America may miss out on the next industrial revolution

Preparing for automation means investing in robotics   Nick Statt for The Verge:  Robots are inevitably going to automate millions of jobs in the US and around the world, but there’s an even more complex scenario on the horizon, said roboticist Matt Rendall. In a talk Tuesday at SXSW, Rendall painted a picture of the future of robotic job displacement that focused less on automation and more on the realistic ways in which the robotics industry will reshape global manufacturing. The takeaway was that America, which has outsourced much of its manufacturing and lacks serious investment in industrial robotics, may miss out on the world’s next radical shift in how goods are produced. That’s because the robot makers — as in, the robots that make the robots — could play a key role in determining how automation expands across the globe.   Full article:  

New Study Shows U.S. is World Leader in Robotics Automation - With $732 Billion of Robots

A new study from Redwood Software and the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) finds that the U.S. is the world leader in robotics automation investment, with an estimated robotics stock of $732 billion* - larger than the economy of Switzerland, which stood at $446 billion* in 2015.  U.S. investment in robotics was $86 billion in 2015, up from less than $40 billion in 2009, when investment hit a low following the financial crisis, and more than 15 times higher than the OECD average. Between 2011 and 2015, U.S. investments in robotics rose 30%.  "The U.S. is the world leader in robotics investment, and spending has recovered quickly since the financial crisis in 2009," said David Whitaker, Managing Economist at CEBR. "The sheer size of the economy and its large base of production in the automotive and electronic sectors make it a natural candidate for increased automation."     Full Press Release:

ABB sells its first ever robot manufactured in the US to Hitachi Powdered Metals USA

ABB has sold its first robot manufactured in the United States. The IRB 2600 robot is the first to be produced at the ABB Auburn Hills, Michigan facility, and was sold by ABB Value Provider, CIM SYSTEMS, INC. to Hitachi Powdered Metals USA.   The compact robot, which is painted with special commemorative red, white and blue paint, will be used for material handling of in-process engine component parts at the Hitachi Greensburg, Indiana facility.  It is the 180th ABB robot at the Hitachi plant, which installed its first ABB robot in 2005.  "The sale of ABB's first robot produced in the US to Hitachi is a tremendous milestone in the development of our manufacturing presence in the Americas,"   Full News Release:

Grocery 4.0: Ocado reshapes retail with robotics and automation

Jon Excell for The Engineer:   Online grocer Ocado is establishing a reputation as a major technology player. Jon Excell reports If prompted to name a UK company at the cutting edge of robotics and automation, few of us would cite one of the country's best-known grocery retailers. But, as The Engineer learned on a recent visit to one of its key facilities, online supermarket Ocado is establishing a reputation as a major technology player: harnessing and developing machine-learning systems, Internet of Things concepts and robotic hardware to a degree that leaves many traditional engineering businesses in the shade.   Full Article:

Are Robotics a Key to the Next Phase of Recycling?

Arlene Karidis for Waste360:  About 10 years ago, computer scientist Matanya Horowitz became intrigued at how far robotics had come within some industries and he started thinking about its potential in recycling, particularly for recognizing and sorting materials. Horowitz postulated that intelligent systems could have a huge impact if they could be designed to identify any material in a waste stream and pull it out. But there were unique challenges to address within the recycling niche, and Horowitz went to work to troubleshoot them. After years of tweaking, the proprietary technology he created under the Denver-based company, AMP Robotics, is running in several material recovery facilities (MRFs). The robotic system, called the AMP Cortex Robotic Sorter, has the attention of several stakeholders, including the Closed Loop Foundation and a federal government agency.   Cont'd...

Crashing Drones Into Test Dummies for Safety

Alan Levin for Bloomberg:  Hank sat impassively on a Virginia Tech athletic field, ready to take it on the chin for the future of drone commerce. About 30 yards away, an eight-rotor unmanned copter hovered, buzzing like a swarm of bees. The 21-pound drone tilted forward, accelerated sharply and slammed into Hank’s head, smacking the crash-test dummy’s neck backward and embedding shards of shattered propeller in his plastic face. There is little disagreement that the small- and medium-sized drones flooding the U.S. market can seriously injure or even kill someone. Understanding and minimizing the risk will be key to convincing regulators to expand their permitted uses, clearing the way for plans by Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc. to have them deliver packages or news outlets such as Time Warner Inc.’s CNN to use them for aerial video.   Cont'd...

Miso Robotics Unveils "Flippy" in CaliBurger Kitchen, Plans Worldwide Rollout

Miso Robotics and Cali Group today unveiled Flippy, an artificial intelligence-driven robot that will work alongside kitchen staff to grill burgers at CaliBurger restaurants. Flippy had its debut at the CaliBurger location in Pasadena, California. A video demonstration captured the robotic kitchen assistant flipping burgers and placing them on buns. Flippy will roll out in early 2018 and expand to more than 50 CaliBurger restaurants worldwide by the end of 2019.  Miso Robotics is pioneering the use of computer vision and deep learning software to bring low-cost, adaptable robotics into restaurants. The company's collaborative kitchen assistant handles the hazardous, tedious and time-sensitive aspects of grilling and cooks burgers to perfection every time. It easily integrates into CaliBurger's current kitchen layout without needing to reconfigure existing equipment.   Full Press Release:

