Tag Archives: robots

Field of machines: Researchers grow crop using only automation

A farm in the United Kingdom is the first in the world to successfully plant, tend and harvest a crop without a single person ever setting foot in the field, according to researchers and developers involved in the project.

 

From sowing the seeds to picking the grain, human workers were replaced with automated machines operated from a control room. The project, called Hands Free Hectare, was completed last month with a yield of 4 1/2 tons of barley, according to news releases.
The automated farm was a joint venture by Harper Adams University in Shropshire, England, and Precision Decisions, a farming specialist company in York.
 
 
“Previously, people have automated sections of agricultural systems, but funding and interest generally only goes towards one single area,” said Kit Franklin, an agricultural engineer on the project.
Experts agree that automation technology has been available for some time now, but in recent years its implementation has been accelerated by decreasing costs and changing demographics in the workforce.
“The rising cost of labor is a huge driver in the field of agriculture technology,” explained Matt Nielsen of Autonomous Solutions, a Utah-based company that converts vehicles from manual to robotic control. “It makes sense when you compare the cost of technology to the cost of labor.”

Harbinger of what’s possible

However, there are limitations still to be assessed. For example, fresh fruits and vegetables are more delicate than sturdy grains and may be more susceptible to bruising in a harvest void of human touch.
There are also social and country-specific considerations. In Japan, for instance, agricultural automation may be a necessity; in India, it could mean unemployment for millions.
“Technically, complete automation is feasible everywhere, but economically and socially it only makes sense in certain situations,” said David Zilberman, a professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Berkeley.
Nonetheless, the complete mechanization accomplished in the UK is a harbinger of what’s possible in agriculture production, according to experts.
At Hands Free Hectare, agronomists and engineers used customized tractors and drones to cultivate the barley from an area roughly equivalent to two and a half acres.
Drones with multispectral sensors took aerial images of the field, while smaller machines at crop level took samples to assess what fertilizers to apply and where. Live camera feeds were used to detect invasive weeds or disease.
Earlier this year, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization stressed the need for technological innovation to create alternatives to high-input and destructive farming practices — methods that are unsustainable to meet global food needs, the FAO warned.
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Synthetic muscle breakthrough could lead to ‘lifelike’ robots

Humanoid robots are a step closer to being lifelike after engineers developed synthetic muscle that can lift a thousand times its own weight, it is claimed.

The artificial muscle can also push, pull, bend and twist.

 

Experts say they’ve overcome one of the final barriers to making lifelike robots and it’s the closest artificial material equivalent they have to a natural muscle.

The long term plan is for engineers to develop artificial intelligence to learn to control the muscle.

The 3D-printable synthetic soft muscle doesn’t need an external compressor or high voltage equipment as previous models did.

Up until now no material has been capable of functioning as a soft muscle due to an inability to show the desired properties of high stress and strain, according to the engineering team at Columbia University in the United States.

Team leader Professor Hod Lipson said: “We’ve been making great strides toward making robot minds, but robot bodies are still primitive.

“This is a big piece of the puzzle and, like biology, the new actuator can be shaped and reshaped a thousand ways.

“We’ve overcome one of the final barriers to making lifelike robots.”

Inspired by living organisms, Professor Lipson said soft material robotics hold “great promise” for areas where robots need to contact and interact with humans, such as manufacturing and healthcare.

robotic-soft-muscles

He said that, unlike rigid robots, soft robots can replicate natural motion – grasping and manipulation – to provide medical and other types of assistance, perform delicate tasks, or pick up soft objects.

To create a system with high strain, high stress and low density, study lead author Aslan Miriyev, a postdoctoral researcher in the Creative Machines lab, used a silicone rubber matrix with ethanol distributed throughout in micro-bubbles.

The solution combined the elastic properties and extreme volume change qualities of other material systems while also being easy to fabricate, low cost, and made of environmentally safe materials.

After being 3D-printed into the desired shape, the artificial muscle was electrically moved using a thin resistive wire and low-power (8V).

It was tested in a range of robotic applications where it apparently showed “significant” expansion-contraction ability, being capable of expansion up to 900 per cent when electrically heated to 80C.

(Image: Getty Images Europe)

By using computer controls, it is capable of moving, according to Dr Miriyev.

He added: “Our soft functional material may serve as robust soft muscle, possibly revolutionising the way that soft robotic solutions are engineered today.

Source:

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/humanoid-robots-breakthrough-engineers-create-11199054

Wary of robots taking jobs, Hawaii toys with guaranteed pay

HONOLULU — Driverless trucks. Factory robots. Delivery drones. Virtual personal assistants.

As technological innovations increasingly edge into the workplace, many people fear that robots and machines are destined to take jobs that human beings have held for decades–a trend that is already happening in stores and factories around the country. For many affected workers, retraining might be out of reach —unavailable, unaffordable or inadequate.

