Robots in the work place can perform hazardous or even 'impossible' tasks; e.g., toxic waste clean-up, desert and space exploration, and more. AI researchers are also interested in the intelligent processing involved in moving about and manipulating objects in the real world.
Delivery drones are real and they're operating on a national level, but they're not dropping off impulse purchases, and some of the most important applications are not in the United States. Zipline, a Bay Area startup, inked a deal with the government of Rwanda in 2016 and now uses small, autonomous planes to deliver medical supplies, and in particular blood, to rural communities across the African country. "It's a pretty cool paradigm shift for people who think all technological revolution is going on in US, and it'll trickle down to poor countries," says Zipline CEO, Keller Rinaudo, presenting his vision for drone deliveries on stage at the WIRED25 summit in San Francisco on Monday. "This is the opposite of that." Amazon created an internet-wide buzz when it announced it wanted to start delivering online shopping via drone, in a 60 Minutes interview in 2013.
This is where robots come in. Resembling oversize Roombas topped with Ikea shelving, these Kiva robots can carry up to 750 pounds of goods in their 40-odd cubbies. After a customer places an order, a robot carrying the desired item scoots over to a worker, who reads on a screen what item to pick and what cubby it's located in, scans a bar code and places the item in a bright-yellow bin that travels by conveyor belt to a packing station. AI suggests an appropriate box size; a worker places the item in the box, which a robot tapes shut and, after applying a shipping label, sends on its way. Humans are needed mostly for grasping and placing, tasks that robots haven't mastered yet.
Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We'll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here's what we have so far (send us your events!): Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today's videos. We already posted about the Atlas doing parkour video, which Marc Raibert first showed at IROS earlier this month; he also showed this video, which is just as interesting (if not quite as dramatic), since it shows SpotMini in what could be its first realistic commercial application. We have begun field testing the Spot robot for commercial usage around the world.
You've seen him hop on boxes, run across a field and execute backflips with the precision of a professional gymnast. Perhaps it seems only natural that Atlas ---- the humanoid robot and YouTube sensation created and periodically updated on video by tech company Boston Dynamics ---- has begun mastering another sophisticated form of human movement: parkour. In the company's latest 29-second teaser, Atlas can be seen jumping over a log using one leg before nimbly bounding up increasingly high wooden boxes, his mechanical limbs adjusting midair to maintain balance in a fashion that seems unmistakably human. "The control software uses the whole body including legs, arms and torso, to marshal the energy and strength for jumping over the log and leaping up the steps without breaking its pace," the company said in a statement posted on YouTube. "Atlas uses computer vision to locate itself with respect to visible markers on the approach to hit the terrain accurately."
On the look-out for robots and drones, I was rather disappointed when I was recently walking around in San Francisco. Where are those little parts of the future that caused so much backlash over the last few months? Recently, San Francisco was the city where food delivering robots and electronic scooters were taking over the streets. When walking there today, I do not see any of them, so what happened? Because of its role as a playground for new industries, being a start-up hub in the vicinity of Silicon Valley, San Francisco was overwhelmed by new toys of the industry.
Yamato Holdings Co. said Friday it has agreed to jointly develop an unmanned cargo aircraft with Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. of the United States, aiming to launch the "flying truck" by the mid-2020s amid a labor shortage in the logistics industry. Yamato said it will develop the cargo container, while Bell will build the body of the autonomous aircraft. The companies expect the vehicle will carry cargo weighing up to 453 kilograms at 160 kph, be able to take off and land vertically, and cruise horizontally. Japanese logistics companies are keen to introduce cutting-edge technologies such as robots and drones to address a shortage of delivery staff and enhance business efficiency. In a related move, the government has begun discussions with private businesses on the practical use of flying cars, with a goal of commercializing them in the 2020s.
Each time there's a headline about driverless trucking technology, another piece is taken out of the old equation. First, an Uber/Otto truck's safety driver went hands-off once the truck reached the highway (and said truck successfully delivered its valuable cargo of 50,000 beers). Then, Starsky Robotics announced its trucks would start making autonomous deliveries without a human in the vehicle at all. Now, Volvo has taken the tech one step further. Its new trucks not only won't have safety drivers, they won't even have the option of putting safety drivers behind the wheel, because there is no wheel--and no cab, either.
Imagine if your neighborhood grocery or convenience store offered one-hour, on-demand fulfillment -- not through intermediaries like Postmates or Instacart, but entirely in-house -- and made a profit on every order. As fantastical as the idea might seem, that's the promise of CommonSense Robotics, an Israeli micro-fulfillment startup that today launched its first autonomous sorting and shipping center in downtown Tel Aviv. "We started CommonSense Robotics because as consumers we wondered: Why can't we get our online orders faster and cheaper than going to the store? We're excited to see this groundbreaking technology finally serving real customers to allow for fast, inexpensive deliveries of high-quality products," said Elram Goren, CEO and cofounder of CommonSense Robotics, adding, "It's a true win-win for both retailers and consumers." CommonSense's fulfillment center -- which it claims is the world's smallest -- measures just 6,000 square feet in total.
To date, e-commerce has been about scale. But when it comes to same-day or even same-hour delivery, the economics become tricky, regardless of how many units a company sells. Loss leaders like Amazon reign supreme as they stamp out competition, but profitability has been an elusive benchmark in the ultra-fast delivery wars. That's doubly true for grocery delivery, which is a logistical nightmare of temperature zones and handling constraints. Automation will certainly play a key role in making lightning fast grocery delivery profitable, but one company, CommonSense Robotics, believes another part of the equation is to think small.
One of the most important issues we face today is global accessibility to healthcare. The WHO recently revealed that at least half of the world's population isn't able to access essential healthcare services. With large numbers of others being drawn into poverty by healthcare bills. According to the report, as covered by Reuters, there are 800 million people across the world that spend at least 10% of their household income on healthcare. A staggering 100million of those left with less than $1.90 a day to survive on.