Mention “Industry 4.0” to most manufacturing executives and you will raise eyebrows. If they’ve heard of it, they are likely confused about what it is. If they haven’t heard of it, they’re likely to be skeptical of what they see as yet another piece of marketing hype, an empty catchphrase. And yet a closer look at what’s behind Industry 4.0 reveals some powerful emerging currents with strong potential to change the way factories work. It may be too much to say that it is another industrial revolution. But call it whatever you like; the fact is, Industry 4.0 is gathering force, and executives should carefully monitor the coming changes and develop strategies to take advantage of the new opportunities.
From the DRC Finals this weekend in Pomona, California
The DRC is a competition of robot systems and software teams vying to develop robots capable of assisting humans in responding to natural and man-made disasters. It was designed to be extremely difficult. Participating teams, representing some of the most advanced robotics research and development organizations in the world, are collaborating and innovating on a very short timeline to develop the hardware, software, sensors, and human-machine control interfaces that will enable their robots to complete a series of challenge tasks selected by DARPA for their relevance to disaster response.
At a 1.2-million-square-foot warehouse in Tracy, Calif., about 60 miles east of San Francisco, Amazon this summer replaced four floors of fixed shelving with the robots, the people said. Now, “pickers” at the facility stand in one place and wait for (Kiva) robots to bring four-foot-by-six-foot shelving units to them, sparing them what amounted to as much as 20 miles a day of walking through the warehouse. Employees at some robot-equipped warehouses are expected to pick and scan at least 300 items an hour, compared with 100 under the old system, current and former workers said.
To be precise, Dr Rubenstein’s ’bot swarm (above) has 1,024 members (210 being a conveniently binary number), known apparently without irony as kilobots. Each is a rigid-legged tripod that moves around by vibrating. Kilobots communicate with infra-red light, which can reflect off the table Dr Rubenstein uses for his experiments, and are programmed with three types of behaviour.
One is edge-following, which allows a ’bot move along the edge of a cluster. The second is gradient-formation, which lets it know how many other ’bots a signal has been relayed through, and thus gives it information about the location of these ’bots and the shape of the cluster it is in. The third is localisation, which means it can agree a system of co-ordinates with its neighbours, so that they can measure distances between themselves.
The machine, equivalent to a human food critic, is composed of an electronic nose made with 16 gas sensors and an electronic tongue made to detect sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami (meat or savory) flavors.
The second robot is called ESenS according to the same report. It’s a smart application on Android, the size of a printer, that uses micro-sensors to compare samples to an existing database of recipes.
It took Chongsrid's team about a year to develop the two robots. He told ABC News the team hoped to develop at least 100 or more.
So far, samples can be compared to 11 recipes approved by the Thai government and its “Thai Delicious Committee”.
Designing a light, soft robot that is both self-contained and high-performance remains a challenge. Onboard computers are heavy, so engineers are often forced to strike a less-than-ideal balance between dexterity and autonomy: They can weigh down their robots with sophisticated hardware, tether their experiments to external computers and lose autonomy, or settle for lighter, inferior onboard tech.
Soft robotic fish provide one biomimetic solution. In nature, fish store their heavy machinery—a skull and a brain—in their heads, while the rest of their bodies are light and bendable. Borrowing from nature's model aquatic organisms, Marphese copied fish musculature to design a smart, but still soft, mechanical fish.
“Half of these experts (48%) envision a future in which robots and digital agents have displaced significant numbers of both blue- and white-collar workers—with many expressing concern that this will lead to vast increases in income inequality, masses of people who are effectively unemployable, and breakdowns in the social order.
The other half of the experts who responded to this survey (52%) expect that technology will not displace more jobs than it creates by 2025. To be sure, this group anticipates that many jobs currently performed by humans will be substantially taken over by robots or digital agents by 2025. But they have faith that human ingenuity will create new jobs, industries, and ways to make a living, just as it has been doing since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.”
Cyberdyne’s robotic exoskeletal suits are designed for use at rehab centers by patients building strength. The company is also pitching them to hospitals and nursing homes in Japan, where people older than 65 already make up a quarter of the populace.
“Other than a living, breathing caddie, it doesn't get much easier than that. For just $2,500, you have a robot that shadows you and an adult version of a remote-controlled car.
And let's face it: You'll need that second feature more than the first. The follow function is great for the fairways, but aren't the weeds/rocks/trees where we really spend most of our time? Venture into the rough stuff on your own and just have the X9 meet you where it's safe.”