Rise of the Robots

If manufacturers are going to flourish in America, they’ll need to buy a lot more robots. Here are six ways to play this hot trend. Jack Hough for Barron's:  For long-term investors, robots could be one key to securing healthy corporate profit growth, and stock returns, even as wages rise. There are specific opportunities, too. Japan’s Fanuc (ticker: 6954.Japan) is far and away the U.S. market leader in industrial robots, and it’s quickly ramping up production. Its shares have been outperforming, and they could offer 20% more upside over the next year. Germany’s Kuka (KU2.Germany), which sold a majority stake last year to China’s appliance giant, Midea Group (000333.China), has similar return potential. Other stocks with high exposure to industrial robotics and factory automation include Rockwell Automation (ROK), Switzerland’s ABB(ABB), and Yaskawa Electric (6506.Japan). And for one-stop shoppers, there’s the Robo Global Robotics & Automation Index exchange-traded fund (ROBO), which tracks 85 stocks, charges annual expenses of 0.95%, and has returned 37% over the past year.   Cont'd...

Brain-controlled robots

CSAIL system enables people to correct robot mistakes using brain signals. Adam Conner-Simons via MIT News:  For robots to do what we want, they need to understand us. Too often, this means having to meet them halfway: teaching them the intricacies of human language, for example, or giving them explicit commands for very specific tasks. But what if we could develop robots that were a more natural extension of us and that could actually do whatever we are thinking? A team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Boston University is working on this problem, creating a feedback system that lets people correct robot mistakes instantly with nothing more than their brains.   Cont'd...

Table tennis playing robot breaks world record - Japan Tour

Developed by Omron Corporation, FORPHEUS (Future Omron Robotics Technology for Exploring Possibility of Harmonized aUtomation with Sinic Theoretics) has officially been given the Guinness World Records title for being the First robot table tennis tutor for its unique technological intelligence and educational capabilities.   According to the project's lead developer Taku Oya, the goal of FORPHEUS was to harmonise humans and robots, by way of teaching the game of table tennis to human players. 

Cobalt Robotics Introduces a (Mostly) Autonomous Mobile Security Robot

Evan Ackerman for IEEE Spectrum:  Today, Cobalt Robotics (a startup based in Palo Alto, Calif.) is announcing an autonomous mobile robot designed for indoor security applications that can “work alongside human guards to provide better security than people can do alone.” The key realization here is that security guards spend the vast majority of their time doing almost nothing, and even in a worst case scenario (like someone trying to break in, or a fire or other serious problem), their primary responsibility is making the right phone call as quickly as possible as opposed to dealing with the situation directly.   Full article:

Dyson backs Britain plc with $2.5bn AI and robotics investment

Andrew Orlowski for The Register:  Britain's most successful engineer Sir James Dyson is taking on Google and Facebook with a $2.5bn investment to turn the former RAF base at Hullavington near Malmesbury into a research campus for robotics, AI, and other advanced technology, including batteries and vision systems. The size of the planned facility dwarfs the existing HQ.  The investment marks both a change of direction for Dyson, which will now begin to challenge US data giants in the race to find practical implementations of AI, and expresses a vote of confidence in a post-EU British economy. The founder recently hinted that it was examining how to incorporate pattern recognition and decision making into its 360 Eye robot vacuum cleaner.   Cont'd...

Introducing Handle from Boston Dynamics

Handle is a research robot that stands 6.5 ft tall, travels at 9 mph and jumps 4​ ​feet vertically. ​It uses electric power to operate both electric and hydraulic actuators, with a range of about 15 miles on one battery charge. ​​​ Handle uses many of the same dynamics, balance and mobile manipulation principles​ found in the quadruped and biped robots we build, but with only about 10 actuated joints, it is significantly less complex. Wheels are efficient on flat surfaces while legs can go almost anywhere: by combining wheels and legs Handle can have the best of both worlds.

How drones are helping design the solar power plants of the future

Katie Fehrenbacher for T he Guardian:   At the edge of a plot of muddy farmland, a few miles down the road from the University of California at Davis, an engineer takes a few quick steps across crop rows and lets go of a three-foot drone. Within seconds, the device – which weighs less than 2lbs and carries a powerful camera – ascends hundreds of feet into the cold, clear, blue sky and begins to snap detailed photos of the ground far below, including a long row of large solar panels mounted on steel poles. This flight is just a test, demonstrated by Kingsley Chen, the drone fleet coordinator for SunPower at the solar company’s research and development center, which is under construction and about a two-hour drive northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area. The drone will enable SunPower to survey a wide region and help design a solar power farm that can fit more solar panels on a piece of land, more quickly and for lower costs than it previously could.   Con'td...

Tech firms keep expanding 'Robotics Row,' Pittsburgh's mini Silicon Valley

Aaron Aupperlee for TribLive:  Advancements in robotics, autonomous manufacturing, self-driving cars and more are taking place in the former warehouses, factories and foundries of Pittsburgh's Strip District and Lawrenceville neighborhoods. Argo AI, an self-driving car startup partnering with Ford, became the latest to join Robotics Row, a string of technology companies setting up shop along the Allegheny River. The company announced Thursday it would base its headquarters in the Strip District. "We see the Strip District as a mini Silicon Valley," Argo AI CEO Bryan Salesky told the Tribune-Review. "In my mind, that is the future of the tech hub in Pittsburgh." At least 20 companies and organizations working on robotics and autonomous technologies call the three-mile stretch of riverfront home.  Cont'd...

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