Ali Hangan Shares Ideas About a New Society in Birth

Ali Hangan writes:

 

Folks,

Karl Marx points out in his critique of the capitalist mode of production that, “Capitalism creates its own gravediggers.” In other words, capitalist production rationally leads to labor less production or the replacement of living labor with dead labor. Marx’s basic logic is this: Competition among capitalists compel every capitalist to cut costs by replacing the worker with a machine/robot. Robots are a one-time capital expenditure and do not require wages, benefits and coffee breaks. The worker that is replaced by the robot is also the customer for the product that the capitalist produces. Without an income, the worker/customer cannot shop, and the capitalist has no customer resulting in a negation of the money based distribution system, that provides the grease for the wheels of capitalist production. While at the sametime, the productive capabilities of robotic production create the material possibilities for a post-capitalist society. A society that frees humanity up from the burden of work and toil. Certainly, in the present, the capitalist grave is not being dug just yet, but Martin Ford again lays out compelling evidence that a plot has been reserved in the cemetery for the capitalist system.
AH
:)RR

Robots are coming for your job: Amazon, McDonald’s and the next wave of dangerous capitalist “disruption” is followed by New York Times Book Review ‘Rise of the Robots’ and ‘Shadow Work’ and Store Where Robots Sell Robots

 

Excerpts from Robots are coming for your job: Amazon, McDonald’s and the next wave of dangerous capitalist “disruption”:

“Japan’s Kura sushi restaurant chain has already successfully pioneered an automation strategy. In the chain’s 262 restaurants, robots help make the sushi while conveyor belts replace waiters. To ensure freshness, the system keeps track of how long individual sushi plates have been circulating and automatically removes those that reach their expiration time. Customers order using touch panel screens, and when they are finished dining they place the empty dishes in a slot near their table. The system automatically tabulates the bill and then cleans the plates and whisks them back to the kitchen. Rather than employing store managers at each location, Kura uses centralized facilities where managers are able to remotely monitor nearly every aspect of restaurant operations. Kura’s automation-based business model allows it to price sushi plates at just 100 yen (about $1), significantly undercutting its competitors.”
“Vending machines make it possible to dramatically reduce three of the most significant costs incurred in the retail business: real estate, labor, and theft by customers and employees. In addition to providing 24-hour service, many of the machines include video screens and are able to offer targeted point-of-sale advertising that’s geared toward enticing customers to purchase related products in much the same way that a human sales clerk might do. They can also collect customer email addresses and send receipts. In essence, the machines offer many of the advantages of online ordering, with the added benefit of instant delivery.”

“In 2010, David Dunning was the regional operations supervisor responsible for overseeing the maintenance and restocking of Redbox movie rental kiosks in the Chicago area. Redbox has over 42,000 kiosks in the United States and Canada, typically located at convenience stores and supermarkets, and rents about 2 million videos per day. Dunning managed the Chicago-area kiosks with a staff of just seven…. While the jobs that Dunning and his staff have are certainly interesting and desirable, in number they are a fraction of what a traditional retail chain would create. The now-defunct Blockbuster, for example, once had dozens of stores in greater Chicago, each employing its own sales staff. At its peak, Blockbuster had a total of about 9,000 stores and 60,000 employees. That works out to about seven jobs per store—roughly the same number that Redbox employed in the entire region serviced by Dunning’s team.”

 

Salon.com
SUNDAY, MAY 10, 2015 10:30 AM PDT
Robots are coming for your job: Amazon, McDonald’s and the next wave of dangerous capitalist “disruption”
Says one builder: “Our device isn’t meant to make employees more efficient. It’s meant to completely obviate them”
MARTIN FORD
Robots are coming for your job: Amazon, McDonald’s and the next wave of dangerous capitalist “disruption”

Julie Hagerty and Leslie Neilsen in Airplane!” (Credit: Paramount Pictures)

In the United States and other advanced economies, the major disruption will be in the service sector—which is, after all, where the vast majority of workers are now employed. This trend is already evident in areas like ATMs and self-service checkout lanes, but the next decade is likely to see an explosion of new forms of service sector automation, potentially putting millions of relatively low-wage jobs at risk.

San Francisco start-up company Momentum Machines, Inc., has set out to fully automate the production of gourmet-quality hamburgers. Whereas a fast food worker might toss a frozen patty onto the grill, Momentum Machines’ device shapes burgers from freshly ground meat and then grills them to order—including even the ability to add just the right amount of char while retaining all the juices. The machine, which is capable of producing about 360 hamburgers per hour, also toasts the bun and then slices and adds fresh ingredients like tomatoes, onions, and pickles only after the order is placed. Burgers arrive assembled and ready to serve on a conveyer belt. While most robotics companies take great care to spin a positive tale when it comes to the potential impact on employment, Momentum Machines co-founder Alexandros Vardakostas is very forthright about the company’s objective: “Our device isn’t meant to make employees more efficient,” he said. “It’s meant to completely obviate them.” The company estimates that the average fast food restaurant spends about $135,000 per year on wages for employees who produce hamburgers and that the total labor cost for burger production for the US economy is about $9 billion annually. Momentum Machines believes its device will pay for itself in less than a year, and it plans to target not just restaurants but also convenience stores, food trucks, and perhaps even vending machines. The company argues that eliminating labor costs and reducing the amount of space required in kitchens will allow restaurants to spend more on high-quality ingredients, enabling them to offer gourmet hamburgers at fast food prices.

Those burgers might sound very inviting, but they would come at a considerable cost. Millions of people hold low-wage, often part-time, jobs in the fast food and beverage industries. McDonald’s alone employs about 1.8 million workers in 34,000 restaurants worldwide. Historically, low wages, few benefits, and a high turnover rate have helped to make fast food jobs relatively easy to find, and fast food jobs, together with other low-skill positions in retail, have provided a kind of private sector safety net for workers with few other options: these jobs have traditionally offered an income of last resort when no better alternatives are available. In December 2013, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics ranked “combined food preparation and serving workers,” a category that excludes waiters and waitresses in full-service restaurants, as one of the top employment sectors in terms of the number of job openings projected over the course of the decade leading up to 2022—with nearly half a million new jobs and another million openings to replace workers who leave the industry.

In the wake of the Great Recession, however, the rules that used to apply to fast food employment are changing rapidly. In 2011, McDonald’s launched a high-profile initiative to hire 50,000 new workers in a single day and received over a million applications—a ratio that made landing a McJob more of a statistical long shot than getting accepted at Harvard. While fast food employment was once dominated by young people looking for a part-time income while in school, the industry now employs far more mature workers who rely on the jobs as their primary income. Nearly 90 percent of fast food workers are twenty or older, and the average age is thirty-five. Many of these older workers have to support families—a nearly impossible task at a median wage of just $8.69 per hour.

The industry’s low wages and nearly complete lack of benefits have drawn intensive criticism. In October 2013, McDonald’s was lambasted after an employee who called the company’s financial help line was advised to apply for food stamps and Medicaid. Indeed, an analysis by the Labor Center at the University of California, Berkeley, found that more than half of the families of fast food workers are enrolled in some type of public assistance program and that the resulting cost to US taxpayers is nearly $7 billion per year.

When a spate of protests and ad hoc strikes at fast food restaurants broke out in New York and then spread to more than fifty US cities in the fall of 2013, the Employment Policies Institute, a conservative think tank with close ties to the restaurant and hotel industries, placed a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal warning that “Robots Could Soon Replace Fast Food Workers Demanding a Higher Minimum Wage.” While the ad was doubtless intended as a scare tactic, the reality is that—as the Momentum Machines device demonstrates—increased automation in the fast food industry is almost certainly inevitable. Given that companies like Foxconn are introducing robots to perform high-precision electronic assembly in China, there is little reason to believe that machines won’t also eventually be serving up burgers, tacos, and lattes across the fast food industry.

Japan’s Kura sushi restaurant chain has already successfully pioneered an automation strategy. In the chain’s 262 restaurants, robots help make the sushi while conveyor belts replace waiters. To ensure freshness, the system keeps track of how long individual sushi plates have been circulating and automatically removes those that reach their expiration time. Customers order using touch panel screens, and when they are finished dining they place the empty dishes in a slot near their table. The system automatically tabulates the bill and then cleans the plates and whisks them back to the kitchen. Rather than employing store managers at each location, Kura uses centralized facilities where managers are able to remotely monitor nearly every aspect of restaurant operations. Kura’s automation-based business model allows it to price sushi plates at just 100 yen (about $1), significantly undercutting its competitors.

It’s fairly easy to envision many of the strategies that have worked for Kura, especially automated food production and offsite management, eventually being adopted across the fast food industry. Some significant steps have already been taken in that direction; McDonalds, for example, announced in 2011 that it would install touch screen ordering systems at 7,000 of its European restaurants. Once one of the industry’s major players begins to gain significant advantages from increased automation, the others will have little choice but to follow suit. Automation will also offer the ability to compete on dimensions beyond lower labor costs. Robotic production might be viewed as more hygienic since fewer workers would come into contact with the food. Convenience, speed, and order accuracy would increase, as would the ability to customize orders. Once a customer’s preferences were recorded at one restaurant, automation would make it a simple matter to consistently produce the same results at other locations.

Given all this, I think it is quite easy to imagine that a typical fast food restaurant may eventually be able to cut its workforce by 50 percent, or perhaps even more. At least in the United States, the fast food market is already so saturated that it seems very unlikely that new restaurants could make up for such a dramatic reduction in the number of workers required at each location. And this, of course, would mean that a great many of the job openings forecast by the Bureau of Labor Statistics might never materialize.

The other major concentration of low-wage service jobs is in the general retail sector. Economists at the Bureau of Labor Statistics rank “retail salesperson” second only to “registered nurse” as the specific occupation that will add the most jobs in the decade ending in 2020 and expect over 700,000 new jobs to be created. Once again, however, technology has the potential to make the government projections seem optimistic. We can probably anticipate that three major forces will shape employment in the retail sector going forward.

The first will be the continuing disruption of the industry by online retailers like Amazon, eBay, and Netflix. The competitive advantage that online suppliers have over brick and mortar stores is already, of course, evident with the demise of major retail chains like Circuit City, Borders, and Blockbuster. Both Amazon and eBay are experimenting with same-day delivery in a number of US cities, with the objective of undermining one of the last major advantages that local retail stores still enjoy: the ability to provide immediate gratification after a purchase.

