7 Top Robotics Stocks to Buy in January – The Motley Fool

Back in October, I took a look at investing in the robotics sector, reviewed some of the biggest robotic stocks, and picked out five stocks worthy of close consideration for investors. It's now time to reappraise the five stocks: Deere (NYSE:DE), Zebra Technologies (NASDAQ:ZBRA), Cognex (NASDAQ:CGNX), Germany's KION Group (OTC:KIGRY), and France's Dassault Systemes (OTC:DASTY), and also add two more stocks to the list -- Switzerland's ABB (NYSE:ABB) and PTC (NASDAQ:PTC).

Image source: Getty Images.

Deere's inclusion is down to its precision agriculture solutions, which are increasingly being adopted by customers of Deere's agricultural equipment machinery. The solutions include on-board computers, telematics, and web-enabled sensors, which help farmers use automated guidance technology to manage and guide equipment.

Those solutions will help drive sales in the long term, but in the near term Deere is having to deal with pressure due to farmers being cautious in spending because of the U.S.-China trade war and, arguably more importantly, the impact of African swine fever on demand for soybean meal.

KIGRY data by YCharts

That said, an easing of trade tensions would obviously help Deere, and in the long term U.S. farmers can export crops to markets other than China. However, if you are worried about African swine fever spreading into neighboring countries from China, Deere might be a stock to avoid in the near term.

Machine vision company Cognex has also had a difficult year, at least operationally, due to a slowdown in spending on automation solutions in the automotive and consumer electronics (notably smartphones) industries -- early adopters of automation and robotics, and consequently machine vision technology.

The long-term trend toward increasing penetration of automation and robotics in manufacturing is still in place and will be boosted by the increasing adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) technology --even if 2019 was a year of synchronized, but cyclical, weakness in the automotive and consumer electronics industries.

Zebra Technologies and its data capture and analysis solutions (barcode readers, scanners, and mobile computers) are an essential part of the movement toward smart manufacturing and logistics. If companies are going to increase automation and robotics spending, they are going to have to gather information in order to manage physical assets better -- that's where Zebra comes in.

The company is set for another year of mid-single-digit revenue growth (more of the same is expected in 2020) and remains a prodigious cash generator -- around 15% of sales are expected to convert into free cash flow in 2020. On a P/E ratio of 18 times forward earnings Zebra still looks a good value, even if its strong rise in 2019 meant it was one of the best-performing industrial stocks in the market.

KION is No. 1 in Europe in industrial trucks (only Toyota is bigger on the global stage) and the No. 1 global provider of supply chain solutions (material handling solutions for warehouses), with a heavy focus on the U.S. -- two-thirds of its supply chain solutions go to the Americas region.

Image source: Getty Images.

As such, KION is a company heavily exposed to industrial spending rates and particularly the trend toward warehouse automation spending. The growth of e-fulfillment may boost warehouse automation spending, but industrial spending overall is expected to decline in 2020.

Next year probably don't be a great one for the company. Analysts project revenue growth of just 1.1% next year as the industrial economy slows. Still, the company's stock now trades at 13 times 2020 earnings and 13.7 times free cash flow. For a company with long term growth prospects, that price is too cheap to ignore.

ABB, one of the leading robotics manufacturers in the world, makes the list because of its potential to play catch-up on margins with its main competitors. The company has been a serial underperformer in recent years, but its management is committed to restructuring the company, cutting costs, and focusing the business on digital solutions -- meanwhile paying a hefty dividend. Cautious investors might want to avoid the stock for the moment, but over the long term it presents a value opportunity.

If companies are going to invest in smart automation, robotics, and IoT solutions, such as digital twins -- digital replicas of physical assets that can be used and simulated in order to make the physical assets run better -- they are going to need industrial software to power the process.

Dassault's solutions, in common with its partner ABB, help companies design, develop, and manage the lifecycle of their products through the creation of digital twins. PTC's ThingWorx platform connects multiple devices that are capturing data and is then used to better analyze and manage physical assets -- the essence of IoT. If the wide-scale adoption of robotics and smart manufacturing is just around the corner, then Dassault and PTC are set for huge growth in the future.

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7 Top Robotics Stocks to Buy in January - The Motley Fool

Mobile Robots Where Are… – Robotics Online

by Laura Moretz, Contributing Editor Robotic Industries Association Posted 01/03/2020

In warehouses, hospitals, and factories, mobile robots are doing tasks that can tax workers with repetitive stress injuries or fatigue. AMRs (Autonomous Mobile Robots) carry heavy loads in factories, deliver meals, medicine, and laundry in hospitals, and select and pick products off warehouse shelves for shipments. In some cases, AMRs can fill empty jobs that lack applicants, and in others, they work alongside humans. Robot makers are continuously incorporating better mapping systems into AMRs to create routes through the workplace, creating better sensors to protect people who work in the same space with AMRs, and finding optimal methods for recharging AMRs. Leaders who are creating new robots reflect here about whats coming next.

New Hospitals and Hotels Plan on RobotsIn hospital environments, Aethons TUG carries meals, medicine, and linens. Peter Seiff, senior vice president for Aethon, says, When youre operating a hospital, its a miniature city in a lot of ways. The residentspatientshave a lot of needs. Aethon programs the TUGs to be personable and friendly when they meet people, using scripted phrases. The University of Pittsburg Medical Center uses 27 Aethon TUG robots. They work well around humans, as seen at this Halloween event.

Seiff hopes that architects and owners will plan for AMRs when they design new hospitals and hotels, creating designs that provide the best use of space for AMRs and humans. He says that as they employ robots, hospitals could eliminate laundry shoots and linen storage closets if AMRs like TUGs take away old linens and deliver fresh ones. In addition, thered be a gain in floor space.

The TUG rarely needs human back up, but if it does, Aethon has a patented Cloud Command Center launched in 2006 that guides TUGs remotely and also updates software for the companys 800 TUGs. Seiff says that the robots need remote assistance only 0.01% of the time.

Worker Shortage? AMRs Are Ready Jason Walker, the CEO and co-founder of Waypoint Robotics, believes that the need for AMRs is growing because employers cant find enough workers to hire. Walker says, Our value proposition is lets take the people youve already got who you know and trust and love, and lets give them better tools. Waypoints AMRs are ready to work soon after they arrive on a loading dock and dont need weeks of attention from engineers to get up to speed. They can drive through a factory once and make a map that will guide its future movements. Waypoints Vector, which has payloads of 300 pounds and 600 pounds, and MAV3K, which carries up to 3,000 pounds, both move materials efficiently. MAV3K can move pallets and large material loads, and its great for mobile manipulation with really big arms he says, but its not a forklift, and so it doesnt work alone.

The future for AMRs involves heterogenous fleets of AMRs, Walker says. Weve built our systems so that they are easy to integrate and are interoperable with all kinds of third-party external systems. He envisions AMRs from multiple manufacturers working together to complete jobs.

Walker says that he doesnt know of another company using a charging method similar to Waypoint. Through a partnership with Wibotics, Waypoint has adopted a wireless charging method called EnZone which uses radio frequency at multiple sites within a workplace. As long as you get the receiving antenna within about an inch of the transmitting antenna, it will charge at full power, and it will do it all day long.Waypoint is selling Enzone to other companies, he says. The reason we want to do that is to create an ecosystem and a standard in the robotics community where we all use one type of wireless charging system. Id rather create a bigger pie than hoard the piece Ive got.

Future AMRs Will Build on Current Success, But More SlowlyTom Galluzzo, the founder and chief technology officer of IAM Robotics, says that IAM focuses on helping companies to pick, pack, and ship longtail inventory in warehouses, that is, items stocked in small amounts. IAMs AMR, Swift, locates merchandise, uses Flash to read the SKUs, grasps the package, and moves it. It is controlled by the Swift Link server, which integrates with the existing warehouse management server.

IAM Robotics first client was Rochester Drug, a large cooperative of pharmacies that needed automation to fulfill orders at night to be delivered the next day. Galluzzo says IAM Robotics is working with everyone from fortune-five level retailers to two major health and beauty corporations that work internationally.

