Hear about the robot rodeo?

May 28, 2010

Hear about the robot rodeo? It’s sponsored by TARDEC and a blast for anyone that gets involved. http://ht.ly/1QSYP

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Do Robots Take People’s Jobs?

May 18, 2010

By Jeanne Ditesch, MobileRobots Inc.

To say robots eliminate jobs is a bit like saying there would be more jobs if the wheel had not been invented.

Copyright, 2009, used with permission of MobileRobots Inc.

Technology taking jobs is a notion that probably dates back to the invention of the wheel. After all, it took four bearers to carry the Pharaoh and only one to pull a chariot!

The problem is that most people stop thinking after the first domino falls instead of following the path of events further on. Let’s continue down the path: Once the wheel is invented, more people can travel comfortably, goods can be carried farther, better roads are built and commerce thrives. A few bearers of the ruling class have to find new work, the remainder of the world benefits and thousands of jobs are created.

Let’s fast-forward through history and take a look at the tractor. Now it happens that my grandfather bred workhorses. The family oral history has it that, upon the introduction of Henry Ford’s inexpensive tractor in the Twenties, the price of workhorses dropped 10% per week. My grandfather lost his farm, moved his family to Florida where my father at age 14 had the only job in this family of six, delivering newspapers.

However, the advent of the tractor and modern farming techniques transformed the US from a country where 40% of the population needed to farm to one in which 2% of the population could feed the other 98%. This freed a larger proportion of young adults to attend college and start the computer revolution that has created millions of jobs in the U.S. and worldwide.

Did people lose jobs to computers? Yes, a number of secretaries had to upgrade their skills, and executives who refused to learn to type had a tough time of it. But these jobs were replaced by tens of thousands of high-paying software engineering positions, plus computer installers, computer operators, data storage firms and more.

Simplistic thinking visualizes a fixed pool of jobs, with new technology taking some away. In reality, new technologies create new opportunities for our children. In the case of robots, the direct new jobs involve designing, building, programming, integrating, installing, servicing, maintaining, managing and refining the machines.

Robots will enable humans to work in hostile environments where they could never work before: for instance, farming the ocean floor, mining super subterranean excavations, manufacturing in space and in the Antarctic all become realistic endeavors. Building on nano- and cosmic scales begin to become practicable. The limited imaginations that believe jobs will stay the same, except that robots will do them all, should take a look around them.

If it were true that technology makes people poorer, would we not find evidence of that all around us? Technology-poor countries would have full employment and technology-rich countries would have the lowest GDP per person. Instead, in technology-rich nations, so-called “poor” people often own cars and televisions, have a roof over their head and food for their tables.

Of course, anyone can argue that material wealth does not make for spiritual wealth; that’s a matter for philosophers to wrestle with. And certainly there is room for improving systems for helping those in transition between jobs. But finding evidence that technological advance decreases material wealth for the general population is very difficult.

Technology raises the floor for all; it is the great uplifter.


RIA Robot Safety Training Seminar Hosted in New York by Corning

May 13, 2010

By Jim Adams and Brian Huse, Robotic Industries Association

Robot Safety Training in Corning, New YorkRobotic Industries Association takes its safety training seminar to Corning, New York for a one-day robot safety seminar on July 1. Hosting our event is Corning Incorporated, a pioneer in the use of robots for non-automotive applications and long-standing member of RIA.

We start first thing in the morning with a thorough introduction to all of the essential information contained in the ANSI/RIA R15.06-1999 Robot Safety Standard. Here, you will learn the basic safety guidelines for robotic applications, identify key elements of the robot safety standard and apply provisions of the standard in daily operations. Seminar includes an introduction on the ANSI/RIA/ISO 10218-1-2007 Standard.

In the afternoon is a “guided tour” through each stage of a risk assessment as specified in the Robot Safety Standard. You learn to identify necessary tasks, identify possible hazards, determine risk reduction requirements, reason possible solutions to reduce risk, validate proposed solutions and document the risk assessment.

Download a Syllabus containing complete course agenda.

This cost-effective one-day course format is useful for training a limited number of workers, and its one-day format minimizes time away from the worksite. Help make your workplace safer this year by joining us!

Register Online Now! Registration Form


Robots Gain Traction in Wall Street and Main Street

May 2, 2010

By Brian Huse, Director, Marketing & PR, Robotic Industries Association

First quarter revenue is up strongly at iRobot (IRBT), a publicly traded maker of household robotic vacuum appliances (Roomba), and also makers of battlefield robots (PackBot). Their revenue in the first quarter of 2010 increased 67 percent to $95 million compared with $57 million for the same period in 2009. Their biggest clients are the U.S. government plus lots of Roomba customers and business is good.

Profits at iRobot swung steeply to the positive at $6 million in the first quarter of 2010 compared to a $2 million loss in the same quarter last year. That is quite a statement for any company emerging from the Great Recession.

Even when economic times are rough, investments in robotics continue to gain ground at small and large companies, universities and colleges and major industrialized nations. This sets the stage for strategic alliances between government and private sectors in places like the U.S., Japan and Korea.

How fortuitous is it that a humanoid robot was jointly developed by GM and NASA in time to send it to the International Space Station just before the space shuttle fleet officially retires? That is quite a statement on the automotive sector as a high-tech hotbed.

Perhaps it should be no surprise that robots continue to permeate society. Pioneers like Intuitive Surgical (ISRG), maker of the da Vinci line of surgical robots, have brought robots to the operating room in hospitals all over the U.S. CyberKnife, a highly touted tool for treating cancer, is based on industrial robot technology. Drug discovery makes heavy use of robotics as does silicon chip making.

I’ve ridden a robot (KUKA’s Robocoaster), observed them on stage for Bon Jovi (ABB), had a drink at RoboBar (Motoman) and got my son Sure Smile orthodontic braces shaped by a Stäubli robot. Most of us have seen robots in the movies (FANUC and others) or in starring roles for TV commercials.

Children in elementary school work with robotics in the form of LEGO MINDSTORMS. Robotic competitions for high school students are all the rage thanks to FIRST. From Wall Street to my Detroit neighborhood and beyond, robots toil to entertain, serve and work with us – they are practically everywhere and at the center of good-paying, interesting jobs for new graduates and workers training for new opportunities.

Have you had an interesting or unexpected encounter with robots?