This Robot Works 500% Faster Than Humans, and It Puts Thousands of Jobs at Risk


IN BRIEF
  • A brick-laying robot that works 500 percent faster than humans is coming to the U.K. in a few months.
  • The robot, created by New York firm Construction Robotics, highlights the issues of employee displacement caused by automation in the construction industry.

BRICK BY BRICK

Meet SAM — short for Semi-Automated Mason — created by the New York based Construction Robotics. SAM is capable of laying 3,000 bricks per day, and he is coming to the U.K. in a few months.

This Robot Works 500% Faster Than Humans, And it Puts Thousands of Jobs At Risk

SAM can work about 500 percent faster than humans, and discrepancy in labor cost that causes is significant. According to a report by Zero Hedge, 3,000 bricks boils down to a cost of 4.5 cents per brick. Based on a $15 per hour minimum wage rate and benefits, a human bricklayer with an average efficiency of about 500 bricks will cost construction firms about 32 cents per brick — that’s more than 7x the cost of an automated bricklayer.

SAM isn’t able to work independently, however. A builder still has to feed the bricks onto its conveyor belt, which will then be picked up by SAM’s robotic arm, slathered with mortar, and placed on the wall. From there, another bricklayer has to follow up SAM’s work by cleaning up excess mortar.

CONSTRUCTION ROBOTICS

This kind of efficiency is emerging amid rising demand for construction services, which means it’s likely only a matter of time before the of technology will undergo mass adoption among construction companies.

Will Automation Steal My Job?

Across the U.S., SAM has already been deployed in several construction sites. Now, Construction Robotics has announced its entry into the U.K. market later this year as it finalizes negotiations with various construction companies.

Not surprisingly, Since automation would likely lead to the displacement of numerous employees in the construction workforce, movement in that direction has been been met with a lot of resistance. Many in the field point out the complexity of other aspects of the construction process, which robots are currently not capable of handling. While this could limit the impact of automation on construction workers, it would not eliminate it. SAM is one example of why some experts are calling for nations to begin developing systems that will ensure our society can still function in a world where jobs will become less available to humans.

source:futurism.com

THIS SOFT ROBOT HUGS YOUR HEART TO HELP KEEP IT PUMPING


IT COULD HELP YOU SURVIVE HEART FAILURE

About 5.7 million Americans suffer from heart failure, meaning their hearts don’t pump blood as well as they should. The affliction costs the nation about $32 billion a year, and there’s no cure. But a squishy, air-powered robot might be able to help.

A team lead by engineers at Harvard University is testing a silicone sleeve that slips over the bottom of the heart like a cocoon, then inflates and deflates to squeeze the heart and give it a powerful beat. Proof-of-concept studies showed that the soft robot restored normal blood flow in six pigs whose hearts had stopped.

There’s still a lot more work to be done, including long-term studies in animals (and then humans). But if the experiments continue to be successful, the robot may one day provide an alternative to the current treatment for severe heart failure. Doctors implant ventricular assist devices (VADs) to keep a patient’s heart pumping while waiting for a transplant, or to keep them alive indefinitely.

ventricular assist device

 

Ventricular assist devices (VADs) are the current standard of treatment for severe heart failure. But they require patients to take blood thinners to avoid clots.

VADs pipe blood from the heart through a mechanical pump and then into the arteries. The machines save lives, but because they come in direct contact with blood, the patient has to be on blood thinners to avoid clots that gum up the works.

The soft robotic pump doesn’t come into contact with blood. The thin sleeve slips over the outside of the heart, twisting and contracting to mimic the muscle’s natural movements.

To test it, the researchers induced cardiac arrest in six pigs, then used the sleeve to get their hearts pumping blood again for 15 minutes or more.

That’s promising news, but several challenges lie ahead. After getting squeezed and released by the device for two hours, pig and rodent heart tissue became inflamed, especially in the region where a suction cup secured the device to the heart. Attempts to fix the problem by coating the heart with a hydrogel before attaching the device didn’t quite work, so the researchers will have to develop some other kind of adhesive.

The system is also fairly bulky. The heart sleeve is tethered to an external air compressor that continually inflates and deflates it. The authors hope to make the system more portable, so that the air compressor and power supply could be worn on a belt around the waist, but it’s likely the next version will still have cables sticking out of the patient’s torso to connect the sleeve to the power supply. That’s similar to today’s VADs. But eventually the technology might become fully implantable.