Galluzzo expects that as robots need to become more complex, there might be a slow down as far as implementing them. With the current technology, AMRs have the potential to do up to 80% of the thinking, he says. That frees up a person to do higher value critical thinking for operations.

Robots Perform Better with Fast, Accurate MapsKaarta, founded in 2015, does one thing and does it well: Create 3-D maps quickly in real-time. Kevin Dowling, CEO, says, Were essentially answering two questions for robots. One is, What is around me? Which is the map. And then, where am I? Which is its location. He says that customers use Kaarta software for AMRs in retail and factory environments. Were a thin part of the full stack but a very important part. In addition, the companys Contour software was used recently in the six-part National Geographic documentary series Buried Secrets of WWII.

Its other software, Stencil, is used for interiors. Examples of the results are here.

Some clients in the construction industry use a Kaarta device mounted to an AMR with legs to map difficult terrain. Data is uploaded to Kaartas cloud where it is processed. Kaarta can create a map for robots to use, or the software can be within the robot.

In addition to attaching a Kaarta system to an AMR, it can be attached to a handheld device and walked through a space to create a map. Dowling says, a large Wal-Mart takes about three hours to fully scale. There is some post-processing afterward, but the onsite time is reduced. The system can also be attached to a drone to create a map.

Remote Controls Will Keep Humans in ControlIn 2018, Fort Robotics, formerly part of Humanistic Robotics, separated its operations to focus on refining and marketing remote safety controls for AMRs.

Daria Duda, the director of product marketing at Fort, says the company designed the Wireless E-Stop and Safe Remote Control System to prevent dangerous AMR interactions with humans. The company sells the controls in construction, agriculture, and warehousing markets. Theres always going to be a need for a human to stay in control of automation or mobile robotic machine, she says. The remote control technology can be within existing remotes or it can be a separate control.

As to Forts vision for the future, she says: We want to keep things broad to gauge where the market is going and what industries are moving faster than others.

AMR Advances Mean Better Machine CollaborationMobile robots have developed the ability to lift, carry, pick, pack, sense obstacles, and stop to avoid collision. Increasingly, mobile robots from different manufacturers work collaboratively to complete tasks, and developers continue to build on existing skills. As AMRs become more able, doing most of their own thinking, humans will continue to supervise them. Developers will build on existing strengths and improve robot collaboration.

Originally published by RIA via http://www.robotics.org on 01/03/2020

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Mobile Robots Where Are... - Robotics Online

Programmed to win: NKY student robotics teams compete at CovCath – WCPO

PARK HILLS, Ky. Rock 'Em Sock 'Em robots, they are not, but these bots built by Northern Kentucky middle and high school students are designed to rip apart the competition.

Over 50 teams from across the region convened on Covington Catholic High School Saturday morning for the Colonel's Classic VEX robotics contest dubbed "Tower Takeover."

Students work in teams to build their own robots and program them to score points against opponents by dropping bright-colored blocks into goal zones.

More cubes you put in the goal zone, the more points you have, student Jason Hackman explained.

Each competition involves four teams that pair up and strategize to take down their competitors.

If they put a purple cube up in the top of the stack in the tower, each purple cube becomes two points, so they can change the dynamic of the game on the fly, CovCath Robotics Coach Bob Lind said.

To win, students use careful strategy and computer skills they learn in class and after school.

Were usually here about three hours a day, working either on programming the robot or building on new parts of it, Covington Catholic student Zach Smith said. We get a morning class where we spend about fifty minutes, and then we stay a little over two hours after school to just work on what needs to get done.

Lind sees his 29 students dedication every day. Despite the rigor, he says the teams are growing every year.

We started five years ago here, Lind said. We had three teams. Weve now grown to nine teams in that time frame.

And at least one member of the school's robotics team has qualified for state each year, and a few have gone to worldwide competition.

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Programmed to win: NKY student robotics teams compete at CovCath - WCPO

Robotics Industry to Shift from Fixed Automation to Mobile Systems – Packaging World

Kuka's KMR iiwa combines its LBR iiwa lightweight robot with a mobile, flexible platform.

The robotics market is set to transform over the next 10 years. Thats according to ABI Research, which notes that while there will be enormous growth across all subsectors, highlighted in a total market valuation of US$277 billion by 2030, that growth will not be distributed evenly. By 2022, the burgeoning mobile robotics space will start to overtake the traditional industrial robotics market. Currently, mobile autonomy is concentrated in material handling within the supply chain, but ABI Researchs new market report, Commercial and Industrial Robots," indicates that mobile robots are set to touch every sector of the global economy for a wide range of use cases.

Everyone talks about self-driving passenger vehicles, but mobile automation is far more developed in intralogistics for fulfillment and industry, says Rian Whitton, Senior Analyst at ABI Research. The automation of material handling will see huge segments of the global forklift, tow truck, and indoor vehicle market consumed by robotics vendors and Original Equipment Manufacturers [OEMs] that bring indoor autonomy.

Says ABI Research, Amazon Robotics is the leader that has driven growth in mobile robotics for the last seven years since their acquisition of Kiva Systems. With an estimated 256,000 Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) deployed to date, Amazon holds close to 50% of material handling robot market share and is broadening its portfolio of robot subtypes with autonomous mobile robots for transport and delivery.

According to the report, other major AGV developers like Quicktron, JD.com, Geek, and Grey Orange are deploying thousands of robots yearly, while Automated Mobile Robot (AMR) developers are just beginning to scale up. Brain Corp. has deployed 5,000 systems primarily in retail, and BlueBotics has deployed some 2,000 robots for intralogistics in and around the supply chain. Meanwhile MiR, an AMR company acquired by Teradyne in 2018, is beginning to achieve growth rates in excess of the companys other robotics acquisition of major cobot developer, Universal Robots.

Mobile robots debut at PACK EXPO Las Vegas

At PACK EXPO Las Vegas in September 2019, several equipment suppliers unveiled mobile robots specifically for the packaging industry. One company, Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR) showed off its range of AMRs, including its new MiR1000. With a payload of 1,000 kg, it can handle twice the weight of MiRs previous models. The MiR1000 can automatically pick up, transport, and deliver pallets and other heavy loads through dynamic environments. Like its predecessor, the MiR500, the MiR1000 is a collaborative, safe, and flexible alternative to forklifts on the factory floor.

As evidenced at the show, some robotics suppliers have started combining their mobile and cobot technologies to create even more flexible manufacturing and improved operational efficiency. In one example, Columbia/Okura partnered with Universal Robots to develop miniPAL, a mobile collaborative system that can address a range of applications in machine tending, palletizing, and packaging. The mobile setup makes it easy to move and redeploy the cobot to new processes.

Omron exhibited what it calls an autonomous mobile manipulation solutionit integrates self-navigating LD mobile robots with Omrons TM cobot arm. Its a proof-of-concept demo that lets cobots move easily to wherever they need to be, making it useful for tending and resupply of things of materials or cases.

Kuka Robotics has taken a similar approach, mounting cobots on top of mobile robots and setting them to work together in a collaborative system. Its KMR iiwa combines its LBR iiwa lightweight robot with a mobile, flexible platform. As demonstrated in Kukas booth, the system adapts easily to changing manufacturing processes to optimize production. The robots can communicate with each other to more easily work together as a complete system.

AGVs vs AMRs

According to ABI Research, the distinction between AGVs and AMRs can be contested, but AMRs do not require external infrastructure to localize themselves and are built with sensors and cameras to self-navigate their environments. Currently, AGVs represent the majority of mobile robot shipments, but by 2030, this will change. While there will be 2.5 million AGVs shipped in 2030, the total shipments of AMRs will reach 2.9 million in the same year. This is due to the declining costs of superior navigation and the desire to build flexibility into robotic fleets.

Many new verticals, like hospitality, delivery, and infrastructure, will demand systems that do not require external physical infrastructure to move about. While AGVs will thrive in intralogistics for fulfillment, especially in greenfield warehouses, AMRs solve the challenges faced by many end users by offering incremental automation that does not require a complete change of environmental infrastructure, ABI Researchs Whitton explains.

