Robotic parcel sorting facility in China

The dumb robots fall into the holes, while the smarter ones survive and breed. From the YouTube description:

Chinese delivery firm is moving to embrace automation.

Orange robots at the company's sorting stations are able to identify the destination of a package through a code-scan, virtually eliminating sorting mistakes.

Shentong's army of robots can sort up to 200,000 packages a day, and are self-charging, meaning they are operational 24/7.

The company estimates its robotic sorting system is saving around 70-percent of the costs a human-based sorting line would require.

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Meet Flippy, the burger-flipping robot

Miso Robotics' Flippy is a "kitchen assistant" robot that can grill, flip, prep, fry, and plate food.

“We focus on using AI and automation to solve the high pain points in restaurants and food prep," says Flippy CEO David Zito. "That’s the dull, dirty and dangerous work around the grill, the fryer, and other prep work like chopping onions. The idea is to help restaurants improve food quality and safety without requiring a major kitchen redesign.”

And what of those millions of people who flip burgers to make ends meet?

“Tasting food and creating recipes will always be the purview of a chef," says Flippy CEO David Zito. "And restaurants are gathering places where we go to interact with each other. Humans will always play a very critical role in the hospitality side of the business given the social aspects of food. We just don’t know what the new roles will be yet in the industry.”

(TechCrunch via Laughing Squid)

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What a 19th-century rebellion against automation can teach us about the coming war in the job market

Our friend and frequent Boing Boing contributor Clive Thompson has a piece in the January/February issue of Smithsonian magazine entitled "Rage Against the Machines." He explores the 19th century Luddite Revolution, the first rebellion against automation, comparing it to the upcoming robot workforce revolution.

I didn't know that pre-industrial textile workers were well-paid and had lots of free time. No wonder they fought so hard against textile automation!

At the turn of 1800, the textile industry in the United Kingdom was an economic juggernaut that employed the vast majority of workers in the North. Working from home, weavers produced stockings using frames, while cotton-spinners created yarn. “Croppers” would take large sheets of woven wool fabric and trim the rough surface off, making it smooth to the touch.

These workers had great control over when and how they worked—and plenty of leisure. “The year was chequered with holidays, wakes, and fairs; it was not one dull round of labor,” as the stocking-maker William Gardiner noted gaily at the time. Indeed, some “seldom worked more than three days a week.” Not only was the weekend a holiday, but they took Monday off too, celebrating it as a drunken “St. Monday.”

Croppers in particular were a force to be reckoned with. They were well-off—their pay was three times that of stocking-makers—and their work required them to pass heavy cropping tools across the wool, making them muscular, brawny men who were fiercely independent. In the textile world, the croppers were, as one observer noted at the time, “notoriously the least manageable of any persons employed.”

But in the first decade of the 1800s, the textile economy went into a tailspin.

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When robots take routine middle-class jobs, those workers drop out of the workforce

In Disappearing Routine Jobs: Who, How, and Why? economists from USC, UBC and Manchester University document how the automation of "routine" jobs (welders, bank tellers, etc) that pay middle class wages has pushed those workers out of the job market entirely, or pushed them into low-paying, insecure employment. Read the rest

Robots vs the middle class: everyone's endangered, white people less so

On Common Dreams, Paul Buchheit rounds up a ton of scholarly/economic papers on the ways that automation is coming to employment niches occupied by well-educated middle-class professionals, who face the same dilemma their "low-skilled" industrial colleagues have been living through for three decades and counting. Read the rest

Video about Amazon Go, retail store with no checkout lines or registers

Amazon Go, an 1,800-square foot min-supermarket in Seattle, doesn't have human cashiers or checkout lines. Sensors and cameras see everything you add to your cart or bag and charge your account when you walk out the door.

Our checkout-free shopping experience is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning. Our Just Walk Out technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. When you’re done shopping, you can just leave the store. Shortly after, we’ll charge your Amazon account and send you a receipt.

