While the pandemic has been painful, it has caused things to accelerate in several areas impressively rapidly. Two of those areas are robotics and artificial intelligence, which we'll see adapted broadly this decade with a considerable bump in 2021. Let's talk about all of that this week, and we'll close with the first product of the week in 2021, the Somnofy AI Sleep Monitor.
TOKYO--For a year that started out with a share crash, a record loss and a global pandemic, 2020 is turning out to be very good for SoftBank Group Corp. The Japanese technology investor, best known for its $100 billion Vision Fund and its mercurial chief executive, Masayoshi Son, this week scored an estimated $11 billion paper gain when U.S. food-delivery company DoorDash Inc. went public. It was the latest in a series of wins as soaring tech stocks pushed up the value of many of SoftBank's holdings. Cashing in on another investment, SoftBank said Friday that it agreed to sell an 80% stake in Boston Dynamics, a company known for dog-like robots that can maneuver through rooms, to Hyundai Motor Group . The deal valued the robotics company at $1.1 billion.
You arrive at your fancy hotel and are greeted by a robot that promptly takes your luggage off your hands and carries it to your room for you, all while reciting cool things to do and places to eat in the city nearby. It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but the reality is that this is not so far-fetched after all. It is already happening in places like South Korea, where it was recently announced by the Novotel Ambassador Seoul Dongdaemun Hotels and Residences that they're going to be using a robot helper to deliver luggage and room service to guests' rooms, using 3D mapping, 5G and artificial intelligence. It's becoming more and more common to see robots being used in place of humans – in warehouse production lines, at airports and train stations, and even cleaning homes. So how is robotics going to change the service industry?
Artificial intelligence is being applied to virtually every aspect of our work and recreational lives. From determining calculations for the construction of towering skyscrapers to designing and building cruise ships the size of football fields, AI is increasingly playing a key role in the most massive projects. But sometimes, all we want to do is move a can of beans. According to a recently published abstract by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, they have developed a mechanism that "couples a perception pipeline predicting a target object occupancy support distribution with a mechanical search policy that sequentially selects occluding objects to push to the side to reveal the target as efficiently as possible." In other words, they've trained a robot to find and move items on a shelf.
A fleet of 30 Starship autonomous delivery robots has been deployed at the University of Houston, home to over 53,000 students, faculty and staff. In partnership with Chartwells Higher Education, UH is the first institution of higher education in the state of Texas to offer robotic food deliveries on campus. The recipient can even track the delivery -- made to a building's nearest outdoor entrance -- in real time. "This revolutionary delivery method will make it more convenient for the campus community to take advantage of our diverse dining program from anywhere on campus while expanding the hours of operation," said Emily Messa, UH associate vice president for administration. "By opening our campus to this innovative service, which is paid for by the customers, the university didn't have to spend any money purchasing the technology, yet we're enhancing our food delivery capabilities."
Ocado's warehouse in Erith, 15 miles east of London on the Thames estuary, is staffed by 1,050 "personal shoppers". Outnumbering them are 1,800 robots the size of small washing machines. You see them by climbing to the top level of the vast warehouse – at 564,000 sq ft, it is more than three times the size of St Peter's in Rome – where a sign tells you that photography is strictly prohibited. The online supermarket is paranoid that rivals will glimpse the technology it believes to be revolutionary. From the viewing platform you can watch these metal cubes endlessly whiz around, moving thousands of plastic crates as if they were playing an enormous game of chess. You occasionally sight bottles of bleach or rosé, packets of noodles and dog biscuits, before they are sent down to a lower level. "I find it quite mesmerising, like robotic ballet," says Mel Smith, CEO of Ocado Retail, the UK arm of the business. "The day I decided I wanted this job was when I went to [the warehouse] and thought, this is absolutely the future."
IN A cavernous shed on an industrial park in Hampshire, hundreds of robots are at work in the "hive". In Ocado's latest Customer Fulfilment Centre (CFC), 65,000 orders a week are prepared for some of the grocer's 645,000 online customers. It is probably the most technologically advanced such centre in the world. Instead of ferrying crates on a long line of conveyor belts, as many CFCs do, it uses a three-dimensional grid system, or hive, to assemble customers' orders. Washing-machine-sized robots whizz this way and that on the top of the grid, pausing only for a second to pick up products and ferry them to "pick stations", where people put the orders together.
The Founder of Camile Thai Kitchen examines the ways in which 2020 has accelerated the adoption of new technology and how his business will implement such innovations in the near-future. This year has presented huge challenges for our whole sector. At Camile Thai Kitchen we have found that one silver lining has been the accelerated focus and adoption of new technologies. The companies that win with technology are those that can successfully utilise the right combination of solutions that optimise operations and improve the customer experience. For us, a combination of kitchen robotics, cloud kitchens and drones is a winning formula that makes the most sense in terms of being able to adapt to future customer demand and trends.
BEGIN ARTICLE PREVIEW: Grocery retailer Ocado is not well known outside of the United Kingdom. Even in the U.K., Ocado commands a mere 1.8% market share. But in the 20 years since it launched as one of the country’s first online-only supermarkets, the brand has become synonymous with technology. This is thanks to investments in machine learning, robotics, automated warehouses, and R&D projects to develop robotic arms capable of picking and packing delicate items such as fruit. The company has gradually transformed into a platform that equips retailers like Kroger with the tech needed to challenge the likes of Amazon, whose expansion into groceries continues. And just as Amazon offers all kinds of goods on its platform, Ocado’s ambitions now stretch far beyond groceries. Last week, Hatfield, England-based Ocado made its first acquisitions when it snapped up not one but two U.S. robotics companies for a combined total of $287 million. One is Kindred Systems, a
What do you get for the person who has everything? How about an artificially intelligent robot sommelier that can securely store, manage and suggest wines from your collection? The Winecab Wine Wall does all that (hat tip to Boss Hunting), acting kinda like a very expensive automated wine vending machine that you'd find in only the poshest 7-Eleven. Wine Walls come in a variety of sizes, from the more modest Curio Classic model, which holds 130 bottles ($139,000) to the 15 ft. Wine Wall, which holds 600 bottles ($249,900).