Maybe one day the device will help treat other types of cardiac diseases, says study co-author Ellen Roche, as well as fix ailments in other organs. Who knew hugs could pack so much healing power?

Meet the Cyborg Beetles, Real Insects That Are Controlled Like Robots


The future is crawling towards us on six legs. Motherboard traveled to Singapore to meet with Dr. Hirotaka Sato, an aerospace engineer at Nanyang Technological University. Sato and his team are turning live beetles into cyborgs by electrically controlling their motor functions.

Having studied the beetles’ muscle configuration, neural networks, and leg control, the researchers wired the insects so that they could be controlled by a switchboard. In doing so, the researchers could manipulate the different walking gaits, speeds, flying direction, and other forms of motion.

Essentially, the beetles became like robots with no control over their own motor functioning. Interestingly, though the researchers control the beetles through wiring, their energy still comes naturally from the food they eat. Hence, the muscles are driven by the insects themselves, but they have no willpower over how their muscles move.

Moreover, turning beetles into cyborgs seems to not be that harmful to them. Their natural lifespan is three to six months, and even with the researchers’ interference, they can survive for several months. According to the researchers, a beetle has never died right after stimulation.

And while this technology may seem crazy, the implications are very practical. Sensors that detect heat, and hence people, can be placed on the beetles, so that they can be manipulated to move toward a person. This can be helpful when searching for someone, such as in a criminal investigation or finding a terrorist.

The researchers are very serious about ensuring that whatever the applications are for this technology, that they go toward peaceful purposes. And who knows how far it could go? With this much progress manipulating the motor functions of creatures as small as beetles, perhaps it can be used for even bigger animal targets.

Watch the video. URL:https://youtu.be/tgLjhT7S15U

Meet the Cyborg Beetles, Real Insects That Are Controlled Like Robots


The future is crawling towards us on six legs. Motherboard traveled to Singapore to meet with Dr. Hirotaka Sato, an aerospace engineer at Nanyang Technological University. Sato and his team are turning live beetles into cyborgs by electrically controlling their motor functions.

Having studied the beetles’ muscle configuration, neural networks, and leg control, the researchers wired the insects so that they could be controlled by a switchboard. In doing so, the researchers could manipulate the different walking gaits, speeds, flying direction, and other forms of motion.

Essentially, the beetles became like robots with no control over their own motor functioning. Interestingly, though the researchers control the beetles through wiring, their energy still comes naturally from the food they eat. Hence, the muscles are driven by the insects themselves, but they have no willpower over how their muscles move.

Moreover, turning beetles into cyborgs seems to not be that harmful to them. Their natural lifespan is three to six months, and even with the researchers’ interference, they can survive for several months. According to the researchers, a beetle has never died right after stimulation.

And while this technology may seem crazy, the implications are very practical. Sensors that detect heat, and hence people, can be placed on the beetles, so that they can be manipulated to move toward a person. This can be helpful when searching for someone, such as in a criminal investigation or finding a terrorist.

The researchers are very serious about ensuring that whatever the applications are for this technology, that they go toward peaceful purposes. And who knows how far it could go? With this much progress manipulating the motor functions of creatures as small as beetles, perhaps it can be used for even bigger animal targets.

Meet PepperPay, The Robot Photographer Replacing Cashiers


A new robot, PepperPay, just debuted at the TechCrunch Disrupt SF Hackathon. Waiting in long lines at the store or fighting with the self checkout may soon be a thing of the past.

Robots and most technologies are built to make our lives easier, removing the small inconveniences like long lines or looking for a specific book. It’s all about instant gratification, right? Despite the convenience, the development of this type of technology has spurred the fear that robots are out to take jobs from regular humans.

To that end, this announcement from TechCrunch Disrupt SF Hackathon isn’t necessarily great news for blue-collar workers. A new robot that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning just debuted at the competition.

The new PepperPay robot, built on the Pepper companion robot, can identify items based on just a picture or a snapshot of them. This allows customers to breeze through checkout, without the fuss often associated with barcode scanners in self-checkout counters.

After waiting 30 minutes in line to buy toothpaste at Walgreens, the developers Dave Idell, Adam Chew, and Nisha Garigarn were inspired to create PepperPay. They used IBM Watson’s image recognition technology, and handled the transactions through PayPal.

While the current robot is integrated with the Pepper bot, the system could be adapted to a simple iPad. That removes the need to buy an actual robot or specialized hardware. When asked what’s next for PepperPay, the developers has this to say:

“We don’t know too much about the retail game, but we imagine a future where something like this changes how we shop. We invite any and all to take a look at our code on github and see where they can take it!”