In a major example of automation extending to new and important vehicle types, the shipments of automated forklifts are set to grow from 4,000 in 2020 to 455,000 in 2030, with a CAGR of 58.9%. Meanwhile, the revenue for all mobile robotics is expected to exceed US$224 billion by 2030, compared to US$39 billion for industrial and collaborative systems.

Even more esoteric form factors, like quadrupeds, are expected to increase significantly for data collection purposes, particularly for real estate, construction, and industrial inspection. ABI Research predicts that quadrupeds will increase to 29,000 yearly shipments by 2030.

As mature sectors of the robotics industry achieve growth more in line with established technology markets, mobile robotics are set to create lasting transformative effects across the supply chain and will become increasingly ubiquitous throughout the global economy, Whitton concludes.

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Robotics Industry to Shift from Fixed Automation to Mobile Systems - Packaging World

CES 2020: From Apple and Ivanka Trump to 5G, AI, robotics here’s whats in store at the annual tech bonanza – YourStory

CES 2020, the worlds largest annual technology trade show produced by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), kicks off this week, with more than 170,000 people expected to descend in Las Vegas, Nevada, to witness the latest breakthroughs and innovations in technology.

Indeed, the sheer scale of this giant tech event is mind boggling.

Officially slated to start on Tuesday, January 7 through Friday, January 10, CES 2020 is expected to see more than 4,500 exhibitors showcase around 20,000 new tech products. These companies both startups and established tech names will showcase their latest innovations to over 170,000 attendees from at least 160 countries.

Some of the products expected to be showcased include giant TVs by the likes of LG and Samsung, a 5G-ready laptop by Dell, foldable phones and dual-screen devices likely from Samsung, Dell, Huawei, and Microsoft, as well as smart cars and smart home products powered by Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

And thats not all.

CES 2020 will feature over 1,100 industry experts and visionaries, who are slated to speak at over 300 sessions.

Additionally, more than 1,200 startups from at least 45 countries will participate at the event, making their presence felt alongside more established tech names like Intel, AMD, Dell, Nikon, Sharp, Samsung, LG, Bosch, and Panasonic, among others all of them showcasing their tech novelties at 11 different hotels and convention centres, or across a total exhibit space of more than 2.9 million square feet, in Las Vegas.

In a growing sign of the pervasiveness of tech-led innovation across industries, this years expo will see the participation of a slew of more traditional, non-tech enterprises.

Companies such as German automaker Daimler, US carrier Delta Airlines, personal care goods company Procter & Gamble, French auto parts maker Valeo, food startup Impossible Foods, and mass media conglomerate NBC Universal, are expected to make significant announcements at CES 2020, with a few even delivering keynote addresses.

With privacy a strategic imperative for all consumer businesses", Apples Senior Director of Global Privacy Jane Horvath will participate in the Chief Privacy Officer Roundtable, along with Facebooks VP of Public Policy and Chief Privacy Officer for Policy Erin Egan, Federal Trade Commissions Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter, and Procter & Gambles Global Privacy Officer Susan Shook.

The roundtable will focus on how consumer companies can build and ensure privacy at scale, regulation to ensure privacy, and what consumers want when it comes to privacy.

Quibi CEO Meg Whitman to showcase the new mobile streaming service Quibi with founder Jeffrey Katzenberg at CES 2020

Another major appearance due at CES 2020 is mobile streaming service Quibi CEO Meg Whitman, who along with Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, will showcase their new streaming service that is scheduled to launch in April.

Quibi, short for quick bites, will feature bite-sized episodes of not more than 10 minutes in duration and is expected to charge $5 per month for a version with ads.

Not just Quibi, NBCUniversal, which is also expected to launch its own streaming service in April this year, will deliver a keynote address at CES 2020, where Linda Yaccarino, Chairman of Advertising and Partnerships at NBCUniversal, will lead a panel discussion examining the future of entertainment.

Linda joins other featured speakers such as Ivanka Trump, Salesforce Chairman and co-CEO Marc Benioff, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Cho, FTC Chairman Joseph Simons, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Entrepreneur and Billionaire Mark Cuban, Unilever CEO Alan Jope, White House CTO Michael Kratsios, The Female Quotient CEO Shelley Zalis, Golden Globes nominated actor Mandy Moore, award-winning journalist Katie Couric, NFL CIO Michelle McKenna, and Americas Got Talent host Terry Crews, among others.

Ivanka Trump, Advisor to US President Donald Trump, to speak on the Path to the Future of Work at CES 2020

Ivanka Trump, who serves as an Advisor to US President Donald Trump and heads the White Houses Office of Economic Initiatives and Entrepreneurship, will participate in a fireside chat with Gary Shapiro, President and CEO, Consumer Technology Association, to talk about the Path to the Future of Work.

And theres more.

From new conference tracks to a focus on diversity and inclusion to even the appearance of companies focused on sex technology, this years event has many firsts.

YourStory is at Las Vegas, Nevada to cover CES 2020 at the invitation of the Consumer Technology Association.

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CES 2020: From Apple and Ivanka Trump to 5G, AI, robotics here's whats in store at the annual tech bonanza - YourStory

Infographic: The Evolution of Robotics and Automation – Robotics Business Review

January 01, 2020Matt Verkuilen, CIMTEC

It is safe to say we would not be able to enjoy many of our modern conveniences without automation. Thanks to advancements in robotic technology, many industrial processes have been made faster, safer and more efficient.

Although the use of automated equipment is ubiquitous now, it is important to remember that this was unheard of a lifetime ago. The first robots were used in industry in 1961, to unload parts in a die-casting facility. About 20 years later, Japanese manufacturers took advantage of new designs to introduce robotic production lines. Over the years, robots and artificial intelligence have advanced by leaps and bounds. Manufacturing and warehousing operations continue to find new ways in which they can improve and integrate their processes.

For example, robotic devices can be used to perform the most dull, repetitive tasks on the assembly line with precision and accuracy every time. By minimizing or eliminating the possibility of human fatigue or boredom, errors can be basically eliminated. Robots also enhance safety by replacing the tasks of humans who performed hazardous tasks or worked in dangerous environments. This reduces the amount of downtime caused by injuries and accidents.

As exciting as automation is for manufacturers today, the future holds virtually limitless possibilities. Thanks to the rapid development of artificial intelligence, robots are becoming smarter and more independent. Soon, humans and machines will be able to collaborate more closely on even more complex jobs.

For additional information about how far automation has come and how far it can go, see the accompanying infographic.

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Infographic: The Evolution of Robotics and Automation - Robotics Business Review

FIRST robotics competition season kick-off and 2020 game reveal – KSBW Monterey

FIRST robotics competition season kick-off and 2020 game reveal

A world wide robotics game reveal celebration for the upcoming robotics competition season. FIRST announced the 202 game is infinite recharge. Teams on the Monterey Peninsula will have six weeks to get their robots ready for the regional competition March 25-28 at Seaside High School.

Updated: 6:24 PM PST Jan 4, 2020

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FIRST robotics competition season kick-off and 2020 game reveal

A world wide robotics game reveal celebration for the upcoming robotics competition season. FIRST announced the 202 game is infinite recharge. Teams on the Monterey Peninsula will have six weeks to get their robots ready for the regional competition March 25-28 at Seaside High School.

Updated: 6:24 PM PST Jan 4, 2020

A world wide robotics game reveal celebration for the upcoming robotics competition season. FIRST announced the 202 game is infinite recharge. Teams on the Monterey Peninsula will have six weeks to get their robots ready for the regional competition March 25-28 at Seaside High School.

A world wide robotics game reveal celebration for the upcoming robotics competition season. FIRST announced the 202 game is infinite recharge. Teams on the Monterey Peninsula will have six weeks to get their robots ready for the regional competition March 25-28 at Seaside High School.

