In stepped companies such as year-old Fetch in San Jose and six-year-old Harvest Automation in Billerica, Mass. Both say their robots can keep up with a briskly walking person for about eight hours on a fully charged battery. Fetch says its basic models can carry as much as 150 pounds; Harvest, 50.
Tim Barrett, the chief operating officer of shipping company Barrett Distribution Centers, says that with eight Harvest prototypes moving goods around its Massachusetts warehouse, the company didn’t need to install a pricey conveyor belt.
Makers of semiconductors spend upward of $5 billion to build and operate fabrication plants—known as “fabs”—that run 24 hours a day so they can recoup their investment before the equipment becomes obsolete in five years or so. Rows of pristine machines sit in windowless cleanrooms, which are almost as free of humans as they are of dust. Intel and Texas Instruments have spent decades perfecting this almost sci-fi form of manufacturing. Now they want to show the rest of the world how it’s done.
The chipmakers have set their sights on what researcher IHS estimates is a $185 billion global market for gear to automate industrial production. To capture a portion of that spending, they’re prodding companies to bring the Internet of Things—a term that describes a world in which physical objects are embedded with electronics and talk to each other—into factories. “It’s moving beyond hype and into engineers rolling up their sleeves,” says Doug Davis, senior vice president of the IoT division at Intel, which had more than $2 billion in sales last year. “The economic value and impact are unquestioned.”
ProGlove, developed by Workaround, is an “intelligent” glove that uses chips to power a simple display on the wrist. If the person wearing the glove completes an assembly task correctly, a large green check mark appears.
“The program creates music in four main steps. First it learns from a corpus of existing compositions. Then it generates an abstract musical structure. Next it populates this structure with chords. Finally, it massages the structure and notes into a specific musical framework. In just a few seconds, out pops a musical piece that nobody has ever heard before. The result of this top-down approach is that Kulitta becomes discerning, throwing out musical elements it thinks do not help the composition.”
Future shipping ports won’t need acres and acres of land to transfer and hold containers unloaded from ships. Instead, robotic carts and elevators will efficiently shuttle containers around multistory structures and deliver them to tractor-trailers that pull in below.
That’s the idea behind the Robotic Container Management & Storage System being proposed by Israel Aerospace Industries. The whole thing would be managed by an autonomous control system overseen by human operators.
IAI says the system can load and unload containers 1.5 times faster than currently possible while reducing space needed for operations by half.
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”.