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Businesses

5 White Collar Jobs Robots Already Have Taken 257

bizwriter writes University of Oxford researchers Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne estimated in 2013 that 47 percent of total U.S. jobs could be automated and taken over by computers by 2033. That now includes occupations once thought safe from automation, AI, and robotics. Such positions as journalists, lawyers, doctors, marketers, and financial analysts are already being invaded by our robot overlords. From the article: "Some experts say not to worry because technology has always created new jobs while eliminating old ones, displacing but not replacing workers. But lately, as technology has become more sophisticated, the drumbeat of worry has intensified. 'What's different now?' asked Leigh Watson Healy, chief analyst at market research firm Outsell. 'The pace of technology advancements plus the big data phenomenon lead to a whole new level of machines to perform higher level cognitive tasks.' Translated: the old formula of creating more demanding jobs that need advanced training may no longer hold true. The number of people needed to oversee the machines, and to create them, is limited. Where do the many whose occupations have become obsolete go?"
Businesses

Armies of Helper Robots Keep Amazon's Warehouses Running Smoothly 110

jones_supa writes Amazon is continuing to maintain its vision of an automatic warehouse. Since acquiring robot-maker Kiva, a Massachusetts company, for $775 million in cash in 2012, the e-commerce retailer has been increasingly implementing automation at its gargantuan fulfillment centers. This holiday season, Amazon's little helper is an orange, 320-pound robot. The 15,000 robots are part of the company's high-tech effort to serve customers faster. By lifting shelves of Amazon products off the ground and speedily delivering them to employee stations, the robots dramatically reduce the manual labor to locate and carry items. The Kiva robots, which resemble overgrown Roombas, are capable of lifting as much as 750 pounds and glide across Amazon's warehouse floors by following rows of sensors. Because Kiva-equipped facilities eliminate the need for wide aisles for humans to walk down, eighth-generation centers can also hold 50% more inventory than older warehouses. As Amazon is doing well, the company says that increase of automation hasn't yet led to staff reduction.
AI

New Long-Range RFID Technology Helps Robots Find Household Objects 38

HizookRobotics writes Georgia Tech researchers announced a new way robots can "sense" their surroundings through the use of small ultra-high frequency radio-frequency identification (UHF RFID) tags. Inexpensive self-adhesive tags can be stuck on objects, allowing an RFID-equipped robot to search a room for the correct tag's signal, even when the object is hidden out of sight. Once the tag is detected, the robot knows the object it's trying to find isn't far away. The researchers' methods, summarized over at IEEE: "The robot goes to the spot where it got the hottest signal from the tag it was looking for, zeroing in on it based on the signal strength that its shoulder antennas are picking up: if the right antenna is getting a stronger signal, the robot yaws right, and vice versa."
Medicine

Video Otherlab Working on a 'Fundamental Jump' in Technology for Exoskeletons (Video) 36

"Otherlab," says their projects page, "is a private Research and Development company with a number of core competencies. We welcome industrial partnerships and commercialization partners. We have worked with dozens of companies globally from small start-ups to multi-nationals and Fortune 500 businesses. We develop enabling new technologies through an emphasis on prototyping coupled to rigorous physics simulation and mathematical models. We develop our own design tools because it's lonely at the frontier and to create new things and ideas, you often have to create the tools to design them." | One of their projects is building low-cost, inflatable exoskeletons that can be used as prosthetics or -- one presumes -- as strength multipliers for people who have working limbs. This is the project today's interviewee, Tim Swift, is working on. (Alternate Video Link)
Moon

DogeCoin To the Moon Via a Google Lunar X PRIZE Team 35

anzha (138288) writes "After sponsoring a NASCAR racer, DogeCoin's community has wondered, 'What next?' The answer is literally 'To The Moon!' RevUp Render is sponsoring a DogeCoin promoting micro rover challenge, the Lunar Iditarod. The micro rovers, called DogeSleds, are the size of an smart phone and will be first qualified and then raced here on Earth. The top three competitors will be placed on a Google Lunar X PRIZE team's lunar lander to conduct a short, nine meter race on the moon itself. Registration opens on May 21st and closes July 31st for the first race. The first quarterly race will take place September 5th through September 7th. The event will be public and in the San Francisco Bay Area. All teams, international and American, are welcome, but be forewarned, all fees are in...dogecoin!"
Government

UN to Debate Use of Fully Autonomous Weapons, New Report Released 180

concertina226 (2447056) writes "The United Nations will debate the use of killer robots for the first time at the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) this week, but human rights activists are calling for the robots to be banned. Human Rights Watch and Harvard Law School's International Human Rights Clinic have published a new report entitled 'Shaking the Foundations: The Human Rights Implications of Killer Robots', which calls for killer robots to be banned to prevent a potential arms race between countries. Killer robots, or fully autonomous weapons, do not yet exist but would be the next step after remote-controlled armed drones used by the US military today. Fully autonomous weapons would have the ability to identify and fire on targets without human intervention, putting compliance with international humanitarian laws in doubt. Among the problems with killer robots highlighted in the report is the risk of criminal liability for a military officer, programmer or weapons manufacturer who created or used an autonomous weapon with intent to kill. If a robot killed arbitrarily, it would be difficult to hold anyone accountable."
Robotics

The Struggle To Ban Killer Robots 138

Lasrick (2629253) writes "The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is a year old; the same month is was founded, the UN's special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions called for a moratorium on the development and deployment of autonomous lethal weapons while a special commission considered the issue. The campaign is succeeding at bringing attention to the issue, but it's possible that it's too late, and if governments don't come to a common understanding of what the problems and solutions are, the movement is doomed. As this article points out, one of the most contentious issues is the question of what constitutes an autonomous weapons system: 'Setting the threshold of autonomy is going to involve significant debate, because machine decision-making exists on a continuum.' Another, equally important issue of course is whether a ban is realistic."
Robotics