Would you let a robot perform your surgery by itself?


This is the Smart Tissue Autonomous Robots, known as STAR, in action.

Robots have become the norm in numerous industries, taking over repetitive tasks that humans aren’t necessarily needed for — or want to do — such as the production of cars and electronics.

One step up the technological spectrum is artificial intelligence, where robots are now making informed decisions based on the tasks they’re presented with, highlighted by the burgeoning field ofdriverless cars.
As we get used to the idea of machines producing our goods, we’re slowly coming around to them making decisions for us, but would you put your life in their hands? More specifically, would you let a robot perform surgery on you?

Better than a human surgeon

Performing heart surgery without touching the heart

The idea might scare you, but scientists are making it happen — and doing it safely — as shown in a recent study by surgeons at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington.
The team showed for the first time that a supervised autonomous robot could perform soft-tissue surgery, stitching together a pig’s bowel during open surgery — and doing so better than a human surgeon.
“This smart, intelligent technology will tell you how to (conduct surgery) optimally,” said Peter Kim, associate surgeon in chief at the hospital and project lead on the Smart-Tissue Autonomous Robot, or STAR. “This is not to replace surgeons tomorrow but provide collective experiences of how things should be done.”
Kim argues that developing robots in this way can ensure all patients receive the best care, regardless of which surgeon is available when they are in need of it. “Wouldn’t it be nice that whenever or wherever you need surgery, it’s done by the best surgeon?”
 Surgeons monitor an operation performed by the Smart-Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR).

Could robot write a novel or a book?


It sounds like a science-fiction fantasy: researchers are using artificial intelligence to produce novels and short stories. But are they any good? Hephzibah Anderson finds out.

Artificial intelligence has long fascinated sci-fi and fantasy writers. Arthur C Clarke, William Gibson, Iain M Banks – they’ve all mined it in their fiction but now, such futuristic visions are fast becoming fact. From his new post as Google’s director of engineering, AI developer Ray Kurzweil has predicted that by 2029, computers will be able to outsmart even the cleverest human. Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal and Tesla, clearly think he’s onto something: at the start of this year, both were among the signatories of an open letter calling for responsible development of AI in light of threats posed by the so-called intelligence explosion.

Novelists, at least, have nothing to fear. Or so you might think. In George Orwell’s 1984, the ‘proles’ read books generated by a machine, but a machine is hardly going to able to replace Margaret Atwood. After all, we turn to literature in part to deepen our understanding of the human condition, and its magic derives as much from the writer’s own lived experience – emotional, sensory or otherwise – as from their creativity. Even if a string of zeroes and ones evolves to understand what it means to taste a childhood food in later life, or to feel the first splash of spring sunshine as a long winter loosens its grip, that algorithm won’t truly be able to know such experiences. For all these reasons and more, a robot could never rival a flesh-and-blood novelist. Could it?

Yes, says futurologist Professor Kevin Warwick. And not only that, it could do so imminently. (Sceptics should keep in mind that Warwick correctly predicted the advent of autonomous fighting planes –we just happen to call them drones.) Already, software systems can joke and flirt. They can compose music (5,000 pieces in a morning, in the case of compositional program Emmy), create visual art, and have been writing poetry, of sorts, since 1983, when an experimental book called The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed was written by a program called Racter. Machines can also, in fact, pen entire novels – they’re just unlikely to be something you’ll want to read anytime soon. A variation on Anna Karenina told in the style Haruki Murakami sounds intriguing enough, but dip into TrueLove, the novel Alexander Prokopovich’s algorithm ‘wrote’ in 2008 and you’ll find prose like this: ‘Kitty couldn’t fall asleep for a long time. Her nerves were strained as two tight strings.’

Kafka’s trial

There’s a case to be made for technology allowing us to become lazier, correcting our spelling for us and alerting us to stylistic niggles like word repetition, yet at the same time, it’s learning from us. Take the What If Machine. Fondly known as WHIM, it’s the creation of an international group of experts in machine learning, web mining, and the generation of narrative, metaphor and humour, spearheaded by Simon Colton from Goldsmith’s College, University of London. It works by generating scenarios in various creative palettes, in styles ranging from Walt Disney to Franz Kafka. A human must choose the genre and then select a few other details from a list before the machine spits out a gnomic creative prompt. Currently, it’s a little hit and miss. In the Kafkaesque category, for instance, things often seem a little too – well, Kafkaesque. “What if there was a dancer who woke up in [sic] a floor as a cat but could still swim?” WHIM suggests when I try it out. What indeed?

