The robot on an oil drillship in the Gulf of Mexico made it easier for Mark Rodgers to do his job stringing together heavy, dirty pipes. It could also be a reason he’s not working there today.
BEHIND closed doors in the Bavarian town of Ansbach a new factory is taking shape. That it will use robots and novel production techniques such as additive manufacturing (known as 3D printing) is not surprising for Germany, which has maintained its manufacturing base through innovative engineering.
Industrial robot arms are expensive, and come with a long list of caveats including concerns over whether they can work safely alongside humans.
Franka Emika, a new product coming in 2017 to the burgeoning field of collaborative robots, is a robot arm pitched to be easily programmable out of the box, unable to kill anyone, and capable of building more copies of itself.
2016 wasn’t to everyone’s liking, but for robot aficionados there was plenty to pore over. If you believe what you read, robots are set to take our jobs, replace sex and may count as people.But if the actual robots we saw this year are anything to go by, it might be a while before any of that actually happens.
What does the future hold for robotics? It’s hard to say, given the rapid pace of change in the field as well as in associated areas such as machine learning and artificial intelligence. But one thing seems certain: Robots will play an increasingly important role in business and life in general.
A low-profile robot glides silently over a magnetic strip on a cement floor, operating unnoticed in an assembly plant. When someone walks in front of it, the robot stops and waits. If you press a button on one end of the plant, you can summon the bot, then connect a few metal carts to make a robot-powered train and instruct the bot to deliver the parts.
The new U.S. Robotics Roadmap calls for better policy frameworks to safely integrate new technologies, such as self-driving cars and commercial drones, into everyday life. The detailed document also advocates for increased research efforts in the field of human-robot interaction to develop intelligent machines that will empower people to stay in their homes as they age. It calls for increased education efforts in the STEM fields from elementary school to adult learners.
It’s hard to teach a robot to sew.
Robots are good at handling materials that are rigid and easy to lift, cut and maneuver. It’s why they’re are widely used in auto manufacturing.
But it’s a different story with making clothes. There’s some automation in garment manufacturing, but you still won’t find robots sewing clothes from start to finish.
Before the electronic watch era, Switzerland virtually owned the global market for timepieces. Swiss watches and clocks were probably the most ubiquitous mechanical device on Earth, and they were all mini-masterpieces of intricate assembly of many tiny components.
Then in 1960s, quartz technology was invented.
Japan is famously wary of immigration, fearing that foreign workers will undermine job security and upset familiar ways of life. But there is one kind of industrious interloper that is greeted more enthusiastically in Japan than in any other country. Robots or “immigrants from the future”, as my colleague Oliver Morton calls them, are unusually well assimilated into Japanese society.
How do you determine how advanced a country is when it comes to robotics? One measure, “robot density,” is the number of robots per 10,000 workers. Is it the best way?
Or, robotics organizations can count the number of robotics companies in a country, look at the kinds of innovations coming out of the country, or see what government strategies exist for robotics — if any.