A Chinese restaurant chain in the north west of England has been forced to make use of robotic waiters, after struggling for staff during the Covid pandemic. Directors at The Chinese Buffet unleashed one BellaBot in each of four restaurants in Liverpool, St Helens, Bolton and Wigan, to serve food to diners. When the buffet re-opened after the last lockdown, its owners decided to serve food to people at the table, ordered via an app, rather than allow them to serve themselves. This added an extra strain on the already short waiting staff, according to owners Paolo Hu and Peter Wu, who said the BellaBots had already proved popular with diners. The guide price for the friendly-faced robots is $20,000 (£14,500), which is less than the cost of employing a waiter at minimum wage for 40 hours per week. Quirky footage shows Bella, who features a wide-eyed feline face, sweeping across the restaurant floor dishing out delicacies to delighted customers.
There is mounting public concern over the influence that AI based systems has in our society. Coalitions in all sectors are acting worldwide to resist hamful applications of AI. From indigenous people addressing the lack of reliable data, to smart city stakeholders, to students protesting the academic relationships with sex trafficker and MIT donor Jeffery Epstein, the questionable ethics and values of those heavily investing in and profiting from AI are under global scrutiny. There are biased, wrongful, and disturbing assumptions embedded in AI algorithms that could get locked in without intervention. Our best human judgment is needed to contain AI's harmful impact. Perhaps one of the greatest contributions of AI will be to make us ultimately understand how important human wisdom truly is in life on earth.
Results from the DOTS competition were released yesterday, after an intense month with teams from around the world designing new algorithms for robot swarms tasked with delivering emergency food parcels. The Scenario Increases in the number of emergency food parcels distributed by food banks have accelerated over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in those going to children. Robot swarms could help streamline the distribution of these emergency food parcels, while freeing up time for volunteers and workers to interface with the users and provide human contact. What if you could unbox a swarm of robots and immediately use them to power your organisation and transport needs? You could use them to organise the stock room of a small retail shop, or retrieve boxes in a pop-up distribution centre for school lunches.
The government could ban loot boxes amid accusations they allow children to gamble. Officials have launched a new consultation into the technology and whether it is damaging children who play games like Fifa, which include them. Loot boxes – which are known under a variety of different names in individual games – allow people to buy a collection of items without knowing what will be inside of them. After a person has bought one, either with real money or by playing, they receive whatever is inside, which could include in-game items that can be sold for real currency. Critics argue that the technology allows children to gamble and encourages such behaviour. A number of child welfare organisations, charities and other groups have warned that the technology could lead to addiction later in life.
Rolls-Royce has announced 9,000 job cuts - mainly in its civil aerospace wing - as a direct consequence of the coronavirus pandemic bringing the aviation industry to a shuddering halt. The cull has been described as devastating news for the city of Derby, which is likely to see a significant proportion of the redundancies. It is by no means the first time the company has announced major job losses, but many have said this time feels more serious. How worried should we be? Browsing the news archives confirms major job cuts have been a fairly regular feature of Rolls-Royce's history over the past century.
Care homes "could go to the wall" due to rising costs from the coronavirus pandemic, bosses have said. Thirty out of 102 care providers contacted by the BBC also said none of their staff had been tested, down from 75 who said so in April. Care sector leaders said the government response was "patchy and inconsistent". The Department of Health and Social Care said all care staff and residents can now be tested, regardless of symptoms. BBC England spoke to 102 care homes and providers across the country, which between them care for more than 6,500 residents and have about 9,000 staff.
A drone company that had to abandon its fast-food delivery tests has partnered with Ireland's health authority to deliver prescriptions instead. Manna Aero is working with the Health Service Executive to prescribe and deliver medicines and other essential supplies to vulnerable people in the small rural town of Moneygall. The company's trial uses autonomous drones made in Wales. And it is looking at the possibility of testing in the UK within weeks. The UK has already announced a test of drones to carry supplies to the Isle of Wight during the pandemic.
Artificial intelligence and robotics experts in Edinburgh are working to create what they hope will be the first healthcare robots to hold a conversation with more than one person at a time. It is a project designed to help older people, but it could one day be used to help handle virus outbreaks like the coronavirus pandemic. "It's not something we had actually considered while designing the project," says Heriot-Watt's professor of computer science Oliver Lemon. "But as it turns out it's quite relevant to what's going on today. "You can imagine in the future that when you walk into a hospital waiting room, instead of encountering a human you encounter a robot who's able to help you.
Robots could be trained to disinfect surfaces, take temperatures, collecting swabs and provide social support for quarantined patients to help combat coronavirus. The'dull, dirty and dangerous jobs' could be automated, but we would need to add many new functionalities to machines first, roboticists argued in a journal editorial. Many of these necessary capabilities, however, are neither being funded or developed at present, the experts cautioned. Robots could be trained to disinfect surfaces, take temperatures, collecting swabs and provide social support for quarantined patients to help combat coronavirus. Among the signatories of the editorial are roboticist Howie Choset of the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the president of the National Academy of Science, Marcia McNutt.
Ready or not, autonomous robots are leaving laboratories to be tested in real-world contexts. With more and more people living in cities, these technologies offer ways to cope with ageing populations and poorly maintained infrastructures, while promoting safer transport, productive manufacturing and secure energy supplies. Urban "living labs" are one way scientists are trying to understand how autonomous robots – or Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS), to give them their full title – will affect our everyday lives. Autonomous robots are interconnected, interactive, cognitive and physical tools, which can perceive their environments, reason about events, make or revise plans and control their own actions. These technologies are designed to draw on big data and connect with the Internet of Things, to make our lives easier by increasing accuracy and efficiency.