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FIRST robotics competition season kick-off and 2020 game reveal - KSBW Monterey

OptiPro uses New Scale Robotics system to inspect small parts – Robotics and Automation News

OptiPro Metrology Lab is using a system supplied by New Scale Robotics to inspect small parts. (See video below.)

The optics manufacturer is using New Scales Q-Span technology, based on its precision gripper / caliper, to automate measurement and machine tending.

The optics measuring solution involves a collaborative robot from Universal Robots and end effectors developed by New Scale.

The gripper not only picks up and moves the part, but it also makes a preliminary measure of the part.

Part handling can be an issue when using a coordinate measuring machine (CMM) to inspect small parts.

New Scale Robotics says its solution not only solves the part handling issue, but adds the significant additional new benefit of providing in-line measurement to improve CMM throughput.

In this case study with OptiPro Systems, New Scales precision gripper / caliper tool is installed on a UR3e cobot, and paired with a Zeiss O-Inspect CMM system.

Several different types of parts within a family of optics are to be inspected. The robot gripper / caliper has the following features:

The Zeiss CMM uses the measurement information to identify the part type and determine which measurement procedure to perform.

After measuring the part, the CMM relays information back to the robot indicating whether the part is good or bad. The robot sorts the parts accordingly when placing them in the output trays.

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OptiPro uses New Scale Robotics system to inspect small parts - Robotics and Automation News

AI and robotics execs look back tech trends of 2019 – Robot Report

AI and robotics are increasingly working together. Source: Mobile Industrial Robots

As 2019 winds down, every news media and technology site is pausing to reflect on the biggest trends of the past year. Some aspects of robotics and artificial intelligence are advancing rapidly; others, not so much. What should AI and robotics developers recall as they prepare for a new year?

The Robot Reportspoke with the following leaders at AI and robotics companies about their observations from the past year:

In your opinion, what was the biggest news in AI and robotics in 2019?

Visti: The biggest news in robotics this past year is a combination of two big stories the introduction of autonomous mobile robots for higher-payload materials, as well as the ability for these AMRs, and even those focused on lighter payloads, to benefit from advancements in artificial intelligence.

Innovative AI capabilities drive improved efficiency in both path planning and environmental interaction. Instead of reacting the same way to all obstacles, mobile robots can learn as they go. For example, they can distinguish between human workers and a forklift and adapt their driving patterns accordingly.

AI also enables AMRs to avoid high-traffic areas during specific times, such as when goods are regularly delivered and transferred by fork truck or when crowds of workers are present, such as during breaks or shift changes. Well definitely see the benefits of combining AI and robotics in the months and years ahead.

Versace: One of the biggest trends in 2019 has been organizations taking AI beyond the hype and actually applying it to real-world use cases. The past few years have seen a lot of buzz around the technology, but we need to cut through the noise and develop AI that can actually be implemented across industries.

Take the retail/grocery industry as an example. These companies were among the first to adopt AI and deploy robots at scale. Companies like Badger Technologiesare leaders in working with AI companies to deliver robots that retainers can deploy in supermarkets across the country.

These robots help with taskssuch as inventory management, increasing store safety, and elevating the customer experience. Weve seen more and more examples of companies approaching AI with these real-world applications in mind.

What technologies and techniques have improved the most lately, and which capabilities do you still want to see?

Versace: Weve seen progress when it comes to implementing new approaches to deep neural networks (DNNs). People may not realize that there are actually several approaches to DNNs think of them as different shades of neural networks that fall along a spectrum. The one you choose can make the difference between a failed experiment and a successful deployment.

Emerging approaches such as Lifelong-DNN (L-DNN) are moving the industry toward new, more brain-inspired approaches that are able to add new information to AI algorithms on the fly. This means that rather than starting from scratch each time you want to improve the network, you can continue to train it incrementally as you see its strengths and short fallings when deployed in the field.

While many people think thats how all AI works, it has actually been a real challenge in the industry to develop methodologies that support ongoing learning without complete retraining. Even more importantly for robotics, L-DNN moves learning to the compute edge. No server required. This means that the need to ping a server for training disappears.

Source: Neurala

In terms of what capabilities Id like to see, Im interested in platforms doing the work to connect the technology to the use case. Were seeing a lot of general-purpose solutions, but specificity is a strength in AI, and Im looking at technology that is easy to customize taking the lead this year.

Jha: There were continued improvements in large-scale machine learning (in particular deep learning), better understanding and generation of languages for much better conversational interfaces, and more accuracy in machine vision to provide better robotic perception. All of this has allowed robots to come out of cages and interact more readily with humans to solve complex problems.

In parallel, we also had a much stronger realization that ethics/bias/trust in AI needs to be center stage and not be an afterthought for developers and researchers. As AI makes more and more decisions in our everyday lives, we need to ensure that these decisions are fair and can be trusted.

Whats the most persistent misperception of AI and robotics that you encounter?

Versace: One of the biggest misconceptions about AI and robotics is that once AI is deployed, you never have to touch it again. In fact, because systems and processes are always changing, the opposite is true.

Instead, organizations need to shift their mentality to look beyond today in order to be successful. AI is continuously being challenged by emerging use cases or changing conditions, so robotics companies need to be designing AI that is able to adapt to new real-world scenarios, as they are encountered in real time, as opposed to building a solution and assuming it will work for eternity.

Jha: People continue to feel more threatened by AI and robotics than any other technology. While some of this is understandable due to the wide applications and somewhat opaque nature of the technology, a lot of this is driven by what people may have seen on screen or read in stories [that] is very different than what is the current reality.

We are nowhere near designing a machine that can think on its own and understand/display emotions to seek destruction of human beings. Most AI-based systems are trained to perform a handful of tasks efficiently and learn from the data that is fed to them. They are very good at processing vast amounts of data and drawing lots of conclusions to pick the best options, and in this limited domain, they are often better than humans.

But this doesnt make them more powerful than the humans who decide in which domains to use the machine or what datasets they would have access to. As with any other technology, we still have to be careful to ensure that robots and AI are not exploited by malicious people.

Related content: The robotics sector in 2020 and beyond: Predictions from industry gurus

What was your biggest success in 2019?

Visti: MiRs biggest success was our booming international growth, as we see more of the worlds largest companies invest in our robots for multiple sites. To accommodate this growth, weve opened larger offices throughout the world, including a new collaborative automation center in Barcelona with Universal Robots and a much larger U.S. headquarters in New York.

Teradynes industrial automation strategy makes it a strong partner for us. [Editors note: North Reading, Mass.-based Teradyne owns MiR, Universal Robots, Energid, and AutoGuide Mobile Robots.] It has the experience, capital, and power to help bring more advanced automation to companies of all sizes to make the workplace more productive, safer, and able to produce higher-quality products. While we continue to run very independently, we definitely take advantage of their expertise, and it continues to pay off for both companies.

Note: These experts will look ahead to AI and robotics in 2020 in another article to be posted soon.

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AI and robotics execs look back tech trends of 2019 - Robot Report

Engineers and nurses team up to build inflatable robots – Penn: Office of University Communications

In recent years, there have been massive advances in the world of hard roboticsrobots that are made from hard plastics and metals. These robots are excellent for industrial jobs because they are precise, strong, and well-equipped for strenuous labor. Its a smart solution for factories and warehouses, but what about jobs where humans are more integral to the work itself, such as nursing or healthcare? If researchers could develop robots that interact with humans as carefully as humans interact with one another, they could be used in a variety of fields to improve daily life in radical new ways. This is where soft robotics comes in.

James Pikul, assistant professor in mechanical engineering and applied mechanics, studies soft robotics, an emerging field that seeks to build robots that can safely handle more delicate and fragile objects. These robots must incorporate materials that deform under pressure, reducing the chances of crushing, pinching or otherwise hurting the equally soft things they interact with, such as human bodies.

In2019, Pikul and his team received a$2 million grant from the National Science Foundationto explore a new type of soft robotics that dont conform to the common conception of robots at all. These soft robots start as flat sheets, then transform into precise shapes to perform tasks. Their goal: to create an inflatable robotic mat to be placed on top of hospital beds and used to move patients. This application has the potential to increase patient comfort and decrease injuries to nurses and healthcare workers that can be caused by patient handling.