In theory, the encroachment of online retailers should not necessarily destroy jobs but, rather, would transition them from traditional retail settings to the warehouses and distribution centers used by the online companies. However, the reality is that once jobs move to a warehouse they become far easier to automate. Amazon purchased Kiva Systems, a warehouse robotics company in 2012. Kiva’s robots, which look a bit like huge, roving hockey pucks, are designed to move materials within warehouses. Rather than having workers roam the aisles selecting items, a Kiva robot simply zips under an entire pallet or shelving unit, lifts it, and then brings it directly to the worker packing an order. The robots navigate autonomously using a grid laid out by barcodes attached to the floor and are used to automate warehouse operations at a variety of major retailers in addition to Amazon, including Toys “R” Us, the Gap, Walgreens, and Staples.

A year after the acquisition, Amazon had about 1,400 Kiva robots in operation but had only begun the process of integrating the machines into its massive warehouses. One Wall Street analyst estimates that the robots will ultimately allow the company to cut its order fulfillment costs by as much as 40 percent.

The Kroger Company, one of the largest grocery retailers in the United States, has also introduced highly automated distribution centers. Kroger’s system is capable of receiving pallets containing large supplies of a single product from vendors and then disassembling them and creating new pallets containing a variety of different products that are ready to ship to stores. It is also able to organize the way that products are stacked on the mixed pallets in order to optimize the stocking of shelves once they arrive at stores. The automated warehouses completely eliminate the need for human intervention, except for loading and unloading the pallets onto trucks. The obvious impact that these automated systems have on jobs has not been lost on organized labor, and the Teamsters Union has repeatedly clashed with Kroger, as well as other grocery retailers, over their introduction. Both the Kiva robots and Kroger’s automated system do leave some jobs for people, and these are primarily in areas, such as packing a mixture of items for final shipment to customers, that require visual recognition and dexterity. Of course, these are the very areas in which innovations like Industrial Perception’s box-moving robots are rapidly advancing the technical frontier.

The second transformative force is likely to be the explosive growth of the fully automated self-service retail sector—or, in other words, intelligent vending machines and kiosks. One study projects that the value of products and services vended in this market will grow from about $740 billion in 2010 to more than $1.1 trillion by 2015.Vending machines have progressed far beyond dispensing sodas, snacks, and lousy instant coffee, and sophisticated machines that sell consumer electronics products like Apple’s iPod and iPad are now common in airports and upscale hotels. AVT, Inc., one of the leading manufacturers of automated retail machines, claims that it can design a custom self-service solution for virtually any product. Vending machines make it possible to dramatically reduce three of the most significant costs incurred in the retail business: real estate, labor, and theft by customers and employees. In addition to providing 24-hour service, many of the machines include video screens and are able to offer targeted point-of-sale advertising that’s geared toward enticing customers to purchase related products in much the same way that a human sales clerk might do. They can also collect customer email addresses and send receipts. In essence, the machines offer many of the advantages of online ordering, with the added benefit of instant delivery.

While the proliferation of vending machines and kiosks is certain to eliminate traditional retail sales jobs, these machines will also, of course, create jobs in areas like maintenance, restocking, and repair. The number of those new jobs, however, is likely to be more limited than you might expect. The latest-generation machines are directly connected to the Internet and provide a continuous stream of sales and diagnostic data; they are also specifically designed to minimize the labor costs associated with their operation.

In 2010, David Dunning was the regional operations supervisor responsible for overseeing the maintenance and restocking of Redbox movie rental kiosks in the Chicago area. Redbox has over 42,000 kiosks in the United States and Canada, typically located at convenience stores and supermarkets, and rents about 2 million videos per day. Dunning managed the Chicago-area kiosks with a staff of just seven. Restocking the machines is highly automated; in fact, the most labor-intensive aspect of the job is swapping the translucent movie advertisements displayed on the kiosk—a process that typically takes less than two minutes for each machine. Dunning and his staff divide their time between the warehouse, where new movies arrive, and their cars and homes, where they are able to access and manage the machines via the Internet. The kiosks are designed from the ground up for remote maintenance. For example, if a machine jams it will report this immediately, and a technician can log in with his or her laptop computer, jiggle the mechanism, and fix the problem without the need to visit the site. New movies are typically released on Tuesdays, but the machines can be restocked at any time prior to that; the kiosk will automatically make the movies available for rental at the right time. That allows technicians to schedule restocking visits to avoid traffic.

While the jobs that Dunning and his staff have are certainly interesting and desirable, in number they are a fraction of what a traditional retail chain would create. The now-defunct Blockbuster, for example, once had dozens of stores in greater Chicago, each employing its own sales staff. At its peak, Blockbuster had a total of about 9,000 stores and 60,000 employees. That works out to about seven jobs per store—roughly the same number that Redbox employed in the entire region serviced by Dunning’s team.

The third major force likely to disrupt employment in the retail sector will be the introduction of increased automation and robotics into stores as brick and mortar retailers strive to remain competitive. The same innovations that are enabling manufacturing robots to advance the frontier in areas like physical dexterity and visual recognition will eventually allow retail automation to begin moving from warehouses into more challenging and varied environments like stocking shelves in stores. In fact, as far back as 2005, Walmart was already investigating the possibility of using robots that rove store aisles at night and automatically scan barcodes in order to track product inventories.

At the same time, self-service checkout aisles and in-store information kiosks are sure to become easier to use, as well as more common. Mobile devices will also become an ever more important self-service tool. Future shoppers will rely more and more on their phones as a way to shop, pay, and get help and information about products while in traditional retail settings. The mobile disruption of retail is already under way. Walmart, for example, is testing an experimental program that allows shoppers to scan barcodes and then checkout and pay with their phones—completely avoiding long checkout lines. Silvercar, a start-up rental car company, offers the capability to reserve and pick up a car without ever having to interact with a rental clerk; the customer simply scans a barcode to unlock the car and then drives away. As natural language technology like Apple’s Siri or even more powerful systems like IBM’s Watson continue to advance and become more affordable, it’s easy to imagine shoppers soon being able to ask their mobile devices for assistance in much the same way they might ask a store employee. The difference, of course, is that the customer will never have to wait for or hunt down the employee; the virtual assistant will always be instantly available and will rarely, if ever, give an inaccurate answer.

While many retailers may choose to bring automation into traditional retail configurations, others may instead elect to entirely redesign stores—perhaps, in essence, turning them into scaled-up vending machines. Stores of this type might consist of an automated warehouse with an attached showroom where customers could examine product samples and place orders. Orders might then be delivered directly to customers, or perhaps even loaded robotically into vehicles. Regardless of the specific technological path ultimately followed by the retail industry, it’s difficult to imagine that the eventual result won’t be more robots and machines—and significantly fewer jobs for people.

Excerpted from “Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future” by Martin Ford. Published by Basic Books, a division of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright 2015 by Martin Ford. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Martin Ford, the founder of a Silicon Valley–based software development firm, has over twenty-five years of experience in computer design and software development. The author of The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology, and the Economy of the Future, he lives in Sunnyvale, California. Follow him on Twitter at @MFordFuture

