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

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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…

Click here for past issues: Archives:

Click here to view the current issue as a web page:

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