Read more at Penn Engineering.

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Engineers and nurses team up to build inflatable robots - Penn: Office of University Communications

Ambarella shows off new robotics platform and AWS AI programming deal – VentureBeat

Chip designer Ambarella has announced a new robotics platform based on its CVflow architecture for artificial intelligence processing, and it has also signed a deal with Amazon Web Services to make it easier to design products with its chips.

Santa Clara, California-based company will demo the robotics platform and the Amazon SageMaker Neo technology for training machine-learning models at CES 2020, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas next week.

Ambarella, which went public in 2011, started out as a maker of low-power chips for video cameras. But it parlayed that capability into computer vision expertise, and it launched its CVflow architecture to create low-power artificial intelligence chips.

Based on CVflow architecture, the new robotics platform targets automated guided vehicles (AGV), consumer robots, industrial robots, and emerging industry 4.0 applications.

The robotics platform provides a unified software infrastructure for robotics perception across Ambarellas CVflow SoC family, including the CV2, CV22, CV25, and S6LM. And it provides access and acceleration for the most common robotics functions, including stereo processing, key points extraction, neural network processing, and Open Source Computer Vision Library (OpenCV) functions.

Ambarella will demonstrate the highest-end version of the platform during CES 2020 in the form of a single CV2 chip, which will perform stereo processing (up to 4Kp30 or multiple 1080p30 pairs), object detection, key points tracking, occupancy grid, and visual odometry. This high level of computer vision performance combined with Ambarellas advanced image processing including native support for up to 6 direct camera inputs on CV2 and 3 on CV25 enables robotics designs that are both simpler and more powerful than traditional robotics architectures, the company said.

Jerome Gigot, senior director of marketing at Ambarella, said the technology combines the companys advanced imaging capabilities with its high-performance CVflow architecture for computer vision, leading to smarter and more efficient consumer and industrial robots.

The platform supports the Linux operating system, as well as the ThreadX real-time operating system for products that require functional safety, and it comes with a complete toolkit for image tuning, neural network porting, and computer vision algorithm development. It also supports the Robotics Operating System (ROS) for easier development and visualization.

The new robotics platform and its related development kits are available today and can be paired with various mono and stereo configurations, as well as rolling shutter, global shutter, and IR sensor options.

Above: Attendees at Amazons annual cloud computing conference walk past the AWS logo in Las Vegas, November 30, 2017.

Image Credit: Reuters / Salvador Rodriguez/File Photo

Meanwhile, Ambarella and Amazon Web Services said customers can now use Amazon SageMaker Neo to train machine learning models once and run them on any device equipped with an Ambarella CVflow-powered AI vision system on chip (SoC).

Until now, developers had to manually optimize ML models for devices based on Ambarella AI vision SoCs. This step added considerable delays and errors to the application development process.

Ambarella and AWS collaborated to simplify the process by integrating the Ambarella toolchain with the Amazon SageMaker Neo cloud service. Now, developers can simply bring their trained models to Amazon SageMaker Neo and automatically optimize the model for Ambarella CVflow-powered chips.

Customers can build an ML model using MXNet, TensorFlow, PyTorch, or XGBoost and train the model using Amazon SageMaker in the cloud or on their local machine. Then they upload the model to their AWS account and use Amazon SageMaker Neo to optimize the model for Ambarella SoCs. They can choose CV25, CV22, or CV2 as the compilation target. Amazon SageMaker Neo compiles the trained model into an executable that is optimized for Ambarellas CVflow neural network accelerator.

The compiler applies a series of optimizations that can make the model run up to 2 times faster on the Ambarella SoC. Customers can download the compiled model and deploy it to their fleet of Ambarella-equipped devices. The optimized model runs in the Amazon SageMaker Neo runtime purpose-built for Ambarella SoCs and available for the Ambarella SDK. The Amazon SageMaker Neo runtime occupies less than 10% of the disk and memory footprint of TensorFlow, MXNet, or PyTorch, making it much more efficient to deploy ML models on connected cameras.

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Ambarella shows off new robotics platform and AWS AI programming deal - VentureBeat

Geek Plus sells 10,000 warehouse robots – Robotics and Automation News

Warehouse automation companyGeek+ Robotics says it has sold more than 10,000 units of its autonomous mobile robots.

The company has seen a dramatic increase in demand for warehouse robots from sectors such as e-commerce and automotive supply chains.

Geek+ revealed the new sales figure in an update about its activity during Singles Day in China, occurring annually on November 11th, traditionally one of the busiest in the e-commerce calendar.

Other Singles Day milestones Geek+ listed include:

The company also highlighted that 4,000 robotic units were used for large-scale cluster scheduling.

And the largest-scale robotics warehouse application during the peak order volumes and delivery period of Singles Day.

Geek Plus was established in 2014 with fewer than 10 people, and now employs more than 700.

It raised more than $150 million in funding last year and is looking to expand beyond its Asian market into Europe and America.

Moreover, it has been adding more products to its range, which now includes a driverless forklift.

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Geek Plus sells 10,000 warehouse robots - Robotics and Automation News

Japan Loves Robots, but Getting Them to Do Human Work Isnt Easy – The New York Times

ASAHIKAWA, Japan Removing the tiny eyes that pockmark potatoes is dull, repetitive and time-consuming work perfect, it would seem, for robots in a country where the population is declining and workers are increasingly in short supply.

But its not so simple.

When a food processing plant that makes potato salad and stews in Hokkaido, Japans northernmost island, tried out a robot prototype designed to remove the potatoes eyes, the machine was not up to the task.

The robots camera sensors were not sensitive enough to identify every eye. While human hands can roll a potato in every direction, the robot could rotate the vegetables on only one axis, and so failed to dig out many of the blemishes that are toxic to humans. Other perfectly good pieces were carved away.

Fundamentally, it could not do the work to the standard of humans, said Akihito Shibayama, a factory manager at Yamazaki Group, which operates the plant in Asahikawa, a midsize city in the middle of Hokkaido where 30 workers process about 15 tons of potatoes a day.

Japan, the worlds third largest economy, hopes that robots and other types of automation will help solve its demographic problems and impending labor shortage. That priority is reflected in a government blueprint, dubbed Society 5.0 and repeatedly emphasized by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

But businesses are struggling as some jobs that seem ripe for a robotic takeover prove remarkably difficult to outsource to a machine.

Robots can perform simple tasks but not tasks that require judgment or the ability to evaluate a change in a situation, said Toshiya Okuma, associate director of global strategy in the robot business division of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, a leading Japanese developer of robotics that has long helped automate car factory assembly lines.

Looking to robots allows Japan to avoid hard choices about immigration, a delicate topic in a country reluctant to let in many outsiders. But its also a good cultural fit.

Japan was an early adopter of robots, installing them in car factories starting in the 1970s. And some of the most beloved Japanese touchstones are robots.

Doraemon, a cuddly blue robot cat, stars in a comic book series and one of the countrys longest-running television shows. Astro Boy or Tetsuwan Atomu in Japan is a superhero in comics, television shows and movies, a kind of android equivalent of Pinocchio who fights for peace between robots and humans.

Still, however hospitable Japanese businesses have been to robots, they have learned that robots able to perform somewhat sophisticated tasks cost much more than human workers.

So at the factory in Asahikawa, where about 60 percent of the work is automated, many tasks still require the human touch. Workers peel pumpkins, for example, because some skin enhances the flavor of stew. A robot cant determine just how much skin to shuck off.

Other efforts to use robots or automation have hit snags, in programs ranging from self-driving buses to package-delivering drones or robots that comfort nursing home residents.

A hotel staffed by androids in southern Japan ended up laying off some of its robots after customers complained that they were not as good at hospitality as people.

During a trial of self-driving buses in Oita City, also in southern Japan, one bus crashed into a curb, and officials realized that autonomous vehicles were not quite ready to cope with situations like traffic jams, jaywalkers or cars running red lights.