New York Times
Book Reveiw

Rise of the Robots’ and ‘Shadow Work

By BARBARA EHRENREICH
MAY 11, 2015
In the late 20th century, while the blue-collar working class gave way to the forces of globalization and automation, the educated elite looked on with benign condescension. Too bad for those people whose jobs were mindless enough to be taken over by third world teenagers or, more humiliatingly, machines. The solution, pretty much agreed upon across the political spectrum, was education. Americans had to become intellectually nimble enough to keep ahead of the job-destroying trends unleashed by technology, both robotization and the telecommunication systems that make outsourcing possible. Anyone who wanted a spot in the middle class would have to possess a college degree — as well as flexibility, creativity and a continually upgraded skill set.
But, as Martin Ford documents in “Rise of the Robots,” the job-eating maw of technology now threatens even the nimblest and most expensively educated. Lawyers, radiologists and software designers, among others, have seen their work evaporate to India or China. Tasks that would seem to require a distinctively human capacity for nuance are increasingly assigned to algorithms, like the ones currently being introduced to grade essays on college exams. Particularly terrifying to me, computer programs can now write clear, publishable articles, and, as Ford reports, Wired magazine quotes an expert’s prediction that within about a decade 90 percent of news articles will be computer-­generated.
It’s impossible to read “Rise of the Robots” — for review anyway — without thinking about how the business of book reviewing could itself be automated and possibly improved by computers. First, the job of “close reading,” now commonly undertaken with Post-its and a felt-tip red pen, will be handed off to a scanner that will instantly note all recurring words, phrases and themes. Next, where a human reviewer racks her brain for social and historical context, the review-bot will send algorithms out into the ether to scan every other book by the author as well as every other book or article on the subject. Finally, all this information will be synthesized with more fairness and erudition than any wet, carbon-based thinking apparatus could muster. Most of this could be achieved today, though, as Ford notes, if you want more creativity and self-­reflexivity from your review-bot, you may have to wait until 2050.
This is both a humbling book and, in the best sense, a humble one. Ford, a software entrepreneur who both understands the technology and has made a thorough study of its economic consequences, never succumbs to the obvious temptation to overdramatize or exaggerate. In fact, he has little to say about one of the most ominous arenas for automation — the military, where not only are pilots being replaced by drones, but robots like the ones that now defuse bombs are being readied for deployment as infantry. Nor does Ford venture much into the spectacular possibilities being opened up by wearable medical devices, which can already monitor just about any kind of biometric data that can be collected in an I.C.U. Human health workers may eventually be cut out of the loop, as tiny devices to sense blood glucose levels, for example, learn how to signal other tiny implanted devices to release insulin.
But “Rise of the Robots” doesn’t need any more examples; the human consequences of robotization are already upon us, and skillfully chronicled here. Although the unemployment rate has fallen to officially acceptable levels, long-term unemployment persists, and underemployment — part-time jobs when full-time jobs are needed, or jobs that do not reflect a worker’s education — is on the rise. College-educated people often flounder for years after graduation, finding temp jobs and permanent roommates. Adults of both sexes are drifting out of the work force in despair. All of this has happened by choice, though not the choice of the average citizen and worker. In the wake of the recession, Ford writes, many companies decided that “ever-advancing information technology” allows them to operate successfully without rehiring the people they had laid off. And there should be no doubt that technology is advancing in the direction of full unemployment. Ford quotes the co-founder of a start-up dedicated to the automation of gourmet hamburger production: “Our device isn’t meant to make employees more efficient. It’s meant to completely obviate them.”
Ford offers little hope that emerging technologies will eventually generate new forms of employment, in the way that blacksmiths yielded to autoworkers in the early 20th century. He predicts that new industries will “rarely, if ever, be highly labor-intensive,” pointing to companies like YouTube and Instagram, which are characterized by “tiny workforces and huge valuations and revenues.” On another front, 3-D printing is poised to make a mockery of manufacturing as we knew it. Truck driving may survive for a while — at least until self-driving vehicles start rolling out of Detroit or, perhaps, San Jose.
The disappearance of jobs has not ushered in a new age of leisure, as social theorists predicted uneasily in the 1950s. Would the masses utilize their freedom from labor in productive ways, such as civic participation and the arts, or would they die of boredom in their ranch houses? Somehow, it was usually assumed, they would still manage to eat.
Come to find out, there’s still plenty of work to do, even if no one is willing to pay for it. This is the “shadow work” that Craig Lambert appealingly brings to light in his new book on “the unpaid, unseen jobs that fill your day.” We take it for granted that we’ll have to pump our own gas and bus our own dishes at Panera Bread. Booking travel reservations is now a D.I.Y. task; the travel agents have disappeared. As corporations cut their workforces, managers have to take on the work of support staff (remember secretaries?), and customers can expect to spend many hours of their lives working their way through menus and recorded advertisements in search of “customer service.” At the same time, our underfunded and understaffed schools seem to demand ever more parental participation. Ambitious parents are often expected not only to drive their children to and from school, but to spend hours carrying out science projects and poring over fifth-grade math — although, as Lambert points out, parental involvement in homework has not been shown to improve children’s grades or test scores.
“Shadow Work” is generally a smooth ride, but there are bumps along the way. The definition of the subject sometimes seems to embrace every kind of unpaid work — from the exploitative, as in the use of unpaid interns, to the kind that is freely undertaken, like caring for one’s own family. At times the book gets weighed down by an unwarranted nostalgia for the old days, when most transactions involved human interactions. For example, Lambert grants that home pregnancy tests offer women “more privacy and more control,” while also lamenting — as no woman ever has — that they cut out the doctor and thus transform “what can be a memorable shared event into a solitary encounter with a plastic stick.”
Lambert, formerly an editor at Harvard Magazine, is on firmer ground when he explores all the ways corporations and new technologies fiendishly generate new tasks for us — each of them seemingly insignificant but amounting to many hours of annoyance. Examples include deleting spam from our inboxes, installing software upgrades, creating passwords for every website we seek to enter, and periodically updating those passwords. If nothing else, he gives new meaning to the word “distraction” as an explanation for civic inaction. As the seas rise and the air condenses into toxic smog, many of us will be bent over our laptops, filling out forms and attempting to wade through the “terms and conditions.”
Lambert falls short of calling for the shadow workers of the world to go out on strike. But that’s what it might take to give us the time and the mental bandwidth to confront the dystopian possibilities being unleashed by technology. If middle-class jobs keep disappearing as wealth piles up at the top, Martin Ford predicts, economic mobility will “become nonexistent”: “The plutocracy would shut itself away in gated communities or in elite cities, perhaps guarded by autonomous military robots and drones.” We have seen this movie; in fact, in one form or another — from “Elysium” to “The Hunger Games” — we’ve been seeing it again and again.
In “Rise of the Robots,” Ford argues that a society based on luxury consumption by a tiny elite is not economically viable. More to the point, it is not biologically viable. Humans, unlike robots, need food, health care and the sense of usefulness often supplied by jobs or other forms of work. His solution is blindingly obvious: As both conservatives and liberals have proposed over the years, we need to institute a guaranteed annual minimum income, which he suggests should be set at $10,000 a year. This is probably not enough, and of course no amount of money can compensate for the loss of meaningful engagement. But as a first step toward a solution, Ford’s may be the best that the feeble human mind can come up with at the moment.

RISE OF THE ROBOTS
Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future
By Martin Ford
334 pp. Basic Books. $28.99.
SHADOW WORK
The Unpaid, Unseen Jobs That Fill Your Day
By Craig Lambert
277 pp. Counterpoint. $26.
Correction: May 12, 2015
An earlier version of the biographical note with this review omitted part of the name of the journalistic initiative of which the reviewer is the founding editor. It is the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, not the Economic Hardship Project.
Barbara Ehrenreich, the founding editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, is the author of “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.

 

The Atlantic Magazine
May 12th, 2015

The Store Where Robots Sell Robots

A place where the employees and the merchandise are machines

Arika Bunfill has heard it all.

“Are you real?”

“Will you clean my house too?”

“Will you go out with me?”

It’s hard out there for a robot.

Bunfill works at the Beam store in downtown Palo Alto, California. Scratch that. Bunfill works from her comfortable home in Vacaville, about 90 miles away. But her presence, via Beam, a teleconference robot that looks like the offspring of a computer and a Segway, roams the floor at what Beam reps say is the world’s first and only unmanned store. That’s right, no human beings work at the store—it’s operated 100-percent remotely by folks like Bunfill.

“Hello ladies,” Bunfill says cheerfully to two women walking by the brightly lit shop. They are momentarily stunned by her greeting from a flat panel face, but then walk away, glancing back once. Bunfill is undeterred. She maintains herbonhomie, swivels her wheeled robotic base, and begins to chat up Vish Sastry and Kaval Ali, a young couple on their first date. Ali, a trademark paralegal, is unfazed that she’s carrying on a conversation with a machine. “This is so Silicon Valley,” she said with a dismissive wave.

Tom Wyatt is the store manager but he only stops by about once a week—mostly because he’s a big fan of Cream, the trendy ice-cream shop across the street. Wyatt and a robot, controlled remotely by Michelle Posey, will head over there together. The sight of a man and robot getting banana walnut fudge together is a stunt that draws lots of attention—exactly what Wyatt wants. “Once you see the Beam in real time, it’s easy to understand the value,” Wyatt said.
Inline image 2
“The live environment is really effective,” said Erin Rapacki, Beam’s director of marketing. Effective means sales. The robots, after all, are trying to sell themselves. Posey, 29, joined the 30-person team in December and works four-hour shifts, five or six days a week. At the start of her shift, she simply logs into the system from her home in Monterey. From there, Posey can open and close the front doors of the retail space, adjust lighting and temperature, pilot the Beam around the store, answer questions about the product, and wow curious kids by dispensing brightly colored skittles from a tricked-out candy canister. With a few exceptions, adjusting to an unmanned space was seamless. Wyatt clumsily strapped a leaf blower on a Beam’s base, and when trash clutters up the polka-dotted carpet entrance, one of the pilots will assume cleanup duty and whirl the Beam around the store.

For Posey, pivoting from her job as a blow-dry bar manager was a welcome change. “I used to spend four hours a day commuting in my car to my job,” said Posey. “This allows me to have a life because I work from home and it’s really interesting.”

Standing at five feet two inches, the screen is set on two long legs that jut out of a wheeled base. The Beam slides around as if it were on ice skates. There’s nifty parking assist function that guides the Beam into its charging dock, speed control, and a “party mode” setting that silences the back-facing microphones and reduces the ambient noise—perfect, said Rapacki, for networking receptions and factory visits where loud machinery might interfere with a one-on-one conversation. Shoppers can visit the store to take one of two versions, the Pro or the Plus, for a spin. The Plus is a smaller and less expensive version designed for personal use—just two hours of battery life—while the Pro has eight hours of battery life and is designed for conversations up to 20 feet away. Managers at companies like Power Bright have Beam robots stationed at plants in China.Beam says it has one customer, a graduate student at the University of Maryland who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy, who is able to attend classes remotely and even walk the halls with classmates using Beam.

The robot moves at about two miles per hour, which matches the walking pace of an average human. “The interactive piece is what separates us from traditional video tele-conferencing,” said Posey. “Non-verbal cues, like where we stand for instance, are easy to pick up.”

Meanwhile, back at the Beam store, Ben Day, a pilot who works from his home in Danville, California, is educating a couple and hoping to close a deal. Since the store opened, there have been quite a few sales of the smaller Beam Plus version—Wyatt wouldn’t say how many—but it’s enough to warrant a second store in San Francisco. Bunfill, Posey, Day, and the others bounce between locations when backup is needed but mostly work one shift at one location. Friday and Saturday nights are the busiest.

“We get a lively crowd,” said Day, 26. Day sits in front of a backdrop that looks a bit like grammar school picture-day. He’s friendly and laughs a lot when interacting with customers, particularly when he parks the Beam outside on University Avenue, an artery where Stanford University students mix with families and hipsters.“The Beam frees people up to say things they might not say in person,” said Day who, like Bunfill, fields inane questions and requests for dates adding, “it’s changed the way I talk to people too … I’m more outgoing and courageous.”

And there are other perks. Posey beamed into a party at a New York museum and even twirled around the dance floor. “I’ve never been to New York but I feel like I have,” she said.

“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: Know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.” —- Neil De Grasse Tyson

Automation and Robotics News–Dec. 2012 from Tony Zaragoza

Automation and Robotics News–Dec. 2012

LEADS
Rise of the Robots
By PAUL KRUGMAN, NY Times, December 8, 2012,
Krugman_New-articleInlineCatherine 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 628x471other 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.

070931-M-5827M-011-660x440By 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 …

SERVICE SECTOR

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 …

Australian Mining-Dec 10, 2012amnov12vehiclesandvik2_300
For experts at Sandvik and the CSIRO, the future of automation in mining is already upon us. And while we’ve started to introduce this technology on Australian …

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

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 …

ff_robot_large-660x494By 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

Automation and Robotics News – Jan 30, 2011

[Along with the usual excitement about drone technology and war making, this issue of Automation and Robotics News brings insightful articles about robot job displacement including replacement of entire occupations.  There should be no wonder why Egyptian workers with diplomas cannot find jobs . .

