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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Apple Inc. is putting a record $10.5 billion to work in new technology including assembly robots

Apple Inc. is putting a record $10.5 billion to work in new technology — from assembly robots to milling machines.

The spending, which Apple outlined in its fiscal 2014 capital-expenditure forecast, underscores how the world’s most valuable company is diving deeper into designing and inventing technology for its manufacturing process.

The spending is also playing a role in Apple’s push to add more production in the U.S. after years of doing most of the work in Asia, a practice that has led to worker abuses. The machines for GT Advanced will be used at a new plant in Arizona. And Apple’s new Mac Pro, which will go on sale next month, will also be assembled in the U.S. with robotics technology used in automobile manufacturing. More from Bloomberg…

Here’s a video look at the Mac Pro manufacturing process…

 

The real goal – Coupling human and computer intelligence so that they complement each other.

It’s likely that machines will be smarter than us before the end of the century—not just at chess or trivia questions but at just about everything, from mathematics and engineering to science and medicine. There might be a few jobs left for entertainers, writers, and other creative types, but computers will eventually be able to program themselves, absorb vast quantities of new information, and reason in ways that we carbon-based units can only dimly imagine. And they will be able to do it every second of every day, without sleep or coffee breaks. More...

Many companies struggle to gain transformational effects from new digital technologies

Companies routinely invest in technology, and too often feel they get routine results. Technology’s promise is not simply to automate processes, but to open routes to new ways of doing business.

To better understand how businesses succeed or fail in using digital technology to improve business performance, MIT Sloan Management Review and Capgemini Consulting conducted a survey in 2013 that garnered responses from 1,559 executives and managers in a wide range of industries. Their responses clearly show that managers believe in the ability of technology to bring transformative change to business. But they also feel frustrated with how hard it is to get great results from new technology.

The report (as well as the survey) focuses on digital transformation, which the authors define as the use of new digital technologies (social media, mobile, analytics or embedded devices) to enable major business improvements (such as enhancing customer experience, streamlining operations or creating new business models).

The key findings from the survey are:

  • According to 78% of respondents, achieving digital transformation will become critical to their organizations within the next two years.
  • However, 63% said the pace of technology change in their organization is too slow.
  • The most frequently cited obstacle to digital transformation was “lack of urgency.”
  • Only 38% of respondents said that digital transformation was a permanent fixture on their CEO’s agenda. Where CEOs have shared their vision for digital transformation, 93% of employees feel that it is the right thing for the organization. But, a mere 36% of CEOs have shared such a vision.

Far from threatening jobs, automation can enhance quality of life

Everyone’s talking about robots these days, and there’s plenty to discuss. While there’s a sense of excitement about the Next Big Thing – especially in the tech community – there is also an emerging sense of fear. The worry is that these shiny new machines and automated processes will displace workers en masse. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has voiced such concerns, and CBS’ 60 Minutes examined the issue. Earlier this year, public radio’s Marketplace program ran a week-long series titled “Robots Ate My Job“.

Moira Herbst has some good thought on this in The Guardian: (more…)

Robots are beginning to perform tasks as humans do

Robots are beginning to move around in the world and perform tasks as humans do, The New York Times reports.

Until recently, most robots were carefully separated from humans. They have largely been used in factories to perform repetitive tasks that required speed, precision and force. That generation of robots is dangerous, and they have been caged and fenced for the protection of workers.

But the industrial era of robotics is over. And robots are beginning to move around in the world.

More and more, they are also beginning to imitate — and look like — humans. And they are beginning to perform tasks as humans do, too. (more…)