What then?

Enter the idea of a universal basic income, the notion that everyone should be able to receive a stream of income to live on, regardless of their employment or economic status.

It isn’t an idea that seems likely to gain traction nationally in the current political environment. But in some politically progressive corners of the country, including Hawaii and the San Francisco Bay area, the idea of distributing a guaranteed income has begun to gain support.

Over the past two decades, automation has reduced the need for workers, especially in such blue-collar sectors as manufacturing, warehousing and mining. Many of the jobs that remain demand higher education or advanced technological skills. It helps explain why just 55 percent of Americans with no more than a high school diploma are employed, down from 60 percent just before the Great Recession.

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Hawaii state lawmakers have voted to explore the idea of a universal basic income in light of research suggesting that a majority of waiter, cook and building cleaning jobs — vital to Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy — will eventually be replaced by machines. The crucial question of who would pay for the program has yet to be determined. But support for the idea has taken root.

“Our economy is changing far more rapidly than anybody’s expected,” said state Rep. Chris Lee, who introduced legislation to consider a guaranteed universal income.

Lee said he felt it’s important “to be sure that everybody will benefit from the technological revolution that we’re seeing to make sure no one’s left behind.”

Here are some questions and answers:

What is a universal basic income?

In a state or nation with universal basic income, every adult would receive a uniform fixed amount that would be deemed enough to meet basic needs. The idea gained some currency in the 1960s and 1970s, with proponents ranging from Martin Luther King Jr. to President Richard Nixon, who proposed a “negative income tax” similar to basic income. It failed to pass Congress.

Recently, some technology leaders have been breathing new life — and money — into the idea. Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and others have promoted the idea as a way to address the potential loss of many transportation, manufacturing, retail and customer service jobs to automation and artificial intelligence.

Even some economists who welcome technological change to make workplaces more efficient note that the pace of innovation in coming years is likely to accelerate. Community colleges and retraining centers could find it difficult to keep up. Supporters of a universal basic income say the money would cushion the economic pain for the affected workers.

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Increasing Minimum Wage Puts More Jobs at Risk of Automation

When the minimum wage goes up, the robots come for people’s jobs. That’s the upshot of a paper published today on the National Bureau of Economic Research’s website (abstract, full PDF paywalled), which analyzed how changes to the minimum wage from 1980 to 2015 affected low-skill jobs in various sectors of the U.S. economy. 

Federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour, the same level it’s been at since 2009. But 30 states have laws on the books that mandate a higher wage—it’s $11 in Washington State, for example, and Seattle recently voted to phase in a pay hike that would bring it to $15 by 2022. Such measures are designed to ensure that “minimum wage” is the same thing as a “living wage.”

Interestingly, a study of Seattle’s new law, released in June, suggested that cuts to working hours meant people were actually losing as much as $125 a month.

The new analysis, by Grace Lorden of the London School of Economics and David Neumark at the University of California, Irvine, suggests that there’s a similar negative effect among people who work minimum-wage jobs that machines can do. The researchers found that across all industries they measured, raising minimum wage by $1 equates to a decline in “automatable” jobs—things like packing boxes or operating a sewing machine—of 0.43 percent.

That may not sound like much, but we’re talking about millions of jobs across the entire U.S. economy. And certain industries were affected far more than others—in manufacturing, an uptick of $1 in minimum wage drove employment in automatable jobs down a full percentage point.

Of course, we know that automation is already gobbling up jobs in the U.S. (see “Who Will Own the Robots?”). This latest study suggests that even wage policies designed to help America’s workforce may instead be speeding up that process.

Source:

https://www.technologyreview.com/the-download/608636/increasing-minimum-wage-puts-more-jobs-at-risk-of-automation/

Robots to replace Disneyland Actors

What kids love the most at Disneyland?

Probably it is meeting, greeting and snapping a photo with Mickey himself!

Over 1200 character actors portray Mickey, Goofy and other characters at Disneyland and they might lose their jobs soon.

A patent application reveals Disney’s plans to create children-friendly “Soft” Robots. The soft-bodied robots are adapted for physical interaction with humans, particularly children. The robots also incorporate sensors and control software intended to reduce impacts on collision during human interaction.

Disneyland+Free+Day+Promotion

Disney may sell toy sized soft robots. Large sized soft robots can interact with visitors at Disneyland.

Moreover, the robots will be able to mimic movements of an animated character. So the robots would act as the character they are playing

Disney has always discouraged actors from revealing who is behind the costume in order to preserve the fantasy peddled in its theme parks. The actors believe this is in violation of their constitutional rights. Disney might be able to preserve the fantasy with these soft robots.