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Madeline Gannon's Mimus examines robot-human interdependence

The Design Museum in London just unveiled Mimus, Madeline Gannon's newest exploration of robot-human interdependence. From its enclosure, Mimus senses visitors and interacts with them. Read the rest

As sewbots threaten Asia's sweatshops, we need to decide who will benefit from automation

A new International Labour Organization report called ASEAN in transformation: How technology is changing jobs and enterprises predicts that "sewbots" -- sewing robots that can piece together garments with little or no human intervention -- will replace up to 90% of garment and footwear workers in Cambodia and Vietnam in the years to come. Read the rest

Meet your robot gardener

The FarmBot Genesis is an open-source robot gardener for home food production. You design your mini-farm with their app and then the Raspberry Pi-powered robot handles the rest, from planting to watering, weeding to harvesting. The FarmBot Genesis sounds like the evolutionary descendant of Ken Goldberg and Joseph Santarromana's groundbreaking 1994 telerobotic artwork, the TeleGarden:

FarmBot Genesis:

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Take the Pew Future of the Internet Survey

The Pew Research Center is soliciting answers for a "Future of the Internet" survey that asks a bunch of thought-provoking questions about the security of the Internet of Things; social cohesion in a social media-dominated public sphere; education and innovation; automation and robots taking our jobs; machine learning and justice; and the tone of the online public sphere in the next 10 years. Read the rest

Manual mail-sorting at the turn of the 20th century

I can only hope they whistled the same jaunty tunes as their Ghanian counterparts while sorting the mail in Chaplainesque ballet. Read the rest

Stephen Hawking: robots could give us all material abundance, unless rich people hoard all the wealth

In a Reddit AMA, the eminent physicist warns that while increasing automation could give us a world of "luxurious leisure," that "most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution." Read the rest

Artificial Intelligence, considered: Talking with John Markoff about Machines of Loving Grace

Literary podcaster Rick Kleffer writes, "I must admit that it was too much fun to sit down with John Markoff and talk (MP3) about his book Machines of Loving Grace. Long ago, I booted up a creaking, mothballed version of one of the first Xerox minicomputers equipped with a mouse to extract legacy software for E-mu. Fifteen years later I was at the first Singularity Summit; the book was a trip down many revisions of memory road."

John Markoff’s ‘Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robot’ is a fascinating, character-driven vision of how the recent past created the present and is shaping the near future. The strong and easily understood conflict at the heart of this work gives readers an easy means of grasping the increasingly complicated reality around us. If we do not understand this history, the chances are that we will not have the opportunity to be doomed to repeat it.

Our technological ecology began in two computer labs in Stanford in the early sixties. In one lab, John McCarthy coined the term “Artificial intelligence” with the intention of creating a robot that could think like, move like and replace a human in ten years. On the opposite side of the campus, Douglas Englebart wanted to make it easier for scholars to collaborate using an increasingly vast amount of information. He called it IA, Intelligence Augmentation as a direct response to AI. Thus were born two very different design philosophies that still drive the shape of our technology today – and will continue to do so in the future.

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"Unmanned factory" replaces 600 humans with robots

Official Chinese Communist Party newspaper People's Daily claims that the Changying Precision Technology Company in the city of Dongguan replaced 600 people on its assembly lines with 60 robots, making it the "first unmanned factory in Dongguan" as part of the company's "Robot Replace Human" program. Read the rest

WATCH: Our robot overlords will excel at ping-pong

This ad from Omron Automation & Safety intends to make advanced automation seem fun, but the execution makes it seem like your future will depend on whether you win your sudden death table tennis match with a robotic version of the Aliens xenomorph. Read the rest

Upcoming O'Reilly conference on the future of work: WTF

Tim O'Reilly: "What do on-demand services, AI, and the $15 minimum wage movement have in common? They are telling us, loud and clear, that we’re in for massive changes in work, business, and the economy." Read the rest

Letter from the post-work dystopian future

Joel Johnson's short sf story "Hello and Goodbye in Portuguese" is a series of letters between a brother and sister on either side of the post-work divide: the have, and the have-not. Read the rest

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