For decades, Japan has been a leader in the use of robots. It is the worlds largest maker of industrial robots, and once led the globe in the number of robots per employee, said Gee Hee Hong, an economist specializing in Japan at the International Monetary Fund.

More recently, according to the International Federation of Robots, Singapore, South Korea and Germany have overtaken Japan in robots per worker.

Unlike in the West, where employees often view automation as an existential threat, robots in Japan are generally portrayed as friendly forces.

Real world robots are regarded for the most part as benevolent and as a kind of symbol of an advanced, technologically savvy society, said Jennifer Robertson, a professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan and author of Robo Sapiens Japanicus: Robots, Gender, Family and the Japanese Nation.

I think the Japanese have been more innovative in thinking about applications of robotics in everyday life, Ms. Robertson added. But the hype got in the way of reality.

Helping drive the interest in robots are concerns about the declining population in Japan, where births are at their lowest level since 1874. Already industries like manufacturing, caregiving, construction and agriculture are starting to run low of workers.

In Japan, instead of displacing workers, you are simply replacing workers, said Todd Schneider, deputy division chief for the Japan division of the International Monetary Fund.

In Hokkaido, for example, where there are 1.2 job openings for every working-age resident, recent tests of autonomous driving trucks have not been perceived as a way to get rid of workers since they are already in short supply, prefectural officials say.

Hokuren, a food company that processes beet sugar in northeastern Hokkaido, needs about 250 drivers during the peak fall season to transport 6,000 tons of beets a day from farms and storage facilities to its processing plant.

Because of intense labor shortages this year, Hokuren tested autonomous vehicles manufactured by UD Trucks, a Volvo subsidiary based in Japan. But Hokuren officials say more tests are needed to ensure that vehicles can handle impediments like snowy or icy roads or changes in traffic lights.

Genyou Imai, 48, the owner of a trucking company that regularly supplies drivers to Hokuren, acknowledged that he could not hire enough to meet his clients needs and that the autonomous vehicles might free his company up for other kinds of work.

Although Parliament passed a bill last year to grant new visas to foreign workers to help cope with shortages, the government has consistently emphasized robots as more likely saviors.

So where you would potentially have immigrants doing the jobs, you say, Go make robots, said Selma Sabanovic, a professor of cognitive science at Indiana University who was a visiting scholar at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tsukuba, Japan.

Business leaders have expressed doubts that foreigners could quickly solve Japans need for workers, in part because of societal resistance.

Japan has kind of a very pure-blood race, said Noritsugu Uemura, an executive in charge of government and external relations for Mitsubishi Electric, a leading electronics manufacturer. I think not only could it take 20 or 30 years, but it will take more like 40 or 50 years to integrate immigrants into Japan.

We cant wait such a long time, he added.

Robots have helped the Kalm dairy outside Sapporo, Hokkaidos capital, trim from 15 workers to five. Now eight robots milk more than 400 cows three times a day as jazz piano music plays over loudspeakers in the barn.

Each cow wears a sensor on its collar to signal the robots when it is time for milking. Automated gates corral the animals into stalls where the robots attach suction cups to the cows teats. Computers track the volume of milk streaming into tanks.

Jin Kawaguchiya, chief executive of Kalm and a former banker who took over his wifes familys dairy business, said that to survive, it had to merge with several other local dairies that were also short of workers.

The best thing we could do, Mr. Kawaguchiya said, was make it into a humanless process.

Eimi Yamamitsu contributed reporting.

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Japan Loves Robots, but Getting Them to Do Human Work Isnt Easy - The New York Times

Powell robotics team heading to national competition – Wyoming Tribune

POWELL Students in the Robotics Club at Powell Middle School are blazing past the competition this year, and one team has been selected to represent the whole state in a global competition.

The middle school robotics team, Black and Orange Storm, took the Champions Award on Dec. 7, at the FIRST Lego League Wyoming State Championship in Casper. That drew an invite to represent Wyoming at the World Festival in April in Houston.

The team estimates the trip will cost about $10,000 for all nine members, so the team members are busy coming up with fundraising ideas including asking local businesses to sponsor their trip.

The stormers also took first place in the Robot Performance Award while Power House, another PMS team, took first place for the Innovation Solution Award.

The club is sponsored by Zac Opps, computer science instructor at PMS, and is comprised of a number of teams.

The Lego League has different themes every year, and this year the theme was City Shaper. The projects sought innovative and creative approaches to addressing various problems within a city, such as transportation, environment and accessibility.

The students were presented with the challenge of identifying a problem within their own communities, researching the problem and developing and refining a solution.

They also designed, built and programmed a robot to execute tasks on a board that simulated engineering challenges in an urban environment. The tasks involved picking up, transporting and delivering objects in various missions, with teams awarded points based on how well they carried out a mission. It was in this competition that Black and Orange Storm took the first place Robotics Performance Award.

For the innovation project, the stormers looked at ways to reuse the sand the city spreads on roadways when theres snow and ice.

It was raining and snowing at the time (they brainstormed ideas), so it was something we were thinking about, said Black and Orange Storm team member Kenan Lind.

What they discovered through their research is that cities often use salt and chemicals, which arent always great for the environment. After talking to Powell Streets Superintendent Gary Butts, however, they learned Powell crews use mostly sand, and it doesnt get reused. Instead, the city sweeps it up and uses it for landfill cover.

It gets ground down and they cant use it again, said Luke Legler, who is also a stormer.

For their innovative solution, the kids are considering how the used sand can be filtered and applied for traction on hiking trails.

Power Houses innovation project, for which they won a first place award, addressed the problem of lead poisoning with a project called Put Lead to Bed, inspired by the problems Flint, Michigan, had in 2014 with the citys water system. Through their research the team discovered lead leaches through corrosive water pipes, and small towns cant raise the revenue to replace all their old lead pipes.

The students got in touch with Powells water superintendent, Ty McConnell, and after talking to him, they developed an idea for a sealant that could be sprayed inside the pipe with a robot. The non-toxic sealant will create a barrier between the corrosive water and the lead pipes.

Hopefully, science will soon catch up with the revolutionary idea and the Power House can find a new way to help small towns with the lethal lead pipes, said Power House team member Emma Johnson.

Last year, the stormers were called the Pink and Fluffy Unicorns. It was a name team member Salem Brown wanted to stick with this year. However, the other students wanted a name thats a bit more stormy, so the unicorns became the Black and Orange Storm.

The team did win the inspiration award last year, but that success pales in comparison to what they achieved this year.

We won a real award this time, said Brown, who did a lot of research into this years innovation project.

Brown didnt have a driving passion for robotics when she first got into the club several years ago, but her interest has held ever since.

I sat down at the table and they let me in, she said of how it all began.

Most of the members have been in the club and known each other for a long time.

The stormers didnt go to the Casper competition expecting to do so well; they were just having fun at the projects. When the announcement came that the Powell students had taken the Champions Award, they were floored.

I really wasnt expecting it. When they called us onto the stage, I was completely shocked, said stormer Alan Crawford.

There are other teams in the club, including the Rovengers and Chicken Nugget Tribe, and while they didnt win any awards at the competition in Casper, the students are still getting a lot out of their experience.

I chose to join the robots team because I did robotics in elementary school and I thought I could learn a lot from the experience, said Isabelle Lobingier, whos on the Rovenger team.

The seventh-grader said her continued participation has allowed her to improve her skills and make new friends.

For Johnson, an eighth-grader with the Power House team, the best part of the experience is the sense of accomplishment.

The thing that I like most about robotics is that seeing how far youve come, she said before they went to the state competition. The team itself has gone through so many changes and I really have enjoyed watching it develop.

Any individuals or businesses who would like to sponsor the Black and Orange Storms trip to Houston for the global robotics competition can contact Opps at PMS.