But the machine is learning, and it’s using human appreciation as its guide. The Goldsmiths group’s favourite what-if so far asks what if there was an old dog, who couldn’t run anymore, so decided to ride a horse instead?

“It sounds like a short story, with a fun and very unexpected twist. If a child came up with this idea, we would probably be pleased with him/her. Hopefully, as the What-If Machine gets better, it will become easier to project the word ‘imaginative’ onto what the software does”, said Colton via an email written with research associate Dr Maria Teresa Llano Rodriguez (and no algorithmic participation, they say).

One of the biggest challenges, they go on, is teaching the machine to understand what’s interesting from a fictional point of view – differentiating, say, between ‘What if there was a chair with five legs?’ and ‘What if there was a little dog who learned how to speak?’

Darius Kazemi began programming on his graphing calculator as a schoolboy. A professional video game developer for most of his twenties, he’s spent the past few years developing quirky, philosophical software such as You Must Be, a bot that generates pick-up lines. “Boy, you must be a solution because you are the state of being dissolved”, reads one. Or how about “Girl, you must be a china because you are high-quality porcelain or ceramic ware, originally made in China”?”

The Booker for a bot?

They seem great examples of the extent to which machines just don’t get it but Kazemi, a Thomas Pynchon fan, is also the originator of National Novel Generation Month or NaNoGenMo – the techy riposte to National Novel Writing Month in the US. He suggested it via Twitter in 2013 and it promptly took off, its only rules being that entrants must share a novel of more 50,000 words along with the code that generated it.

The NaNoGenMo works require varying degrees of human input, though Kazemi admits that the most successful ones involve a considerable amount. One of his favourites is The Seeker by thricedotted, which cannily casts the narrator as a robot trawling WikiHow to learn to become more human. “There was a lot of human input, sourcing from WikiHow which is full of human text,” he tells me via Skype from Boston. He also points out that the writers of the algorithms bring their own human experiences to bear on their coding, adding a necessarily human element.

So does he believe a machine could write a truly great novel – one that transcends its own novelty? “I think bots and the meaning of what a good novel is will converge”, he says. “I don’t think we’ll have something that looks like Moby Dick but I do think we’re already writing code that is generating really excellent conceptual novels. And I’m actually excited about novels that are co-authored between humans and code. That would be really cool.” So far, he’s yet to be approached by any professional novelists, just kids wanting the code to write their homework.

For now, the real challenge for developers is length. “Once you hit that 3,000-word barrier, it starts to get very difficult to sustain people’s attention”, Kazemi says, and Professor Warwick agrees. Technology would seem to be levelling the playing field by shortening our attention spans, but plenty of obstacles still separate bots from the Booker. They’re not good with characters vanishing then reappearing 78 pages later, for instance, and without regurgitating from a database, they can’t convincingly integrate sensory detail. Yet they will get there, Warwick insists – if not winning over book prize judges then certainly fooling them. “If it hasn’t been done within about ten years, then I would be very surprised”, he adds.

To date, our ideas about AI have been shaped largely by fiction writers. The very word ‘robot’ was first introduced in Karel Čapek’s 1920 play, Rossum’s Universal Robots. Whether or not algorithmic authors are shooting up the bestseller lists by 2020, human writers have an ever more critical role to play in navigating the implications of a brave new world that’s finally catching up with the literary imagination. The answers that computer scientists are coming up with raise ethical, philosophical and legal questions – not to mention security concerns – that we’ve barely begun to fathom. Now surely there’s a novel in that?

Absent fans get robot to do cheering


A struggling Korean baseball team have invented a novel way to improve atmosphere at their matches – by bringing in a crowd of robot fans.

Hanwha Eagles robot fans

Hanwha Eagles supporters not able to get to the stadium can control the robot over the internet.

The bots can cheer, chant and perform a Mexican wave – but presumably not invade the pitch.

One expert said giving more fans a chance to “attend” was important for professional clubs.

This was especially the case with top football teams, Matt Cutler, editor of SportBusiness International, told the BBC.

“If you look at all the big clubs, you can’t just get a season ticket – you have to sit on a waiting list.

“There is also potential monetisation. You can charge, even if it’s a small amount, to give fans a different kind of viewpoint.”

Football fan John Hemmingham, who runs the famous England supporters brass band, saw the funny side.

