Headline July 24, 2014



At the same time, better artificial intelligence is even rendering some programming unnecessary.

Rethink Robotics  says its two-armed collaborative robot, called Baxter, uses common sense to figure out some movements on its own.

Factory workers use Baxter's touchscreen  ''face''  to point out the objects it will handle. Baxter then studies them from all angles to determine if, say, a glass is best grasped from the outside or by inserting and opening its fingers.

If a conveyor belt bringing items to be processed slows down, so does Baxter. More than 100  have been sold since the robot went on sale in late 2012.

For decades robots have been getting faster, stronger and more precise. The new breed of collaborative robots, by contrast, will move more slowly, lift less and be less precise.

And yet this the breed that will usher in the real robotics revolution, says Dr Brooks of Rethink Robotics:

Machine workshops often program collaborative robots to perform tasks for only a brief period. UR's model can be fastened to a workbench to, say, screw together eyeglass frames to meet a rush order, and then moved to cap and box jars to cover for a worker who is off sick.

Traditional robots, by contrast, are typically configured by highly paid, specialist engineers who work on a mock production line, so that the real production line need not be shut down for the weeks or months required for programming.

UR sold more than  700  robots last year and expects to sell  1,500  this year, some to clients with just a few employees. Many users say that they recover the investment in a Euro 20,000  ($27,000)  UR robot within six months     

Because such qualities will allow robots to team up with people. He points out that it was the advent not of mainframe, but of less powerful but more user-friendly PCs that carried computing in the mainstream.

Collaborative robots are developing so quickly that international standards bodies are having trouble keeping up. The world's largest compile of voluntary industrial standards, the  International Organization of Standardization (ISO) in Geneva:

Has yet to work out safety-standards for collaborative robots, such as how much force a robot can safely apply to different parts of a human worker's body.

The ISO needs about two more years before it can publish  pain-threshold standards, says Matthias Umbreit, an expert working on the project who also works as automation specialist at Germany's BGHM, an insurer of woodworkers and metal workers.

But the signs are encouraging, he says. A hand clamped in a robot's gripper, for instance,can probably safely bear a pressure of  160 newtons per square centimetre. Fortunately, says Dr Umbreit, many useful tasks can be carried out using less force.

So safety standards will not make robots so feeble that they are no longer useful. John Wahren of the Swedish Institute notes that establishing standards will speed up R&D. 

No matter how flexible, easy to program and safe they are, collaborative workers may not be welcomed by human workers to begin with. The experience of Alumotion,  an Italian distributor of UR's robots, is illustrative.

Workers fear being replaced by robots, says co-owner Fabio-Facchinetti, so his salespeople carry demonstration units in unmarked cases and initially only meet a potential client's senior management behind closed doors.

But rather than firing workers, Alumotion's clients often end up adding shifts because production costs drop, RSS Manufacturing in Costa Mesa, California, says its new  UR  robot is helping the firm compete against Asian makers of brass plumbing fixtures.

Geoff Escalette, the firm's boss, plans to buy more robots because without them some milling machines run at about  60% for lack of a nearby worker able to load objects fast enough. It is worth remembering that people also used to worry:

That computers would steal jobs, notes Chris Melhuish of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, a joint venture between the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England.
Instead computers helped people become more productive.

Workers generally warm to collaborative robots quickly. Employees are keen to offload the  ''mindless, repetitive  stuff'' , as one roboticist  puts it. And because themselves do the programming, they tend to regard the robots as subordinate assistants.

This is good for morale, says Esben Ostergaard,  UR's technology chief.

In late 2012  Mercedes-Benz  began equipping workers who assemble gearboxes at a Stuttgart plant with lightweight  "third hand"  robots initially designed for use in space by the German carmaker's parent company, Daimler,-

Is expanding the initiative, which it describes as  ''robot farming''  because workers shepherd the robots:

"Just like a farmer tending the sheep".

The Honour and Serving of the Post on Robotics will continue at regular intervals. It is too important a science, art, and development, not to do so.

Thank you for reading, and catch ya on the next paper.

With respectful dedication to all the  Roboticists  and related research and development centres in the world. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

''' Keeping The World At Ease "'

Good night and God bless!

SAM Daily Times - The Voice of the Voiceless


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