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Powell robotics team heading to national competition - Wyoming Tribune

Edtech 2020: personalised learning, robotics and teacher wellbeing – Education Technology

Last year saw a number of significant changes take place in the edtech sector, and it looks like this innovation is going to continue into 2020 and beyond. For example, we have seen the rise of personalised learning a system which tests a students current level before using that information to guide them through the curriculum at an appropriate, personalised pace. Innovations in personalised learning mean that more and more students are able to enjoy and benefit from a learning experience that has been adapted to their ability.

In 2019, we have also seen a welcome discussion on the importance of bridging the gender gap in STEM subjects something I anticipate will continue to emerge as 2020 progresses. But what else can we expect 2020 to bring?

Edtech to support teacher wellbeing

In July 2019, Ofsted published a report which focused on teacher wellbeing and their research found that, despite most teachers enjoying teaching and maintaining good relationships with both colleagues and pupils, certain elements of the job led to poor occupational wellbeing for many teachers.

Although the reasons for this are complex, it is certain that technology will play a part in improving this wellbeing, especially as schools move to evidence how they are supporting teachers as part of the new Ofsted Inspection Framework. Whether this technology takes the shape of teacher-tailored wellbeing apps, or AI-software that allows for more streamlined administrative procedures, edtech will certainly be looking for ways to mitigate the undue stress on teachers and in doing so, will improve teachers wellbeing and cultivate better working environments.

Renewed emphasis on cross-curricular learning

One of the most important challenges when teaching is student engagement. Cross-curricular learning allows a child to be creative, think critically and approach a subject or discipline from a new perspective all of which help to boost engagement. But how can effective cross-curricular learning be facilitated?

Thanks to an increasingly digitised and automated workforce, the rise of robotics will continue in edtech. Robotics provides an umbrella offering of engineering, AI and technology as well as integrating subjects such as science and design into technology. Creating these cross-curricular learning opportunities through edtech will help schools and teachers streamline resource commitments but also deepen students knowledge through cross-curricular and practical applications. For example, with a little creativity, programming and coding resources can be used to measure soil pH and plant health an activity that has the power to connect the dots between coding, biology and chemistry.

Whats more, this active approach to learning reinforces the idea that science is not something that is isolated to textbooks and classrooms.

Bridging the gender gap in STEM subjects

Cross-curricular learning is about accessibility. However, the gender gap continues to be a problem in STEM subjects, with far too few girls pursuing STEM subjects as they progress through school.

Of course, a large part of the problem is rooted in societal expectations. One solution however, is to ensure that students irrespective of gender feel equipped and motivated to engage in the study of the STEM. I believe that technology has a huge role to play in this process and introducing engaging learning resources at an early age is vital in nurturing a life-long interest in these subjects.

If students are given the chance to enjoy a hands-on experience in STEM-related fields, then it is much more likely they will pursue these subjects later in their learning careers. Technology can help collapse gender expectations and ensure that all children receive a fun, inspiring and motivating introduction to the world of science, engineering and mechanics.

Coding for all

Coding has fast become an in-demand skill, particularly as we become ever more reliant on technology. Although it is clear that coding is taking centre-stage in education, few question the accessibility in this field.

To combat this, I anticipate a multi-disciplinary and creative approach that combines play principles with a personalised learning experience, building an engaging and motivating environment for students who want to involve themselves in this demanding field.

More holistic personalised learning

Personalised learning stood at the forefront of the edtech sector in 2019 and is showing very few signs of slowing down! As we enter 2020, I expect to see this trend continue but in a more holistic way. For example, I anticipate personalised learning to reach beyond meeting pupils individual needs and integrating personalised homework and revision, and assessment to ensure that pupils receive as close to a 1:1 learning experience as possible.

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Edtech 2020: personalised learning, robotics and teacher wellbeing - Education Technology

Robotics expert says automation will provide ‘more interesting’ jobs – Metro.co.uk

Robotic systems work on the chassis of a car during an automated stage of production at the Jaguar Land Rover factory (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Automation is constantly being heralded as the reason for job losses in various industries but one expert believes there is a silver lining.

Rich Walker, the company director of robotics firm Shadow Robot Company, has gone on the record to say the introduction of artificial intelligence into the workplace will free up workers to take on more interesting jobs.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, Mr Walker explained that current working practices are not as efficient as they could be. In some areas specifically manufacturing adding in smart robots would allow humans to take on more complex tasks.

Most people in manufacturing industries spend most of their time picking things up and putting them down again, he told the site.

They do this over and over again all day every day. Even in an automated production line, there will be lots of people giving it parts.

This isnt a very efficient way for people to work, he said.

Most of the companies we talk to that do that say we have lots of people, all those people know how we work as an organisation and we have much better jobs for them to do.

But we cant get them to do those better jobs because we actually have to have people standing here all day picking things up and giving them to machines or picking them up and putting them down.

So if we can just make that next bit something that machines can do then that frees up people to do far more interesting jobs.

However, other thinkers dont necessarily share the same viewpoint.

A recent report from the Institute for Public Policy Research reckons that without policy intervention, automation is likely to exacerbate existing inequality rather than improve it.

And the GMB union said old jobs are being subsumed to automation faster than new jobs and are being created after reporting 600,000 job losses in manufacturing in the last decade.

But last year the World Economic Forum (WEF) seemed to agree with Walkers viewpoint.

Despite bringing widespread disruption, the advent of machine, robots and algorithm could actually have a positive impact on human employment, it stated.

However, if automation is going to free up workers from menial tasks then there will be a challenge for employers to reskill and redeploy their workers elsewhere.

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Robotics expert says automation will provide 'more interesting' jobs - Metro.co.uk

Jonathan Waldmans SAM documents the quest to invent a robotic bricklayer – The Boston Globe

Close to 60 years later a start-up operation called Construction Robotics, based near Rochester, New York, came up with a software-programmed device that could build an entire brick wall. CR branded their creation SAM (for semi-automated mason), and in SAM: One Robot, a Dozen Engineers, and the Race to Revolutionize the Way We Build, Waldman chronicles the long hours, endless frustrations and arduous struggles it took to come up with a version of SAM that was viable. That meant a machine that was easy for contractors to operate and could function effectively in an outdoor environment (construction sites were terrible places for robots).

As he tells the story of SAM, Waldman supplies brief histories of the construction industry and robotic arms. He also highlights the almost primal connection we have with brick that we dont quite have with steel and glass.

Clay resonates, Waldman says. Around the world, across religions, mythology has it that God fashioned mankind out of clay. Like us, bricks are of the earth; like us, bricks breathe; and like us, each brick is imperfect but also good enough. Even in the 21st century, he adds, [b]ricks strike a sociological nerve, presenting a familiar, comforting fabric in our lives. Bricks make schools feel school-like and churches church-like.

The economics of construction with brick, however, are under pressure. Starting in the 1890s, with the introduction of steel as a construction material, [m]asonry went from fundamental from essential to just a veneer, Waldman writes. One result was an 80-percent reduction in the use of brick in buildings. Another was that masonry became more of a specialized trade.

While masonry accounts for only four cents of every construction dollar, building in brick is still a big business. Ten billion dollars worth of bricks are installed annually in the United States, Waldman informs us. Of all the surface area on the exteriors of all the non-residential buildings in the country, a quarter is covered in brick.

Although bricklaying remains a significantly unionized industry with many masonry firms clinging to their traditional way of working and union-negotiated level of pay, some union leaders have pushed for technical innovation as a way to save costs and bring some relief to an aging work force (the average mason is 55 years old).

This was where Scott Peters, the head of Construction Robotics, sought his opportunity.

Scott wasnt trying to replace humans, Waldman writes. [H]is aim was to combine forces, and save men their jobs by marrying man and machine. By creating a bricklaying robot, he aimed to eliminate lifting and bending and repetitive-motion injuries in humans; to improve the quality of walls; to finish jobs faster and safer and cheaper. SAM, it should be said, still needed close human supervision even when working well. It also needed to be manually supplied with bricks and mortar.

Waldman immerses you eyeball-deep in the technological and logistical challenges Scott and his team faced, while also taking the marketing side of things into account. Peters initially embraced a corporate theory of minimal viable product, which meant he booked construction gigs before SAM was completely ready. The idea was that customer feedback would suggest improvements to SAM.