“What happens if a robotic fan misbehaves?” he joked.

“Gets aggressive, abusive, spills a drink… I can see it being fraught with danger. What if it sits in the wrong section? A robotic hooligan!”

Hanwha Eagles robot fans

Chickens

It is not easy being a Hanwha Eagles fan. In the past five years, they have suffered more than 400 losses – so many that fans of the team are regarded with a degree of sympathy, and have earned the nickname Buddhist Saints.

Users can upload their own face to the robot so it can be seen at the stadium

Less friendly opposition fans describe them as the Hanwha Chickens.

But those who cannot make it to the stadium now have the option of having a robot stand in for them.

As well as being able to control some robot movements, fans can upload their own face to the machine.

Sport for all

While the robots supporting Hanwha will be dismissed as a gimmick by most diehard fans of any sport, there are other, more serious attempts to help more people experience matches.

“Start Quote

The days have gone where people are completely engrossed in the match”

Matt Cutler SportBusiness International

As part of Japan’s unsuccessful bid for the 2022 World Cup, the country said it hoped to re-create live matches using holographic technology in other locations. It would mean, in theory, that several stadiums full of fans could be watching the same match at once.

Development on the technology was halted when Japan lost its bid, with Fifa instead choosing Qatar to host the 2022 tournament.

Independent experts were sceptical the virtual reality plan could have ever worked – but praised the ambition.

In the nearer term, simple technology additions to stadiums and arenas are already changing how we enjoy sport.

“Within a short amount of time, nearly every Premier League stadium will have wi-fi,” said Mr Cutler.

“Everyone’s got a phone with them, checking other things. The days have gone where people are completely engrossed in the match.”

A new robot can read your emotions .


Pepper is the first robot who knows what mood you’re in, and can change his behaviour accordingly.

o-PEPPER-ROBOT-facebook.jpg

The robot, developed by Japanese company Softbank, uses sensors to read your mood, and will be released next year for under US$2,000.

Pepper was introduced to the world last week, and marks a historic moment in robot design.

The 1.2m, 28kg humanoid robot gets feedback about our moods via facial-recognition technology, cameras, audio records and sensors in its head, CNN reports.

And instead of being programmed, Pepper learns how to behave over time to make you happy. Their feedback is also uploaded to cloud storage so other units can modify their behaviour accordingly.

The rolling robot can also speak in 17 languages.

The inventors imagine Pepper will be useful as a household robot, but there’s no word on whether it’ll be for sale outside Japan as yet.

watch the video: http://edition.cnn.com/video/api/embed.html#

 

Robot cow-herder a hit with farmers.


Robots could be used in the future to round up cows on dairy farms, according to researchers.

A four-wheeled device, known as Rover, has been tested by a team at Sydney University. It was used to move a herd of cows from a field to a dairy.

Researchers were amazed at how easily cows accepted the presence of the robot.

They were not fazed by it and the herding process was calm and effective, they said.

Because the robot moved in a steady manner it allowed cows to move at their own speed which was important in reducing lameness among cattle, Dr Kendra Kerrisk, dairy researcher and associate professor, told the BBC.

Robots are already used in the milking process but the team wanted to see if they could be used in other areas of dairy farming.

The robot was adapted from one that was already being used to monitor fruit and trees on farms. A team at Sydney University’s Centre for Field Robotics modified the robot so that it could be put in a field with cows in order for the researchers to gather data on robot-bovine interaction.

The prototype needs to be operated by a human but it’s hoped that in the future a version can be developed that will be fully automated.

Extremely excited

As well as herding cows a new version could also collect information useful for farmers.

According to the research team, the robot could be used at night to move slowly through the maternity paddock monitoring cows that are due to calve. It could also be used to gather data on soil and detect problems with electric fences.

Cows and milk churns
Using robots to get cows to the dairy will be better for their well-being say researchers

“The research is in its very early stages but robotic technologies certainly have the potential to transform dairy farming,” said Dr Kerrisk.

“When we have discussed this concept with farmers they have been extremely excited and we have had a flurry of calls and emails asking how they can get hold of one,” she added.

The robot could also cut down the number of accidents involving humans on farms. Most dairy farmers in Australia use quad bikes to round up their cattle and they are one of the leading causes of injury. The team hopes that by using the robot to do the job instead, accident rates could fall.

Since demonstrating the robot at a dairy symposium in Australia earlier in the year the team has secured funding to develop Rover the robot, mark II.