How To Attend Next Week's Robotics Show Robotically 38

DeviceGuru writes "Suitable Technologies is offering $50 rentals of its Beam mobile telepresence robot, allowing 50 robotics enthusiasts to remotely attend the RoboBusiness conference in Santa Clara, Calif. on Oct. 23-25. The Ubuntu- and ROS-based Beam will be available to the first 50 applicants, letting them explore the show at up to 1.5 meters/sec and interact with others via video conferencing. The bots will be allowed everywhere on the show floor as well as in conference rooms, and the show will be open late to accommodate remote users from distant time zones. The Beam is a good choice for remotely exploring conferences, saving users the cost and time of traveling to an event, says Suitable Tech; for example, RoboBusiness registration costs $1,595, not including hotel and travel. A list of the conference's keynotes, which include one by Christ Urmson, director of Google's Self-Driving Cars project, is available here."
Medicine

Eye Surgery By Magnetically Guided Microbots Moves Toward Clinical Trials 47

Sabine Hauert writes "According to robotics researcher Simone Schürle from ETH Zurich's Multi-Scale Robotics Lab (MSRL), the OctoMag is a magnetic manipulation system that uses electromagnetic coils to wirelessly guide micro-robots for ophthalmic surgery. With this system, mobility experiments were conducted in which a micro-robot with a diameter of 285 um (about four times the width of a hair) was navigated reliably through the eye of a rabbit, demonstrating the feasibility of using this technology in surgical applications."
Robotics

Ask Slashdot: How To Begin Simple Robotics As a Hobby? 166

First time accepted submitter nedko.m writes "I would describe myself as more of a 'software guy' rather than somebody who likes to play with hardware much, but I've wanted to start doing basic robotics projects as a hobby for quite a while now. However, I was never sure where to start from and what the very first steps should be in order to get more familiar with the hardware aspects of robotics. For instance, I would like to start off with a simple soccer robot. Any suggestions on what low-budget parts should I obtain, which would provide me, subsequently, extensibility to a bit more elaborate projects?"
Robotics

Stanford's Flying Fish Glider 12

Zothecula writes "Researchers at Stanford University have developed a small 'aircraft' that resembles a flying fish which can jump and glide over a greater distance than an equivalent jumping robot. Using a carbon fiber spring to take off, the jumpglider has a pivoting wing that stays out of the way during ascent, but which locks into place to glide farther on the way down."
Earth

Coral-Repairing Robots Take a Step Closer To Reality 39

Zothecula writes "Since humans are responsible for much of the damage to coral reefs, it makes sense that we should try and help repair them. That's exactly what a team from the Herriot-Watt University's Centre for Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology is attempting to do with the development of underwater "coralbots." Now anyone can add their support to this worthy effort with the launch of a Kickstarter campaign that will help make the robots a reality."
Science

Video Slashdot Goes to the FIRST Robotics Competition (Video) 41

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) has robot competitions all over the United States. FIRST was founded by inventor Dean Kamen. According to Wikipedia he has said that the FIRST competition is the invention he is most proud of, and he predicts that the 1 million students who have taken part in the contests so far will be responsible for some significant technological advances in years to come. In any case, Robert Rozeboom (samzenpus) was at the Michigan FIRST championship with camcorder in hand, and brought back some great shots of robots at work -- or maybe play. They fired off volleys of Frisbee-like discs, ran into each other, and climbed metal pyramids, either independently or under the control of their human masters. There was a pretty good crowd in the stands, too, to cheer on the robots. Or more likely, to cheer on the robots' human masters, since we're not yet at the point where robot masters invite their robot friends to competitions where they show off their humans.
Technology

Festo's Drone Dragonfly Takes To the Air 45

yyzmcleod writes "Building on the work of last year's bionic creation, the Smart Bird, Festo announced that it will literally launch its latest creation, the BionicOpter, at Hannover Messe in April. With a wingspan of 63 cm and weighing in at 175 grams, the robotic dragonfly mimics all forms of flight as its natural counterpart, including hover, glide and maneuvering in all directions. This is made possible, the company says, by the BionicOpter's ability to move each of its four wings independently, as well as control their amplitude, frequency and angle of attack. Including its actuated head and body, the robot exhibits 13 degrees of freedom, which allows it to rapidly accelerate, decelerate, turn and fly backwards."
The Military

Human Rights Watch: Petition Against Robots On the Battle Field 275

New submitter KublaCant writes "'At this very moment, researchers around the world – including in the United States – are working to develop fully autonomous war machines: killer robots. This is not science fiction. It is a real and powerful threat to humanity.' These are the first words of a Human Rights Watch Petition to President Obama to keep robots from the battlefield. The argument is that robots possess neither common sense, 'real' reason, any sense of mercy nor — most important — the option to not obey illegal commands. With the fast-spreading use of drones et al., we are allegedly a long way off from Asimov's famous Three Laws of Robotics being implanted in autonomous fighting machines, or into any ( semi- ) autonomous robot. A 'Stop the Killer Robots' campaign will also be launched in April at the British House of Commons and includes many of the groups that successfully campaigned to have international action taken against cluster bombs and landmines. They hope to get a similar global treaty against autonomous weapons. The Guardian has more about this, including quotes from well-known robotics researcher Noel Sharkey from Sheffield University."

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