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Now You Can Rent a Robot Worker--for Less Than Paying a Human

WIRED

Polar Manufacturing has been making metal hinges, locks, and brackets in south Chicago for more than 100 years. Some of the company's metal presses--hulking great machines that loom over a worker--date from the 1950s. Last year, to meet rising demand amid a shortage of workers, Polar hired its first robot employee. The robot arm performs a simple, repetitive job: lifting a piece of metal into a press, which then bends the metal into a new shape. And like a person, the robot worker gets paid for the hours it works.


Social distancing surveillance: how robots will keep you in line

#artificialintelligence

WiFi and Bluetooth-based methods are accurate in detecting social distancing breaches and our approach complements them. The WiFI and Bluetooth-based methods need appropriate sensing technologies and cannot be easily deployed in all kinds of environments (e.g., public places or isolated locations). These methods also need additional infrastructure to be in place for detection. Our method uses the visual feed from a depth camera onboard a mobile robot and existing CCTV infrastructure (if available) to detect social distancing breaches. In addition, the robot can autonomously navigate and interact with people and encourage them to maintain social distancing.


Portable laser scanner creates colour 3D images of surfaces or objects

New Scientist

A new portable scanner combines laser scanning technology with cameras to create precise 3D images in colour, and it could be used for everything from infrastructure inspection to construction to robot vision. Lidar measures the distance to surfaces using a laser. Each measurement records a point in space, building a "point cloud" to show surfaces and objects. Unlike a camera, the point cloud gives exact distances and dimensions, but the images are monochromatic and can be hard to interpret.


Robot piloted by a ball of algae is powered by photosynthesis

New Scientist

A robot piloted by a ball of algae can swim through water and move around obstacles, powered only by photosynthesis. Neil Phillips at the University of the West of England, UK, and his colleagues wanted to build a robot with no electronic parts, meaning it wouldn't interfere with any electromagnetically sensitive measurement instruments. The team inserted a marimo, a ball of algae that forms naturally in freshwater currents, inside a 3D-printed plastic spherical shell equipped with vents.


California reviews whether Tesla's self-driving tests require oversight

The Guardian

California is evaluating whether Tesla's self-driving tests require regulatory oversight, following "videos showing a dangerous use of that technology" and federal investigations into Tesla vehicle crashes, a state regulator said. The California department of motor vehicles previous said that Tesla's full self-driving, or FSD, beta requires human intervention and therefore is not subject to its regulations on autonomous vehicles. But the agency is revisiting that decision "following recent software updates, videos showing a dangerous use of that technology, open investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the opinions of other experts", the department said in a letter on Friday to Lena Gonzalez, chair of the state senate transportation committee. The Los Angeles Times first reported the letter. Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.


Algorithm Helps Robots Avoid Obstacles in Their Path

#artificialintelligence

University of South Australia's Habib Habibullah says their algorithm could be applied in many environments, including industrial warehouses where robots are commonly used, for robotic fruit picking, packing and pelletizing, and also for restaurant robots An algorithm developed by researchers at the University of South Australia (UniSA) aims to help robots avoid humans and other obstacles in their path while taking the fastest, safest route to their destination. The researchers based their model on the best elements of existing algorithms and used it to create a TurtleBot able to avoid collisions by adjusting its speed and direction. They performed simulations in nine different scenarios and found their model outperformed the online collision avoidance algorithms Dynamic Window Approach and Artificial Potential Field. Said UniSA's Habib Habibullah, "Our proposed method sometimes took a longer path, but it was faster and safer, avoiding all collisions."