By Larry McCormack, The (Nashville) Tennessean James Scott says the printing industry "is flooded with people looking for jobs."

.and what does that say about the future in the US?  Check out the worker replacement guide below to find out  — Lew Rosenbaum]

Automation and Robotics News–Jan 30, 2011
Tony Zaragoza

Archives: http://academic.evergreen.edu/z/zaragozt/arnews.htm

TERROR, MILITARY, POLICING, SURVEILLANCE

Stats Back Al-Qaida Claim of Drone Pain
Spencer Ackerman, January 27, 2011

Is the U.S. drone war in Pakistan putting the squeeze on al-Qaida’s safe havens? It’s not a question that lends itself to easy answers, given the difficulties of reporting from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas where al-Qaida’s top leaders are believed to be. But a new statistical analysis by researchers at Harvard finds that the deadly robots overhead are reaping modest “counterterrorism dividends” — something that al-Qaida itself is complaining about.

Even DHS Is Freaked Out by Spy Drones Over America

Spencer Ackerman January 26, 2011

Police departments around the country are warming up to unmanned spy planes. But don’t expect the Department of Homeland Security to catch drone fever anytime soon. It’s too controversial for an agency already getting hammered for naked scanners and junk-touching.

Return of The ‘Beast of Kandahar’ Stealth Drone
Spencer Ackerman, January 25, 2011

It returns from the skies! Back in 2009, the Air Force confirmed that it had a mysterious stealth drone, the Lockheed RQ-170, flying over Kandahar in Afghanistan — the subject of much online speculation and grainy photography. Now, after something of a lull,  the Secret Projects forum has new pics of the drone that Ares aviation ace Bill Sweetman dubbed “The Beast of Kandahar.”

Will Israel Sell Russia Its Prized Monster Drone?

Spencer Ackerman, January 18, 2011

Israel and Russia: once Cold War enemies, now partners-in-drone. Only the Russians want Israel to let the Kremlin in on its most powerful unmanned spy plane.

INDUSTRY

Fanuc Bets Future on ‘Cranes With Brains,’ Inaba Says

BusinessWeek – Jason Clenfield – Jan 17, 2011

Inaba built Fanuc into an automation empire over three decades, focusing on making the controls that run more than half of the world’s computerized tools. …

Robots Dominate Manufacturing – Take a Look Inside the Making of a Memory Card …

Singularity Hub – Aaron Saenz – Jan 20, 2011

Watching these slick industrial robots do their thing is something else. You have to check out the video below and see what I mean. …

Little Helper Robot Wants to Be Big Help on Factory Floor

POSTED BY: Samuel Bouchard  /  Wed, January 05, 2011

The manufacturing industry in many countries, facing labor shortages and pressed to become ever more efficient, can certainly use a little help. Or how about a Little Helper?

AGRICULTURE AND FOOD PRODUCTION

Robots: Harvest Automation

Robotspodcast.com, January 14th, 2011

In today’s episode we look at a new market in robotics with huge potential, agriculture. With us, <http://www.harvestautomation.com/About.html>Joe Jones, co-founder of Harvest Automation and father of the Roomba.

SERVICE SECTOR

Digging through a high-tech recycling center

January 24, 2011, Martin LaMonica

A waste recycling center uses a series of machines to automatically sort material to enable single-stream recycling for consumers.

Teasdale Quality Foods Achieves Significant Savings by Automating Invoice…

Business Wire (press release) – Jan 25, 2011

Teasdale’s implementation of the EZCM accounts payable automation solution was so successful that, within months, order entries and accounts receivable were …

‘Go to’ clouds of the future, part 1

January 03, 2011, James Urquhart

Two companies will play major roles in the cloud computing transformation in the next decade, and who they are might surprise you–as well as how they will do it.

Robot puts ill teen back in classroom

Chicago Sun-Times – Jan 21, 2011

WICHITA FALLS, Texas — A Texas school district here has teamed up with a communications company to allow a homebound student to attend class via robot.

Restaurant robot delivers the future of food service

DVICE -Adario Strange – Jan 25, 2011

The MK Robot Project produced the robot to assist waiters with an eye towards total autonomy in the future. Although slow and still in need of human …

Robot glider to investigate Australia floodwaters

msnbc.com – Jan 24, 2011

A gliding robot is set to cruise over a stretch of Australian coast that has been devastated by the recent flooding. The glider will be on a reconnaissance …

12 Advances In Medical Robotics

Looking to make an informed robot-buying decision? Here are some options for assisting (or replacing) your employees.

InformationWeek – Jan 29, 2011

Japan, which has a large elderly population, has developed a number of robot-based technologies that appear to help slow down the advent of dementia, …

Robots to fix parking problems in Abu Dhabi

The National – Jan 23, 2011

The “valet” is a mechanical robot, it promises to park or retrieve your car inside 50 seconds – and best of all, parking will be free.

With Home Carpeting Conquered, Robots Eye the Office

Jack Loftus, 1/16/11

The Roomba has conquered the home. No more vacuuming! Now robots must tackle mail delivery and coffee-making tasks in the office. Enter the coldly-named humanoid bot HRP-4. It doesn’t surf the net. It doesn’t gossip. It simply serves.

Sushi Restaurant Uses Sushi Robots and Control Centers to Cut Costs

Casey Chan

Kura, a sushi chain, focuses on efficiency and turning a profit. So much so that they’ve eschewed traditional sushi chefs for sushi robots, a large staff of waiters for conveyor belts and restaurant managers for a control center with video link.

PACKING AND SHIPPING

Adept introduces packaging robot platform

Vision Systems Design – Jan 6, 2011

Built on the USDA-accepted Adept Quattro s650HS robot, the Adept PAC is the first robotic packaging platform designed from the ground up to address the …

ENERGY

Move Over, WALL-E: Puttering Along Power Lines

New York Times (blog) – Matthew L. Wald – Jan 12, 2011

Electric Power Research Institute A prototype of the robot that would monitor transmission lines for problems.

JOB DISPLACEMENT

Tense time for workers, as career paths fade away

USA Today – Rick Hampson – Jan 12, 2011

•Globalization and automation may export or eliminate not only jobs, but entire occupations — ways of life, really. The Labor Department predicts that …

The Robot Economy is Here by Derek Thompson

The Atlantic (blog) – Derek Thompson – Jan 18, 2011

Entrepreneur Marshall Brain–that’s his real name–says robots will become widely available by 2030 and could eventually take nearly half of all jobs in the …

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

Automation Touted As Way To Help Fix Immigration System

National Journal – Aliya Sternstein – Jan 13, 2011

Nextgov.com reports that the government can fix the immigration system without legislation, by automating visa processing and by …

Barcelona Seeks Technologies for Automation of Urban Services

TMC Net -Calvin Azuri – Jan 24, 2011

The city of Barcelona invites international solutions providers and research centers who can materialize its automation goals through sensors and other …

The Killer Robot Caucus

01/25/11 WSJ Washington Wire

Members of Congress love their drones, but they want to give all robots their due. So the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Caucus…

BUSINESS OF AUTOMATION AND ROBOTICS

Robotics Industry Is Optimistic in 2011

by Bennett Brumson, Contributing Editor

Posted: 01/11/2011 As the global economy emerges from the Great Recession of 2008-2009, business activity is slowly picking up….

RESEARCH AND NEW DEVELOPMENTS

Japanese Robot Cargo Ship En Route to Space Station

Space.com – Jan 24, 2011

An unmanned Japanese cargo spaceship is closing in on the International Space Station, on track to link up with the orbiting lab Thursday (Jan. 27).

Seoul To Spend US$89.5 Million On Robot Pilot Projects

Bernama – Jan 26, 2011

SEOUL, Jan 27 (Bernama) — The government will spend 100 billion won (US$89.5 million) on robot-related pilot projects to bolster growth of the cutting edge …

After 50 Years Robots Have New Horizons

by Bennett Brumson, Contributing Editor

Posted: 01/11/2011 Advancements in safety systems, end-effectors and sensors are rapidly bringing robotics into new applications…

Building a Super Robust Robot Hand

Erico Guizzo  /  Tue, January 25, 2011

German researchers have built an anthropomorphic robot hand that can endure collisions with hard objects and even strikes from a hammer without breaking into pieces. In designing the new hand system, researchers at the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics, part of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), focused on robustness. They may have just built the toughest robot hand yet. The DLR hand has the shape and size of a human hand, with five articulated fingers powered by a web of 38 tendons, each connected to an individual motor on the forearm.

Cloud Robotics: Connected to the Cloud, Robots Get Smarter

Erico Guizzo  /  Mon, January 24, 2011

Connected to the Cloud, Robots Get Smarter

In the first “Matrix” movie, there’s a scene where Neo points to a helicopter on a rooftop and asks Trinity, “Can you fly that thing?” Her answer: “Not yet.” Then she gets a “pilot program” uploaded to her brain and they fly away. For us humans, with our non-upgradeable, offline meat brains, the possibility of acquiring new skills by connecting our heads to a computer network is still science fiction. Not so for robots. Several research groups are exploring the idea of robots that rely on cloud-computing infrastructure to access vast amounts of processing power and data. This approach, which some are calling “cloud robotics,” would allow robots to offload compute-intensive tasks like image processing and voice recognition and even download new skills instantly, Matrix-style. Imagine a robot that finds an object that it’s never seen or used before—say, a plastic cup. The robot could simply send an image of the cup to the cloud and receive back the object’s name, a 3-D model, and instructions on how to use it, says James Kuffner, a professor at Carnegie Mellon currently working at Google.

Top 20 Robot Videos of 2010

Erico Guizzo  /  Tue, January 11, 2011

Last year was an incredible time for robotics, and to recap the best robot moments of 2010 we decided to compile a list of our favorite videos. Check out below our selection — going from No. 20 to the No. 1 — and let us know what you think.

The Best Robots of CES 2011

One of the best robots of 2010

Erico Guizzo  /  Tue, January 11, 2011

Robots made a big appearance at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. There were home robots, robotic pets, humanoids, telepresence systems, and even a little robot to massage people’s backs. Check out the highlights

Automation & Robotics News – Dec. 12, 2010, from Tony Zaragoza

[This issue includes information on a robot who could be taking your medical history soon, the wikileaks revelation that drones are on everyone’s list to Santa, and, if you thought that China might be the last haven for those pursuing low wage workers, think again:  see below to find the “waiter” who may be serving you in Chinese restaurants.]