Scotts gamble, Waldman writes, was certainly bold. It was also somewhere between ridiculous and insane.

Waldman is clearly exhilarated by the story hes telling, and his zest comes through in the books best turns of phrase, whether hes critiquing the appearance of an early iteration of SAM (It looked, frankly, like a hot dog cart) or noting the way that in the choreography that is construction [o]ne changed note altered the whole tune.

That said, SAM poses some stumbling blocks for the lay reader. An index and glossary would have come in handy to help keep track of all the acronyms and specialized vocabulary Waldman uses. You can, perhaps, intuit the meaning of a sentence like Kerry turned an electric drill into a slump meter with a digital readout, and made a viscometer from a Sawzall and a spade bit. But to fully understand the books details requires constant Googling. Elsewhere, Waldmans word choice can seem off for instance, when he talks about an early version of SAM being disfigured and overhauled. Might he mean dismantled or disassembled?

The books incidental pleasures include Waldmans visit to the annual World of Concrete trade show where Construction Robotics introduced SAM. Details on the U.S. Brick Olympics and International Brick Collectors Association offer quirky surprises, too.

All in all, SAM reveals a world that surrounds us but mostly eludes our notice and thats quite a feat.


By Jonathan Waldman

Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster, 267 pp., $28

Michael Upchurch is the former Seattle Times book critic.

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Jonathan Waldmans SAM documents the quest to invent a robotic bricklayer - The Boston Globe

the marscat home bot is the world’s first bionic robotic cat – Designboom

aibos rival is here! chinese tech firm elephant robotics has launched the bionic marscat on kickstarter. the robotic cat autonomously moves using its 16 motorized joints and recognizes 20 keywords including come here.

images courtesy of elephant robotics

marscat is available in white, gray, ginger, and black, and is outfitted with six capacitive touch sensors. its other electronics include a depth-sensing laser, a microphone, a speaker and a raspberry pi microprocessor. a 5mp camera in the nose allows it to see and interact with the user and its surroundings.

the home bot can reportedly recognize objects such as three included toys, plus its able to avoid obstacles and respond to several voice. marscats personality is said to develop over time, with the ability to randomly perform activities such as playing, sleeping, and even burying imaginary waste in a litter box.

determining factors include the users tone of voice, and the number of times that they handle the marscat. the more often that the user talks to the robot, the more frequently it will meow at them.

the battery life last between two and three hours and up to five hours for low usage via USB charging. the marscat is currently the subject of a kickstarter campaign where a pledge of us$649 will get you one, when and if they reach production. the planned retail price is $1,299.

you will never know what marscat will do next because it is like a real cat, fully autonomous, the company explains. marscat acts independently without any instructions. marscat walks, runs, sleeps, sits, stretches, bites nails, kneads and even buries litter although she wont produce any waste. it may express different emotions by different meows or gestures. sometimes it may do some amazing things that surprise you and make your day!

project info

company: elephant roboticsproduct: marscattype: robotic catstatus: kickstarter

kieron marchese I designboom

jan 03, 2020

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the marscat home bot is the world's first bionic robotic cat - Designboom

The 8 Best Robotics for Kids in 2020

STEM features - Robots are fun, but lets face it: A lot of the reasoning involved in splurging on a toy like this is for STEM learning. Different robots and robotics have varying levels of STEM; some have it as a primary focus, while for others its just a result of using the robot. If you specifically want your child to learn about coding or robotics, it may be better to pick a model that emphasizes these features.

Age level - The age of your child plays an important role in what kind of robot would best suit them. You may want to consider purchasing a robot that will grow with them if your child is young, offering basic features at the beginning with room to expand later. On the other hand, if your child is old enough to learn to code, a more advanced model might work better.

Personality - Its hard not to get attached to a robot, especially considering how cute some of them are. Some robots even have a personality that will develop based on interaction and use. If you think your child might enjoy having a robot companion to play with, choosing one with a personality might be a fun idea.

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The 8 Best Robotics for Kids in 2020

What’s the Difference Between Robotics and Artificial …

Is robotics part of AI? Is AI part of robotics? What is the difference between the two terms? We answer this fundamental question.

Robotics and artificial intelligence serve very different purposes. However, people often get them mixed up. A lot of people wonder if robotics is a subset of artificial intelligence or if they are the same thing.

Let's put things straight.

The first thing to clarify is that robotics and artificial intelligence are not the same thing at all. In fact, the two fields are almost entirely separate.

A Venn diagram of the two would look like this:

I guess that people sometimes confuse the two because of the overlap between them: Artificially Intelligent Robots.

To understand how these three terms relate to each other, let's look at each of them individually.

Robotics is a branch of technology which deals with robots. Robots are programmable machines which are usually able to carry out a series of actions autonomously, or semi-autonomously.

In my opinion, there are three important factors which constitute a robot:

I say that robots are "usually" autonomous because some robots aren't. Telerobots, for example, are entirely controlled by a human operator but telerobotics is still classed as a branch of robotics. This is one example where the definition of robotics is not very clear.

It is surprisingly difficult to get experts to agree exactly what constitutes a "robot." Some people say that a robot must be able to "think" and make decisions. However, there is no standard definition of "robot thinking." Requiring a robot to "think" suggests that it has some level of artificial intelligence.

However you choose to define a robot, robotics involves designing, building and programming physical robots. Only a small part of it involves artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science. It involves developing computer programs to complete tasks which would otherwise require human intelligence. AI algorithms can tackle learning, perception, problem-solving, language-understanding and/or logical reasoning.

AI is used in many ways within the modern world. For example, AI algorithms are used in Google searches, Amazon's recommendation engine and SatNav route finders. Most AI programs are not used to control robots.

Even when AI is used to control robots, the AI algorithms are only part of the larger robotic system, which also includes sensors, actuators and non-AI programming.

Often but not always AI involves some level of machine learning, where an algorithm is "trained" to respond to a particular input in a certain way by using known inputs and outputs. We discuss machine learning in our article Robot Vision vs Computer Vision: What's the Difference?

The key aspect that differentiates AI from more conventional programming is the word "intelligence." Non-AI programs simply carry out a defined sequence of instructions. AI programs mimic some level of human intelligence.

Artificially intelligent robots are the bridge between robotics and AI. These are robots which are controlled by AI programs.

Many robots are not artificially intelligent. Up until quite recently, all industrial robots could only be programmed to carry out a repetitive series of movements. As we have discussed, repetitive movements do not require artificial intelligence.

Non-intelligent robots are quite limited in their functionality. AI algorithms are often necessary to allow the robot to perform more complex tasks.

Let's look at some examples.

A simple collaborative robot (cobot) is a perfect example of a non-intelligent robot.

For example, you can easily program a cobot to pick up an object and place it elsewhere. The cobot will then continue to pick and place objects in exactly the same way until you turn it off. This is an autonomous function because the robot does not require any human input after it has been programmed. However, the task does not require any intelligence.

You could extend the capabilities of the cobot by using AI.

Imagine you wanted to add a camera to your cobot. Robot vision comes under the category of "perception" and usually requires AI algorithms.

For example, say you wanted the cobot to detect the object it was picking up and place it in a different location depending on the type of object. This would involve training a specialized vision program to recognize the different types of object. One way to do this is using an AI algorithm called Template Matching, which we discuss in our article How Template Matching Works in Robot Vision.

As you can see, robotics and artificial intelligence are really two separate things. Robotics involves building robots whereas AI involves programming intelligence.

However, I leave you with one slight confusion: software robots.

"Software robot" is the term given to a type of computer program which autonomously operates to complete a virtual task. They are not physical robots, as they only exist within a computer. The classic example is a search engine webcrawler which roams the internet, scanning websites and categorizing them for search. Some advanced software robots may even include AI algorithms. However, software robots are not part of robotics.

Do you have any fundamental robotics questions you would like answered? Tell us in the comments below or join the discussion on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or the DoF professional robotics community.

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What's the Difference Between Robotics and Artificial ...