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Monthly Archives: October 2014

Five weekend reads in robotics, AI, driverless cars and the economy

  1. The Phenomenology of Self-Driving Cars — why I imagine driverless cars are going to hit a much bigger obstacle than most. (Next New Deal – The Roosevelt Institute, H/T @RobertWent)
  2. Robots that understand — DeepMind, the UK artificial intelligence group purchased by Google earlier this year, has revealed plans to create a broad alliance with the University of Oxford after acquiring two companies spun out of computer science projects at the elite academic institution. According to the Financial Times one of those companies: “is developing systems capable of the visual recognition of objects in the real word. This means, for example, giving robots three-dimensional awareness that can allow them to understand how a cup sits on a table.”
  3. CyPhy Works’ New Drone Fits in Your Pocket, Flies for Two Hours. Anybody who’s ever flown a rotary wing drone will look at the stats of CyPhy Works’ new Pocket Flyer drone and be amazed. It fits in your pocket and weights a mere 80 grams. It’ll fly continuously for two hours or more, sending back high quality HD video the entire time. What’s the catch? There isn’t one, except for the clever thing that grants all of CyPhy’s UAVs their special powers: a microfilament tether that unspools the drone and keeps it constantly connected to communications and power. (I’m a huge admirer of CyPhyWorks)
  4. The first example of a robot automating surgical tasks involving soft tissue. “There are no bad robots, there are just bad surgeons.” New Research Center Aims to Develop Second Generation of Surgical Robots.
  5. Robot project envisions factories where more people want to work. Rather than taking jobs, robots will one day soon join people on the factory floor, as co-workers and collaborators. That’s the vision of a EUR 6.5 million project led by Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology. (PHYS.org)

Japan’s government holds first “robotics revolution council” meeting

The Japanese government has held the first meeting of a new panel focused on its goal of a “robotics revolution,” a key item in the government’s economic growth strategy adopted in June.

The robot revolution panel is tasked with promoting measures to increase the use of robots and related technologies in various fields, extending out of the manufacturing sector and into hotel, distribution, medical and elderly nursing-care services. The appropriate use of robots will be a key to solving these problems, according to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who instigated the robot panel.

Despite Japan being a leader in the field of industrial robots, companies still rely heavily on human labor, making it difficult to secure enough workers and blocking efforts to improve productivity. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed ‘the robot revolution council:’

“To work out a strategy for using robots as the key means to solve labor shortages amid the declining birthrate and aging population, low productivity of the services sector and other challenges plaguing Japan and for developing the robot industry into a growth sector to explore global markets.

Adding his hope that the government will seek to make Japan a showcase for robots in service for various areas ahead of other countries by 2020.

The government said Japan will double its robot-related market to ¥1.2 trillion (US$11.3 billion) by 2020 in the manufacturing sector and achieve a 20-fold jump in the non manufacturing sector, also to ¥1.2 trillion (US$11.3 billion).

A government paper lays out the factors behind the robot revolution with respect to manufacturing, stating:

The Government will seek to improve (factory) productivity through the utilization of robot technology, thereby improving the profitability of companies and helping to raise wages.

The panel, chaired by Mitsubishi Electric Corp. consultant Tamotsu Nomakuchi, will work out a five-year plan to be presented by the end of 2014, with details on how they will achieve the numerical targets.

The robot council will also discuss the legal regulations needed to promote the use of robots and related technologies.