The Northrop-built drone touched down late Tuesday night at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California after spending more than a day aloft.

Automation and Robotics News–Dec 12, 2010

Archives: http://academic.evergreen.edu/z/zaragozt/arnews.htm

TERROR, MILITARY, POLICING, SURVEILLANCE

High-Flying Spy Drone, Powered By Liquid Coal

Jason Paur, November 24, 2010

No unmanned aircraft in the American arsenal flies higher or longer than the Global Hawk. On Tuesday, it soared high and long, powered by a blend of synthetic fuel. The Northrop-built drone touched down late Tuesday night at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California after spending more than a day aloft. Both the Navy and Air Force have flown numerous other aircraft using other non-traditional jet fuels, but this is both the first for an unmanned aircraft, and the first time any type of aircraft has flown with this type of fuel. JP-8 jet fuel (the kind typically used in the Air Force) was combined with a synthetic paraffinic kerosene derived from liqufied coal, and another derived from natural gas, to make up the blend.

Air Force on Secret Space Plane: Nothing to See Here, Move Along

David Axe, December 7, 2010

The Air Force has news for anyone looking for sinister motives behind the flying branch’s latest orbital gizmo: the mysterious, high-tech X-37B space plane. The 29-foot-long robotic shuttle — vaguely labeled a “test asset” by the Pentagon — returned to earth on Friday after 224 days, nine hours and 24 minutes in space. In those eight months, observers speculated that the X-37 might be a prototype bomber, a satellite-snatching snoop or a speedy, quick-reacting sensor platform. Forget it, Richard McKinney, Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force for Space Programs, said Monday. “I applaud the ingenuity and innovation of some reports, but really it’s as described. This is a test vehicle, pure and simple.” But a test vehicle for what? Well, for testing, McKinney said. The way he described it, the X-37 should eventually function as an orbital laboratory for new satellite components and other space gear — pricey stuff that today gets boosted into the heavens with very little realistic testing. “If we could place technology in orbit, check it out and bring back to earth, that would be significant accomplish,” he said. “The purpose of this particular mission was the vehicle. In order do the other things we talked about … we’ve got to have a vehicle to do that.”

All the same, the X-37 did carry something in its payload bay during its inaugural flight — something secret, McKinney admitted. “It’s not unusual for us to put satellites into orbit that are classified. This is no different than that.”

WikiLeaks Reveals Everybody’s Christmas List: The World Wants Drones

WikiLeaks Reveals Everybody’s Christmas List: The World Wants Drones

Adam Rawnsley, November 29, 2010

Black Friday has passed, but the holidays are upon us and shopping days are increasingly few. Having a hard time finding the perfect gift for that tiny emirate hoping to psych out Iran or the large NATO ally looking to fight terrorism in Iraq? Fortunately for you, WikiLeaks has revealed the number one item atop seemingly everybody’s wish list: drones. Only a select few close American allies have the export-restricted Predator B (a.k.a. MQ-9 Reaper) armed drones, but that hasn’t stopped countries from the United Arab Emirates to Turkey from pestering & pleading with America to sell them the shiniest new toy, the WikiLeaks document show.

AGRICULTURE AND FOOD PRODUCTION

Strawberry-picking robot knows when they’re ripe

Robots to put ripe strawberries on your table

December 13, 2010 Posted by Tim Hornyak

Japan prepares to unleash a strawberry-harvesting robot on the world.

Robot’s singular job: Cutting flesh from pig bone

Tuesday, December 07, 2010 Posted by Matt Hickey

Some people are scared of clowns, some of zombies. I’m scared of giant robots with knives programmed to slice meat from a pig’s thigh.

Entwistle’s of Ramsbottom sets one-year target to double sauce production

FoodManufacture.co.uk – 12/13/10

While Entwistle said that Lancashire Sauce was looking into taking on another team member, he stressed that the investment in automation was intended to …

SERVICE SECTOR

Robots wait on you in this Chinese restaurant

Robots serving food in this restaurant in . . . China!

Thursday, December 09, 2010 Posted by Juniper Foo

At China’s Dalu Rebot (sic) restaurant, patrons are greeted by robot receptionists and attended by robo-waiters. Fortunately, real-life cooks are on hand in the kitchen.

Personal Robotics Market to Top $19 Billion in 2017

Sales of telepresence and security robots are helping to drive the latest forecast.

Robotics Trends Staff – Filed Dec 13, 2010

While many consumers’ current interaction with robots is limited to those that clean their floors, pools, or gutters, ABI Research, in its market study “Personal Robotics,” forecasts that the personal robotics market will grow to more than $19 billion in 2017, driven in large part by sales of telepresence and security robots featuring high-quality cameras, microphones, and processors that allow the robots to serve as interactive substitutes for human beings.

“Hi I’m a robot. I’ll be your doctor today.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (blog) – Mark Johnson – Dec 8, 2010

The engineers say the technology now exists to design robot assistants competent to perform in the high-stress environment of a hospital emergency room.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

Section 179: Take Advantage of Tax Deduction in 2010

Robotworx.com, December 07, 2010

Considering purchasing robots, workcells, or other robotic equipment soon? Why not make this capital investment now, before the end of the year. This way you can take

Romeo, shown here in a computer-generated rendering, is a French humanoid robot designed to assist elderly and disabled people. Image: Aldebaran Robotics

advantage of Section 179 tax incentives.

BUSINESS OF AUTOMATION AND ROBOTICS

Automate Keynote Speaker Tom Ridge

November 23, 2010

First Secretary of Homeland Security and Distinguished Statesman

Two major automation and logistics shows, Automate 2011 and ProMat 2011, are collocated March 21-24 in Chicago, Illinois at McCormick Place and together bring you a special keynote speaker, Tom Ridge, on Monday, March 21. His topic is, “Fortune Favors the Brave: The Net Gain of Supply Chain Security in a Risk-based World.”

RESEARCH AND NEW DEVELOPMENTS

France Developing Advanced Humanoid Robot Romeo

Erico Guizzo  /  Mon, December 13, 2010

France is set to join the select club of countries that have developed advanced adult-size humanoid robots. Paris-based Aldebaran Robotics, famed for its small humanoid robot Nao, is working with major French research organizations to build a larger and more capable humanoid called Romeo, to be unveiled next March. Designed to assist elderly and disabled individuals in their daily activities, the 1.4-meter-tall robot will be able to walk through a home, fetching food from the kitchen, taking out the garbage, and acting as a loyal companion who helps entertain its owners and keep tabs on their health.

Running robot aims to take on Usain Bolt

Monday, December 13, 2010 Posted by Leslie Katz

Aptly named Athlete, bipedal robot developed in Japan takes a biomechanical approach to running in an attempt to mimic human flexibility and agility.

Opportunities and Dangers: 10 Questions for Ray Kurzweil — from Time Magazine

10 Questions for Ray Kurzweil

Monday, Dec. 06, 2010
Rick Friedman[MDASH]Corbis

Is it a mistake to use the events of the recent past as a method of predicting the future?

Our intuition about the future is linear. But the reality of information technology is exponential, and that makes a profound difference. If I take 30 steps linearly, I get to 30. If I take 30 steps exponentially, I get to a billion.

You predict we’ll reach a point with artificial intelligence that you call the singularity. How will that affect us?

By the time we get to the 2040s, we’ll be able to multiply human intelligence a billionfold. That will be a profound change that’s singular in nature. Computers are going to keep getting smaller and smaller. Ultimately, they will go inside our bodies and brains and make us healthier, make us smarter. We’ll be online all the time. Search engines won’t wait to be asked.

Will this make it more difficult for us to focus?

We’ve always been responsible for the triage of our time. I actually think these technologies enable us to focus better. My father was a musician, and he had to hire an orchestra and raise money just to hear his compositions. Now a kid in her dorm room can do that with her synthesizer and computer.

How exactly will technology make us healthier?

We will reprogram our biology. My cell phone’s probably updating itself as we speak, but I’m walking around with 1,000-year-old software that was for a different era. One gene, the fat insulin receptor gene, says, “Hold on to every calorie, because the next hunting season may not work out so well.” I’d like to be able to tell my fat insulin receptor gene, “You don’t need to do that. I’m confident I’ll have food tomorrow.”

Will we be eating differently?

We’ll grow in vitro cloned meats in factories that are computerized and run by artificial intelligence. You can just grow the part of the animal that you’re eating. Some people say, “Oh, that sounds yucky.” I say, “Well, why don’t you go visit a factory-farming installation? You’ll find that getting meat from living animals is yucky.” But we’ll need a marketing genius to sell the idea.

Speaking of marketing, what idea about the future do you have the hardest time selling?

People are most resistant to the idea of dramatic extensions to life expectancy, because it affects every decision they make. They have this cycle of life in mind. People sort of wax philosophical–“Oh, I don’t want to live past 100.” I’d like to see them say that when they’re 100.

Do you think we’ll find intelligent life elsewhere in the universe?

The consensus in the field is that there’s somewhere between a thousand and a million technologically advanced civilizations just in our own galaxy. But once you get to a point where we are, within a few centuries at most, these civilizations would be doing galaxy-wide engineering. It’s impossible we wouldn’t be noticing that. So my conclusion is that we may be the first.

What are the dangers of technological innovation?

Technology is a double-edged sword. New technologies can be used for destructive purposes. The answer is to develop rapid-response systems for new dangers like a bioterrorist creating a new biological virus. We don’t have to just sit back and wait.

How will science affect the religious and ethnic differences in the world?

I think we are evolving rapidly into one world culture. It’s certainly one world economy. With billions of people online, I think we’ll appreciate the wisdom in many different traditions as we learn more about them. People were very isolated and didn’t know anything about other religions 100 years ago.

How will our technological progress make us feel about God?

I believe our civilization is going to be vastly more intelligent and more spiritual in the decades ahead. You can argue how we got here, but we are the species that goes beyond our limitations. We didn’t stay on the ground. We didn’t stay on the planet. Our species always transcends.

