Citizen-Dec 21, 2012
Pima County announced that Accela Automation is its new enterprise software for service delivery to eight Public Works departments.
BUSINESS OF AUTOMATION AND ROBOTICS
Boston.com-Dec 19, 2012, By Chris Reidy, Globe Staff
Brooks Automation Inc., a Chelmsford-based provider of automation, vacuum, and instrumentation products for such markets as the semiconductor industry, said it will cut 100 jobs, or 6 percent, of its workforce as it looks to “achieve cost synergies” following an acquisition and to improve profitability in a tough economic environment. The company added that 29 jobs of the jobs being be cut are in Massachusetts. The cuts will leave Brooks with a Bay State headcount of 605 employees. Brooks recently acquired Crossing Automation Inc.
Automation World-Dec 4, 2012
The enormous growth spurt a lot of German automation companies—and many of their customers—have been experiencing since 2009 is expected to slow for …
RESEARCH AND NEW DEVELOPMENTS
December 11, 2012 – Eerily reminiscent of the design of Sonny and the other NS-5s in I, Robot, Kenshiro is the University of Tokyo’s latest attempt to create a humanoid robot that accurately mimics human movement.
Roboy is a tendon-driven robot designed to emulate humans, right down to the gestation period.
News – Dec 19, 2012, 12:19 PM | By Tim Hornyak