Patent Number : US20170095925 A1

Source:

https://thenextweb.com/contributors/2017/08/10/robots-replace-disneyland-actors/#.tnw_8cUU8C45

This startup’s ‘software robots’ are taking the jobs of low-skilled office workers

The $30m raised last week by UiPath, which builds apps to automate repetitive office work, is the largest investment a Romanian startup has ever received.

Its tools are used by leading companies working in financial services, insurance, and healthcare, and each software robot license can replace up to five low-skilled full-time human employees, UiPath says.

The firm’s software robots mimic human users. Once installed on a computer and trained to perform certain tasks, they can read screens the way a human does and can perform a broad range of tasks, such as saving email attachments from clients, extracting data from a particular field in a bill, and importing that data into a company’s software, where it can be manipulated by a human employee.

A software robot could be trained to install Office copies on Windows machines, for example. It knows where and when to click next, and to check certain buttons. Of course, it still needs to wait for files to copy during certain steps of the installation process.

One of the unusual approaches that UiPath has adopted is that it offers its software free to companies with a turnover below $1m.

UiPath was founded in Romania in 2012, by former Microsoft software developer Daniel Dines, now CEO, and Marius Tirca, CTO.

It grew from 10 people employed two years ago, to 150 today. About 100 of them are still located in Bucharest, Romania, where the tech team is located. The company has physical offices in New York, London, Bangalore, Tokyo, and Singapore, and plans to set up shop in Hong Kong and Sydney.

UiPath’s turnover is undisclosed but the management says it increased sixfold in 2016, and most of the customers are US and European. CEO Dines said he’s working with two Top 10 Fortune Global companies, among others.

 

A competitor to Automation Anywhere and Blue Prism, UiPath says it will use the money raised in the series A round led by venture capital firm Accel Partners to expand the business and develop its technologies.

CTO Tirca said his tech team is working on adding more cognitive capabilities to the software, such as natural language processing and machine learning. Work is also going on to improve the way the robots handle unstructured data.

UiPath plans to double the team by the end of this year, tapping into Romania’s vibrant tech talent pool. The salaries it offers are among the highest in the country, but its technical job interviews are among the most difficult. The management wants to recruit the best and brightest, regardless of their experience in the field.

The robotic process automation market is expected to approach $9bn by 2024, according to Grand View Research. It reckons small and mid-size companies will benefit most from automation, as software robots are 65 percent less expensive than full-time employees. Forrester estimates that, by 2021, there will be over four million robots doing office, administrative, sales, and related tasks.

microsoftrobotics

Source:

http://www.zdnet.com/article/this-startups-software-robots-are-taking-the-jobs-of-low-skilled-office-workers/

Bill Gates says robots should be taxed like workers

In a new interview with Quartz, Microsoft founder Bill Gates makes a rather stunning argument—that robots who replace human workers should incur taxes equivalent to that worker’s income taxes.

“Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed . . . If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level.”

Gates argues that these taxes, paid by a robot’s owners or makers, would be used to help fund labor force retraining. Former factory workers, drivers, and cashiers would be transitioned to health services, education, or other fields where human workers will remain vital. Gates even suggests the policy would intentionally “slow down the speed of that adoption [of automation] somewhat,” giving more time to manage the broader transition.

The idea of what amounts to a tax on efficiency would seem anathema to much conventional economic wisdom. For decades, the dominant line on automation has been that displaced workers shift into more productive roles, in turn growing the total economy.

But that thesis has begun to show cracks—as Gates puts it, “people are saying that the arrival of that robot is a net loss,” demanding greater active engagement with job retraining and other programs that target impacted communities. (Though the effectiveness of job training programs is still somewhat debatable).

While Gates resolutely comes down in favor of government’s role in managing automation’s impacts, he offers two points that should be at least slightly compelling to free marketeers.

First, Gates says, the impact of robotics and artificial intelligence in the next 20 years will be a much more concentrated version of the steady, incremental displacement that was common throughout the 20th century. The market alone won’t be able to deal with the speed of that transition—and, Gates further suggests, much of the potential for putting free labor to better use will be in the public sector.

Second, and probably even more importantly, Gates says automation won’t be allowed to thrive if the public resists it. “It is really bad if people overall have more fear about what innovation is going to do than they have enthusiasm . . . And, you know, taxation is certainly a better way to handle it than just banning some elements of it.”

In other words, Gates believes that if automation doesn’t clearly benefit all members of society, it could generate some sort of neo-Luddite movement that would restrain technology much more severely than any tax.

If you don’t believe him, just look around. The widespread belief that globalization’s benefits were poorly or unfairly managed has led directly to a political resurgence for fans of walls and tariffs. The same dynamic could repeat itself if automation isn’t rolled out wisely.

This story originally appeared on Fortune.com. Copyright 2017

Source:

http://venturebeat.com/2017/02/18/bill-gates-says-robots-should-be-taxed-like-workers/