VIDEO AT TIME.COM

[Be sure to click this link to hear an interview with Ray Kurzweil time.com/10questions ]

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2033076,00.html#ixzz16hO06gBq

Automation & Robotics News — November 21, 2010 — Tony Zaragoza

[The biweekly feature that documents changes in the electronics revolution,  military and productive applications of robotics, and the replacement of labor-power]
Automation and Robotics News–Nov, 21 2010

Highlights: Japanese Surveillance Robot, Robo-troops, Robot Orders Up 34%, Robotic Milker, Nurses replaced, Recesssion Pushes

A shuttle cart dumps almonds onto a conveyor belt that loads them into a trailer for transport to a sheller. Mike Young switched to almonds and harvesting technology at his orchard in Buttonwillow, Calif., to reduce the need for workers. At seasonal peaks, he employs 70 percent fewer, he said.

Replacement of Workers by Tech, and more…

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TERROR, MILITARY, POLICING, SURVEILLANCE

Japan unveils flying surveillance robot

Monday, November 08, 2010 Posted by Tim Hornyak

Japan’s military is working on a compact spy drone that can fly like a helicopter.

This Design will KILL you

14 Nov 2010, Rog-a-matic,

Yanko Design is featuring a Chris Rogers concept called the “Mega Hurtz Tactical Robot”. The remote-controlled robot works in conjunction with a virtual reality headset and sports a turrent-mounted non-lethal automatic weapon. The 280 pound machine can tow a Hummer, smash through a concrete wall, and run over your foot with ease. Mega Hurtz is suitable for SWAT teams, First Responders, and Search and Rescue operations. Gun-toting model and batteries not included.

Phantom Ray robot Stealth combat jet looks forward to trials

UberGizmo – 11/22/10

The Phantom Ray robot Stealth combat jet intends to place the US army ahead of the other nations, where trials of said jet are slated to begin.

Rise of the robots and the future of war

The Guardian – Nov 20, 2010

For some military tasks, armed robots can already take care of themselves. The sides of many allied warships sport a Gatling gun as part of the Phalanx …

>Robot snake is one enemy not to be trifled with

UberGizmo (blog) – Nov 17, 2010

Trust the military to come up with high tech weapons that brings the world to its knees – this newest robotic snake from Israel already looks menacing on …

Army’s Newest Bomb-Stopping Idea: ‘Intelligent’ Robo-Cart (with Arms)

Spencer Ackerman, November 16, 2010

The Army’s remote-controlled, bomb-finding robots aren’t finding enough bombs in Afghanistan. So the military is toying with a new notion: Let the robot drive itself; and make it bigger, like the size of a golf cart. In a recent solicitation for small businesses, the Army expresses interest in a remote-controlled vehicle that’s bigger than most robots but (way) smaller than its fleet of tactical vehicles. Really, it’s a software system outfitted with sensors for detecting a variety of bombs —. . .

Will Robo-Copters Carry Wounded Troops to Safety?

Spencer Ackerman, November 12, 2010

The next time Marines find themselves in a tight spot in any clime or place, they might make a quick call to a drone to ferry them out. And the Navy wants that communication to occur like David Hasselhof summoning Kitt:. . .

Air Force Eyeing Microwave ‘E-Ray’ for Stealth Drones?

David Axe, November 11, 2010

Taking down an enemy’s air defenses — his radars, missile launchers and command centers — is a prerequisite for large-scale air campaigns. Today, jet fighters packing radar-seeking missiles do the heavy-lifting in the so-called “Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses” mission. In the future, that dangerous task might fall on stealthy drones armed with electronics-frying microwave weapons. That is, if the Air Force can ever get the combination to work. The drones are coming along just fine. The microwave weapons … not so much.

Bombs Away: Afghan Air War Peaks With 1,000 Strikes in October

Noah Shachtman, November 10, 2010

The U.S. and its allies have unleashed a massive air campaign in Afghanistan, launching missiles and bombs from the sky at a rate rarely seen since the war’s earliest days. In October alone, NATO planes fired their weapons on 1,000 separate missions, . . . Since Gen. David Petraeus took command of the war effort in late June, coalition aircraft have flown 2,600 attack sorties. That’s 50% more than they did during the same period in 2009. Not surprisingly, civilian casualties are on the rise, as well.

Robot Troops Will Follow Orders, Beat You at Rock, Paper, Scissors

Spencer Ackerman and Noah Shachtman, November 9, 2010

The military has a ton of ground robots scurrying around Afghanistan. Too bad they’re dumb as puppets, unable to make the slightest move without a human pulling the strings. But if the U.S. Navy has its way, all that will change. Robots will be able to obey a pointed finger or a verbal command, and then tackle a job without flesh-and-blood micromanagement. Which will free up the hundreds, if not thousands, of troops who today have to spend their time twiddling robot joysticks.

INDUSTRY

ABB expands industrial robot range

Manufacturing Talk – 11/22/10

ABB Robotics has introduced three models in its range of multipurpose robots designed to increase productivity in machine tending, material handling, …

North American Robot Orders Up 34%

Appliance Magazine – Nov 15, 2010

RIA said 9628 robots, valued at $618.4 million, were ordered through September by North American manufacturing companies. This represents a gain of 34%

 

AGRICULTURE AND FOOD PRODUCTION

Robotic Milker Offers Cow Freedom

A-4 Automatic Milker

8 Nov 2010, Rog-a-matic, robots.net

The new A4 robotic cow milker by Lely offers the cow a simple walk-through design reducing unnecessary stress and maximizing output. Size and motion of the cow and its vital parts are monitored by a 3D camera system which provides precise data to control the robot arm and cleaning devices. Various sensors and specialized software monitor the milk flow and provide real-time data about the fluid content so optimum milk quality and cow health are maintained. The modular system can serve both family farms and larger producers. Video, Brochure PDF.

SERVICE SECTOR

 

Meet Cody, the robot that gives sponge baths

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 Posted by Matt Hickey

It’s not as sexy as Nurse Nancy, but Cody, the robot who gives baths, might be more effective and cheaper in the future.

Adept Technology Robotics Selected to Participate in Advanced Cancer Treatment Program

November 18, 2010

Adept Technology, Inc. (Nasdaq:ADEP), the leading provider of intelligent vision-guided robotics and global robotics services, today announced it is participating in the CLARA (Lyon Auvergne Rhone-Alpes Cancer cluster) program with Lyon Civil Hospitals as the robotics component in a method for treating small cancer tumors.

Second Robot to Be Sent Into New Zealand Mine

WSJ.com

The first robot broke down two hours after it was sent into the mine in an effort to locate 29 miners missing since Friday…

A Robot Actress Stars In A Play

Casey Chan, 11/13/10

Gemenoid-F, a robot, is co-starring in a Japanese play where she plays the role of a caretaker. It’s a director’s dream: the robot has no ego and does what is told. Here’s a video of her in action, or “acting”.

Rescue robots not effective – experts

Radio New Zealand – 11/22/10

Sean Dessureault, a mine automation expert from the University of Arizona, says underground conditions are cold, wet and rough on the ground, …

>Why US IT jobs aren’t coming back

Galen Gruman, InfoWorld, November 18, 2010

The recession may be technically over and IT spending may rise slightly in 2011 and beyond (per Gartner and IDC projections), but U.S. and European IT workers won’t benefit. The technology jobs created and reinstated by the economic recovery will be in India, China, and other countries witth cheaper workers. In fact, an additional 600,000 American and European jobs in IT will disappear in the five years from 2010 through 2014, on top of the 500,000 lost in the 2008-09 period. That’s according to bleak research released today by the Hackett Group, a consultancy specializing in helping companies save costs through techniques that, ironically, include outsourcing. “There’s no end in sight for the jobless recovery in business functions, such as IT and corporate finance, in large part due to the accelerated movement of work to India and other offshore locations,” the report says.

Teaching Medical Robots

U.S. News & World Report – Marlene Cimons – 19 hours ago

“Right now, these robots are dumb,” said M. Cenk Cavusoglu, associate professor in the department of electrical engineering and computer sciences at Case …

Love robots will end loneliness

AsiaOne – Nov 21, 2010

A robot which can fall in love with its owner could help those suffering from loneliness, the Sun reported. Funktionide, a pillow-like robot invented by …

US sex robots headed to UK

Times of India – Nov 17, 2010

LONDON: Sex robots developed in the US could be heading to Britain following a demand from robot fetishists. With a fixed stare but having movable limbs, …

PACKING AND SHIPPING

 

Amazon gets Kiva robots via Zappos, Diapers buys News Thursday, November 11, 2010, Rafe Needleman

Kiva Systems’ inventory robots are invading Amazon.com-owned warehouses via the e-commerce powerhouse’s recent acquisitions.

‘Uplifting’ Outlook for Pallet-Handling Robotics Technologies in 2011

By Geoffrey Oldmixon – Filed Nov 11, 2010

The coming year is poised to be another one in which operations managers will be tasked with further reducing costs. According to Boston-based research firm The Aberdeen Group, that could mean big things for warehouse robotics. Automated pallet-handling equipment solutions, such as automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and other pallet-moving technologies, are relatively low-cost, high-ROI technology investments that warehouse operations will likely consider in the coming months, says the analyst firm.

ENERGY

 

Automation in Siberian field provides more stable operations

Oil & Gas Journal – Ron Cramer – Nov 1, 2010

Automation in Salym field of western Siberia has reduced operator travel and hazard exposure, reduced interruption in electric submersible pump operations, …

JOB DISPLACEMENT

 

Replacing Nurses With Robots

ADVANCE for LPNs (blog) -Linda Jones – Nov 22, 2010

As a nurse, if you were to create a robot to perform part of your job, what would you have it do? Are there tasks you do that do not require critical …

Recession spurs faster replacement of workers with technology

An automated tree-shaker causes almonds to fall; another machine will collect and sort them. "Labor is so expensive," Young said. "There's their wages, truck, insurance, workers' comp and the safety regulations."

Columbus Dispatch – Alana Semuels – Nov 1, 2010

Automation means Young no longer needs large crews of farmworkers to plant or harvest – and no more worrying about immigration status, pay or benefits.

