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Submission + - Networked aircraft and drone commercialization->

Hallie Siegel writes: Interesting opinion piece by TerrAvion's Robert Morris about the implications of software as a service (SaaS) in the commercial drone industry. Morris argues that networked aircraft technology (whether manned or not), and the actionable data they can provide, are the real value points, and that focusing on 'drone commercialization' alone is really a distraction.
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Submission + - When do robocars become cheaper than standard cars? ->

Hallie Siegel writes: With all the extra sensors and technology that have to go into autonomous cars, you'd expect them to cost more. Afterall, autonomous features like park assist and auto lane changing are charged as added-value components that you pay extra for. But autonomous car expert Brad Templeton thinks it could be that the overall cost of autonomous vehicles per mile driven will lower than traditional cars. Not only because features of traditional cars, like dashboards and steering columns, will not be necessary in robocars, but also because autonomous cars are more likely to be shared and constantly in use, rather than sitting in your driveway 90% of the time. Some insightful ideas presented here.
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Submission + - Indepth tech interview with MIT's Sangbae Kim about Cheetah 2->

Hallie Siegel writes: There's no one like the folks at the Robots Podcast for really digging into the tech issues behind the latest cutting-edge robotics research. This interview with Sangbae Kim goes into a lot of detail about what it took to design the Cheetah's efficient gait and locomotion, the things that make this quadruped robot so remarkable.
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Submission + - Robot as marketing strategy: Bosch bets on Rotimatic's flatbread maker ->

Hallie Siegel writes: Is marketing a consumer device as a robot a viable sales strategy? Bosch seems to think so. Today the makers of Rotimatic — a home kitchen appliance that makes flatbreads and that markets itself with the catch-phrase "it's about time robots help us eat better" — announced $11.5M in funding from a Southeast Asia private equity firm, NSI Ventures, and the venture arm of Robert Bosch GmbH, the global supplier of technology products and services for the auto and home.
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Submission + - Robots 3D: impressive but refreshingly real ->

pRobotika writes: National Geographic's latest big screen movie takes a look at state-of-the art robotics. A robot narrator, Robothespian, takes us behind the scenes for a glimpse into the labs, where we see the successes and failures of a menagerie of robots including CHIMP, ATLAS, Nao and iCub.
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Submission + - Robots appear to raise productivity without causing total work hours to decline->

Hallie Siegel writes: We often read about the economic impact of robots on employment, usually accompanied with the assertion that "robots steal jobs". But to date there has precious little economic analysis of the actual effects that robots are already having on employment and productivity. Georg Graetz (Professor of Economics at Uppsala University) and Guy Michaels (Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics) undertook a study of how robots impacted productivity and employment between 1993 and 2007, and found that "industrial robots increase labour productivity, total factor productivity and wages." And while there is some evidence that they reduced the employment of low skilled workers, and, to a lesser extent, middle skilled workers, industrial robots had no significant effect on total hours worked.

This is important because it seems to contradict many of the pessimistic assertions that are presently being made about the impact of robots on jobs.

What I am especially curious about is post 2007 data, however, because it's just in the past few years that we have seen a major shift in industrial robotics to incorporate collaborative robots, or co-robots. ie. Robots specifically designed to work alongside humans, as tools for augmenting human performance. One might reasonably suspect that some of the negative impact of industrial robotics on low and middle skilled workers pre 2007 could be offset by the more recent and increasing use of co-bots, which are not designed to replace humans, but instead to make them more efficient.

I sincerely hope that Graetz and Michaels continue in their line of research to look at the more recent phenomenon of collaborative robotics. The field is moving so quickly now, and technologically speaking, eight years is a long time. Yet with so much speculation out there about the impact of robots on employment, it's critical that we acquire more empirical data so that correct taxation, education and social policies can be developed.

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Submission + - Solar powered autonomous flight completes full day/night cycle; 28 hrs w/o fuel!->

Hallie Siegel writes: Researchers have long worked on building a solar powered aircraft capable of continuous flight. The general idea seems achievable enough: during the day, with the help of the solar cells that cover its wings, the aircraft collects energy from the sun in order to power the propulsion and control systems while any surplus power charges the battery. During the night, the batteries take over powering the propulsion and control systems, slowly discharging until the next morning when a new cycle begins.

To actually pull it off has required a fair bit of innovation in flexible solar cells, high energy density batteries, miniaturized MEMS and CMOS sensors, and powerful processors ... but researchers at ETH Zurich have just recently managed to keep their unmanned UAV aloft for 28 hours without any fuel, building on their previous record by over an hour. Having more than 24 hours of endurance is important because overcast skies can inhibit recharging and poor weather or high winds can effect power consumption.

Really nice accomplishment from the folks at the AtlantikSolar project — we're looking forward to their next goal, which is to achieve 80 hours of endurance flight. Now that would be something.

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Submission + - Siemens funds new Industrial Robotics Award in Robot Launch startup competition->

Hallie Siegel writes: Siemens just announced that they are expanding their Frontiers program — which provides mentorship and commercial software to startups — to include robotics startups. They will also be funding a newly announced Industrial Robotics Award in the Robot Launch international startup competition. Siemens is looking for startups that are taking new approaches to simulation, motion planning, robot interoperability, deployment and optimization in the field of industrial robotics, and especially startups that are developing on ROS. Deadline to apply: July 12.
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Submission + - Building the Jibo prototype: Interview with VP Engineering Andy Atkins->

Hallie Siegel writes: Almost a year ago Jibo set crowdfunding records when it launched as one of the first consumer-focused social robotics products, surpassing its original goal of $100,000 within just four hours, raising $1M within its first week, and ultimately earning over $3.7M in preorders. Now the Jibo team is working on the prototypes that will eventually allow the robotic companion for the home to be mass produced for the consumer market. Nice 5 min video interview with Andy Atkins, VP of Engineering, about the whole prototyping process ... best practices, challenges, pitfalls and all.
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Submission + - Are tethers the answer to the safety issues of follow-me drone technology? ->

Hallie Siegel writes: Camera-equipped follow-me drone technology is hitting the scene in spades, promising extreme sports enthusiasts and others amazing aerial shots. Imagine, your own dynamic tripod that follows you on command. But what about the safety issue of having follow-me drones crowding the ski slopes? The tethered Fotokite addresses these concerns while sidestepping FAA regulations.
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Submission + - Companies that use robots are creating jobs for people->

Hallie Siegel writes: While acknowledging that robots and automation have displaced some jobs for human workers, Robot economist Colin Lewis points out that many new jobs are also being created as a result. His advice for job seekers: "It’s better to be prepared than caught out. My advice to young people: now is a good time to join the robot sector."
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Submission + - Survey says autonomous cars should prioritize their passengers lives over others->

Hallie Siegel writes: In a moral dilemma involving an autonomous car that has to decide between killing a child on the road, or its passenger, 64% of survey respondents said the car should kill the child. The Open Roboethics Research initiative explored the reasons why. Most respondents said that the car should always prioritize the passenger's safety over that of others, otherwise we wouldn't be able to trust the technology. What do you think?
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Submission + - My (autonomous) Car, My Safety: Results from our Reader Poll->

AJung Moon writes: In a moral dilemma involving an autonomous car that has to decide between killing a child on the road, or its passenger, 64% said the car should kill the child. We explored the reasons why. Most of the responses say that the car should always prioritize the passenger's safety over that of others.
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