BUSINESS OF AUTOMATION AND ROBOTICS

New robotics study published by the European Commission

November 2010

The Directorate General for Enterprise and Industry (DG ENTR) and the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (JRC-IPTS) have launched a series of studies to analyze prospects of success for European ICT industries in the face of technological and market innovation. These studies under the common acronym “COMPLETE” aim to gain a better understanding of the ICT areas in which it would be important for the EU industry to remain or become competitive in the near future, and to assess the likely conditions for success. This particular report “A Helping Hand for Europe: The Competitive Outlook for the EU Robotics Industry” reflects the findings of the JRC-IPTS COMPLETE study on robotics applications in general, and in two specific areas selected because of potential market and EU capability in these areas: robotics applications in SMEs and robotics safety. The report starts by introducing the state of the art in robotics, their applications, market size, value chains, and disruptive potential of emerging robotics technologies. For each of the two specific area the report describes the EU landscape, potential market, benefits, difficulties and how these might be overcome. The last chapter draws together the findings of the study to consider EU competitiveness in robotics, opportunities and policy implications.

RESEARCH AND NEW DEVELOPMENTS

Mexico uses robot to explore ancient tunnel

The Associated Press – Nov 10, 2010

The one-foot (30-cm) wide robot was called “Tlaloque 1” after the Aztec rain god. The grainy footage shot by the robot was presented Wednesday by Mexico’s …

Teaching for Social Justice Curriculum Fair Saturday Nov. 20

Register  on line for the TSJ 10th annual curriculum fair at this URL — complete opening keynote/plenary, workshops, resource tables and curriculum exhibits program is now listed on line.

 

10th Annual Teaching for Social Justice Curriculum Fair!

 

(En Español)
We are very excited that this November 20, 2010 will be the 10th Annual Teaching for Social Justice Curriculum Fair,  co-sponsored by Rethinking Schools. This year’s theme is “Another Education is Possible, Another World is Necessary!”

In “science fair” format, and completely grassroots volunteer-organized, the Curriculum Fair will provide over 600 educators, activists, parents, youth & community members with a space to share curricula, resources, and inspiration. We’ll be making friends & building relationships, exploring ideas & projects, connecting our histories & struggles. All in a spirit of social justice and education for liberation.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2010
10:00AM – 5:00PM
Doors open at 9:30am
Orozco School
1940 W. 18TH Street (map & directions)

Chicago, IL

Automation & Robotics News for Oct. 24

Tony Zaragoza’s very popular biweekly feature:

Automation and Robotics News–Oct. 24, 2010

Highlights: DARPA, DARPA crazy; Robotics Rodeo; Call Center Automation; Robotic Teachers; Reports on robot job displacement; positive ways of looking at robot job displacement; piano bot; bowler bot; babies and robots; and antarctic exploration.

Click here for Archives:

Click here to go directly to this issue:

TERROR, MILITARY, POLICING, SURVEILLANCE

DARPA Seeking to Revolutionize Robotic Manipulation

Erico Guizzo  /  Mon, October 18, 2010

50 Leading Robotics Organizations are Set and Ready to Demo during U.S. Army “Robotics Rodeo” at Fort Benning

RIA, 10/18/2010

For the second consecutive year, the U.S. Army has invited prominent robotics technologists from across the country to display their …

Feds Plot ‘Near Human’ Robot Docs, Farmers, Troops

Katie Drummond, October 22, 2010

Robots are already vacuuming our carpets, heading into combat and assisting docs on medical procedures. Get ready for a next generation of “near human” bots that’ll do a lot more: independently perform surgeries, harvest our crops and herd our livestock, and even administer drugs from within our own bodies. Those are only a few of the suggested applications . . .

Friends Made in Low Places: Swat Teams Adopt Tiny Reconnaissance Robots

JOE BARRETT, 10/18/10

For years, military and police bomb squads have used large robots to help investigate suspicious objects without putting…

Boeing to Offer A160T Hummingbird in Response to NAVAIR RFP

By Robotics Trends Staff – Filed Oct 15, 2010

Robot weapons creating human enemies

ABC Online – Lisa Millar – Oct 18, 2010

 

 

AGRICULTURE AND FOOD PRODUCTION

Robot milks cows for all they’re worth

3News NZ – Oct 20, 2010 By Dave Goosselink

SERVICE SECTOR

Call centre automation could save economy £23bn a year

Computing – Nicola Brittain – Oct 22, 2010

. . . the automation of customer service as a way to cut costs.

Robot teachers invade South Korean classrooms

CNN – Susannah Palk – Oct 22, 2010

A student practices her English pronunciation with a robot as part of South Korea’s robot-learning program.

Toyota and Fujita Health University Testing Robot to Aide Stroke Patients

SlashGear – Evan Selleck – Oct 18, 2010

JOB DISPLACEMENT

David Autor, Inequality and Technological Change

Excellent econ reports on tech impacts on the US economy.

Automation Insurance: Robots Are Replacing Middle Class Jobs

Andrew Price, October 13, 2010

The middle class is disappearing and the problem is deeper than politics. How will we understand work in the coming age of robotics?

Last April, the MIT economist David Autor published a report that looked at the shifting employment landscape in America. He came to this scary conclusion: Our workforce is splitting in two. The number of high-skill, high-income jobs (think lawyers or research scientists or managers) is growing. So is the number of low-skill, low-income jobs (think food preparation or security guards). Those jobs in the middle? They’re disappearing. Autor calls it “the polarization of job opportunities.” These days, all of us, from President Obama on down, are thinking about jobs. The unemployment rate is hovering around 10 percent, we’ve watched the ground disappear from under Detroit and Wall Street, and there’s a pervading sense that other industries might be next. It’s not that the issue isn’t getting attention. The Princeton economist Paul Krugman is out there telling Congress to spend more money to create jobs. The former secretary of labor Robert Reich is arguing for tax breaks for the bottom brackets so people can buy stuff again. Here’s the thing, though: The erosion of the middle class is a phenomenon that’s bigger than the Great Recession. Middle-range jobs have been getting scarcer since the late 1970s, and wages for the ones that are still around have remained stagnant.

Robots the Best Way to Keep Jobs in America

October 22, 2010, Robotworx.com

Anti-robot sentiments are on the rise. There’s a lot of chatter online right now about a study published by MIT economist David Autor. In a nutshell, Autor states that while American manufacturing is strong, middle class jobs are dying out and robots are to blame. . . . A closer look at the issue doesn’t have to result in a doom and gloom response. Ultimately, robots offer opportunities to keep and create new and better jobs for Americans.

Will robots replace doctors? It’s already happening

Examiner.com – Oct 22, 2010

Recent studies by Duke University researchers show that robots performing medical operations may be part of our future. In studies conducted by Duke …

RESEARCH AND NEW DEVELOPMENTS

Piano player bot tickles the ivories in Taiwan

Wednesday, October 20, 2010 Posted by Tim Hornyak

Robot can bowl a perfect strike every time

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 Posted by Matt Hickey

Hey robots, census wants to know all about you

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 Posted by Leslie Katz

Study Shows That If a Robot Acts Like a Human, A Baby Will Think It’s Human

Switched – Amar Toor – Oct 20, 2010

Underwater robot studying ice-covered Antarctic Ocean

CTV.ca – Oct 23, 2010

Automation & Robotics News Sept. 12 — Tony Zaragoza

Automation and Robotics News–Sept 12, 2010 Tony Zaragoza, editor

Highlights: Drone strikes increase in Afghanistan and Pakistan; Drone flights increase over US/Mexico border; the

4 Predator Drones Patrol Entire US Mexico Border

new China: less low-wage, more automated; India GDP growth due in part to growth in automation; food production automation in England and Nebraska; robo-jazz and robo pool cleaner; hurricane drone; lying robots and feeling robots; and the telepresence and smart grid futures.

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TERROR, MILITARY, POLICING, SURVEILLANCE

Patriotic snake robot slithers up a tree September 03, 2010, Leslie Katz For its latest trick, Uncle Sam, a Snakebot from Carnegie Mellon University, slithers out of the lab and up a tree, where it looks around with its camera-enabled head.

Why Bomb-Proofing Robots Might Be a Bad Idea (Updated) Noah Shachtman, September 2, 2010 Five years ago, troops in Iraq were lucky if they had a bomb-stopping jammer in their Humvee. Now, one company wants to outfit robots with the electronic countermeasures, to keep the machines safe from remotely-detonated explosives. But you’ve got to wonder whether outfitting the ‘bots with another $100,000 in classified tech kind of undermines the purpose of having a disposable army of machines to handle irregular war’s most dangerous work. . .

U.S. Escalates Air War Over Afghanistan Noah Shachtman, August 30, 2010 There may not be quite as many bombs falling from the sky. But don’t let that fool you. The United States has dramatically escalated its air war over Afghanistan. Spy plane flights have nearly tripled in the past year; supply drops, too. There are even more planes buzzing over the heads of troops caught in firefights, according to statistics provided to Danger Room by the Air Force.  The increased numbers show how the American military has retooled its most potent technological advantage — dominance of the skies — for the Afghanistan campaign. But so far, at least, the boost in air power doesn’t seem to have shifted the war’s momentum back to the American-led coalition. . . .

Starting Today, the Entire U.S./Mexico Border Is Drone-Patrolled Kyle VanHemert, 09/01/10, Gizmodo Yesterday, there were three Predator drones keeping watch over the Southwest Border; today, with the launch of a fourth Predator, in Texas, the entire border between the United States and Mexico is patrolled by drones. Pardon, patrolled by Robot-Americans.

Israel, Russia in Drone Deal; Laser Tech Next? Noah Shachtman, September 7, 2010 First, Israel will beef up Russia’s robotic air force. Down the road, perhaps, Vladimir Putin may return the favor, by equipping Israeli drones with Russian laser tech. On Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his Russian counterpart, Anatoly Serdyukov, signed a first-of-its kind military agreement between the two countries. It’s the latest step towards cooperation for two countries that have traditionally been at each other’s throats. . . .

Darpa Wants to Create Brainiac Bot Tots Katie Drummond, September 10, 2010 A Pentagon-funded scientist has come up with a comprehensive program to turn today’s robots into tomorrow’s A.I. overlords. Step one: Imbue them with toddler-level intelligence. Step two: Run them through a “cognitive decathlon” of tests. And finally, use programmed learning abilities and human instruction to turn bot tots into supersmart A.I. agents “that [can] learn and be taught like a human.” Darpa, the Pentagon’s far-out research arm, wants robots that can outdo (or at least match) human smarts, . . .

Trust: Greatest Obstacle To UAV Autonomy Aviation Week – Graham Warwick – Sep 10, 2010 Autonomy is at the end of a spectrum of increasing automation, and increasing complexity that automation can deal with, says Air Force Research Laboratory …

INDUSTRY

Motoman MS120 “Master Spot” Welding Robot Picks Up the Pace – Sep By Robotics Trends Staff – Filed Sep 06, 2010 Designed to optimize automotive applications using DC spot guns with compact servo actuators, the MS120 is more than 43 percent faster than a traditional heavy-payload robot, resulting in shorter takt times and higher throughput. Quick and agile, the six-axis MS120 “Master Spot” welding robot features a 120 kg (264.6 lb) payload and is more than 43 percent faster than a traditional heavy-payload robot, . . .

Characteristics Of The New China Forbes (blog) – Handel Jones – Sep 10, 2010 While the past approach was to use

China's labor force is changing -- and so is its wealth.

low-cost labor in China, the new factories, many of which are managed by outsiders, use increasing levels of automation, …

India’s GDP is expected to reach US$3 trn :Frost & Sullivan India Infoline.com – Sep 8, 2010 The degree of automation will play a key role in driving India’s position in the global manufacturing industry.

AGRICULTURE AND PRODUCTION

Food manufacturers invest in automation IGD Supply Chain Analysis – Sep 1, 2010 Food and drink manufacturers in the UK are increasing their investment in automation and robotic equipment during 2010, according to new data

Retrotech Completes Cargill Automation Project PR-USA.net (press release) – Sep 1, 2010 Retrotech®, Inc, a specialist in the modernization and optimization of automated material handling equipment, recently completed the integration of a new automated box handling and shipping system for Cargill Meat Solutions’ Schuyler, Neb., beef processing plant, replacing a manually operated system. . . .

SERVICE SECTOR

Low Installation Rates in Retail Pharmacies Across Europe Increase the Growth … PR Newswire (press release) – Sep 1, 2010 The pharmacy automation systems market in Europe is experiencing a tremendous growth spurt. Until recently, most pharmacies have been either without automation or have employed very basic automation systems. In response, the adoption rate of automation systems across Europe has been progressing from basic prescription management systems to advanced medication pick-up and drug dispensing automation systems. Likewise, although the adoption of automation systems has been most prevalent among hospital pharmacies, there is significant potential for growth in the retail pharmacy market across Europe.

Watch Humans and Robots Getting It On, Musically, before Bumbershoot The SunBreak (blog) – Sep 3, 2010 By josh As previously mentioned, this year’s Bumbershoot arts program includes an appearance by Shimon, the Jazz-Improvising Marimba Robot

For $500, This Solar-Powered Robot Will Keep Your Pool Clean Rosa Golijan 09/10/10 Owning a pool is great—until you realize just how much time and money goes into maintaining it. Thankfully, there are robots like the Solar-Breeze which will remove surface debris and reduce pump usage costs without needing much more than sunlight.

South Korean University of Incheon Library Implements RFID in Operations MoreRFID (press release) – Sep 7, 2010 The University of Incheon in South Korea has automated its library operations with RFID. . . . The move away from the previously used barcode technology became opportune as the university began building its new campus and Haksan library in Songdo in 2009. Located close to Seoul, Songdo is a completely planned and sustainable international city in the Incheon Free Economic Zone. It is the new hub for innovation in the region and is world-famous for its use of new technologies. . . .

ENERGY

Automation of Industrial Processes MeasurementDevices – Aug 30, 2010 The answer to the crisis for large energy companies Bucuresti, Romania — Both goods producers and big energy companies as well as associated services (like transportation, infrastructure) are looking for alternative solutions to productivity growth and cost reduction. A possible answer is the implementation or extension of industrial automation processes. . . .

JOB DISPLACEMENT

Another Ugly Jobs Number: ADP Says The Private Sector SLASHED 10000 Jobs In August The Business Insider – Sep 1, 2010 Joe Weisenthal The numbers: Another ugly jobs number. According to ADP, the private sector slashed a net 10,000 jobs in the month of august. Analysts were looking for the creation of 13,000 jobs, so not good. Small businesses slashed 6,000 jobs. Manufacturing fell by 6,000 in august. This is the first time in several months that ADP has reported net job losses. Comment from reader Don McArthur (URL) This is not a normal (though severe) business cycle recession/recovery, this is the effect of automation, digitalization, and unfettered globalization on the work lives of our nation. If and when the majority of these people find work again, it will be for meager wages, marginal benefits, no security and no pensions. This is our brave, new world—this is how we live now. 10% of the population will be enormously wealthy winners, and the rest will be left sucking wind. And you know what? No democracy can survive that…

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS

Newsweek: GOP would produce fewer jobs, bigger deficit Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) – Aug 30, 2010 It is not the GOP that would produce fewer jobs, it is automation. Accelerating computer technology is the primary cause of the current global economic …

The Generation That Can’t Move On Up 09/02/10, Opinion, W. BRADFORD WILCOX Most people assume that working-class members of the baby-boomer generation have been hurt the most by the outsourcing and automation in which millions of factory jobs moved overseas or disappeared into computer chips, a shift recently compounded by recession. But actually it may be their children’s generation. Not only are many members of the younger working class unprepared for the contemporary job market. New research we have done shows their striking inability to fit the middle-class ideal in family and religious life. It’s a worrisome development for their lifestyle and our culture. These are the people we used to call “blue collar,” although you can no longer tell a person’s social class by the color of his shirt. If we can speak of a working class at all, education is now the best way to define them. Think of people with high school degrees but not four-year college degrees. They make up slightly more than half of all Americans between the ages of 25 and 44; old enough to have completed their schooling but young enough to be still having children, and 79% of them are white. Because they don’t have the educational credentials to get most middle-class professional and managerial jobs, their earnings have sunk toward the wages of the working poor. The grim employment picture is familiar, but what’s less widely known is that they are losing not only jobs but also their connections to basic social institutions such as marriage and religion. They’re becoming socially disengaged, floating away from the college-educated middle class.

Automating sewage treatment processes World Pumps – Sep 10, 2010 The main improvements involved the automation of the treatment processes to enable increased efficiency and reduced energy consumption.

BUSINESS OF AUTOMATION AND ROBOTICS

Will Google Destroy Itself? Martin Ford, Huffington Post (blog) – Aug 31, 2010 Google recently announced a new machine learning engine that it will make available to software developers. Machine learning is a form of artificial intelligence (AI) in which an application can learn from processing real data and become more proficient over time. . . . One immediate result of this is increased concentration and automation of jobs. Information technology workers are already seeing significant job losses as a result of the move toward cloud computing. . . .

ABB Sees Strong Demand Wall Street Journal, 9/9/10 Engineering company ABB stuck to an upbeat forecast, saying that demand remains robust and a plan to cut $3 billion in costs…

Talk, But No Chance, Of Single-Pilot Airline Flights The Wall Street Journal Little chance there will be single-pilot airline flights in the next decade or two.

RESEARCH AND NEW DEVELOPMENTS

Robot research plane to fly into Hurricane Earl USA Today – Doyle Rice – Sep 1, 2010 An unmanned drone aicraft – known as the Global Hawk – is scheduled to fly directly into 135-mph Hurricane Earl tonight to help unlock some of the mysteries …

Shapeshifting Robot Plane Flies in Bad Weather TechNewsDaily – Charles Q. Choi – Sep 2, 2010 Shapeshifting ed

Researchers Give Robots the Ability to Lie – Robotics Trends Staff – Filed Sep 12, 2010 A robot deceives an enemy soldier by creating a false trail and hiding so that it will not be caught. While this sounds like a scene from one of the Terminator movies, it’s actually the scenario of an experiment conducted by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology as part of what is believed to be the first detailed examination of robot deception.

Inventor predicts errand-running robot will be on the market in 5 years September 12, 2010 As Edwards explains in his book Junior Automated Courier, A Robot for Errands, JAC is an automated courier robot that acts like a well-trained Labrador retriever. You give it a command to bring you a physical object, and it goes and gets the object for you. In doing so, it saves you time and energy of having to go get the object yourself.

Is Telepresence the Next Big Thing in Robotics? Erico Guizzo  /  Tue, September 07, 2010 Is telepresence the next big thing in robotics? Will telepresence robots revolutionize work, manufacturing, energy production, medicine, space exploration, and other facets of modern life? Or is it just all hype?

Test-driving Willow Garage’s telepresence robot September 11, 2010 Posted by Tim Hornyak I got to kick the tires on Willow Garage’s Texai robot, piloting it around the company’s offices in Menlo Park, Calif. The Texai emphasizes man over machine.

Artificial ‘E-skin’ May Soon Help Robots ‘Feel’ PC World – 9/12/10 Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a new technology that may help robots feel, give the sense of touch back to those with …

Smart Grid – Vision and Reality San Jose Mercury News – Sep 7, 2010 The classical grid developed over the last 100 years represents a rather inflexible one-way system from power generation via transmission and distribution to the consumer. Due to the availability of new technologies in communications, networks and automation we are now in the position of transforming the energy network into a two-way (feedback-control) system also called smart grid. Thus, the power network can be balanced, the energy consumption can be reduced, operating costs will become less and reliability and transparency will increase.

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…

Archives: http://academic.evergreen.edu/z/zaragozt/arnews.htm

http://academic.evergreen.edu/z/zaragozt/arnewsarchive.htm

TERROR, MILITARY, POLICING, SURVEILLANCE

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. . . .

ROBOT KILL-CHOPPER GOES ROGUE above Washington DC!

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, …

INDUSTRY

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 . . .

AGRICULTURE AND FOOD PRODUCTION

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. . .

PACKING AND SHIPPING

SERVICE

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

Telegraph.co.uk -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. . .

ENERGY


Scientists’ Robot Submarine Discovers Plume of Oil in the Gulf

Brandimposter.com – 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.

JOB DISPLACEMENT

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,  . . .

GOVERNMENT


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 …

BUSINESS OF AUTOMATION AND ROBOTICS


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 …

RESEARCH AND NEW DEVELOPMENTS

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

NDTV.com – 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

PhysOrg.com (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.