By Maggie Sieger – When Hong Kong started planning a road tunnel 50 meters (164 feet) below sea level in 2012, local engineers had to find a way to keep the cutters in the massive boring shield in shape and the blades sharp enough to cut stone. Workers would squeeze between the shield, which is 17 meters in diameter, and the living rock to inspect the business end of the machine — a tight spot the Hong Kong team wanted to avoid as much as possible.
The founders of OC Robotics, a U.K.-based builder of “snake arm” robots, thought they could help. They suggested replacing the human inspectors entirely with OC’s innovative machines that can thread their 6-foot-long mechanical limbs into tight spots.
Today, an OC robot not only inspects the shield but also cleans it with a high-pressure water jet and measures the sharpness of the cutting surface with a laser. “This is faster and easier, and it keeps people safe,” says Andrew Graham, OC Robotics co-founder.
The robot’s dexterity and skills so impressed engineers from GE Aviation that they acquired OC Robotics last summer. The company believes snake-arm robots will be useful for jet engine maintenance, allowing workers to do as much work with the engine still on the wing as possible. That’s because removing an engine not only takes time, but also could take a plane out of service for days, impacting an airline’s bottom line. more>
By Harry J. Holzer – Automation eliminates the number of workers needed per unit of good or service produced. By reducing unit costs it raises productivity and, in a competitive market, product prices should decline. All else equal, this will raise consumer demand for the good or service in question.
Whether or not this rise in product demand is sufficiently large to raise overall employment for the product depends on whether the fall in workers needed per unit of production is proportionately lesser or greater than the rise in the numbers of units demanded; if lesser, than product demand will rise.
Labor economists believe that workers mostly pay for general skill development (often in the form of lower wages, when the training occurs on the job), while employers are willing to share more in the costs of developing worker skills more specific to their needs.6 A shift away from specific towards more general skill training will thus involve a shift of the costs of training away from employers towards workers (or the public), and less sharing of any risks involved in whether the market rewards those skills over time.
Some workers whose tasks can mostly be performed by machines will be displaced, while demand is enhanced for others who can work along with the new machines—perhaps as technicians or engineers but also in a range of newer tasks that the machines cannot perform, including more complex analysis or social interactions with customers and coworkers. more> https://goo.gl/pveH2W
Posted in Book review, Broadband, Business, Economic development, Economy, Education, Technology
Tagged Automation, Jobs, Productivity, robots, Training, Unemployment
By Tomas Kellner – Until now. GE is taking a second look at nimble robots that can operate in tough spots. Last year, GE Ventures invested in Sarcos Robotics, an innovative company developing robots for tasks that are too difficult or dangerous for humans.
“We are really focused on the part of robotics that is about human augmentation, as opposed to human replacement,” says Sarcos Co-founder and President Fraser Smith.
These are no assembly line robots, either. Ben Wolff, Sarcos chairman and CEO, says his engineers are building dexterous robots that can do meaningful work in unpredictable or unstructured environments. Echoing Mosher’s vision, the machines can navigate new surroundings and have “very fine motor controls that allow them to manipulate objects in exactly the same way you would with your arms if you could lift so much,” Wolff says.
One such machine, the remotely operated Sarcos Guardian S snake robot, can crawl inside and inspect steam pipes within a nuclear power plant or oil storage tank. “Rather than sending a human rappelling down an 80-foot wall to look for corrosion inside a petroleum storage tank, we can send the robot,” Wolff says. more> https://goo.gl/9pYRJh
Posted in Economic development, Economy, Education, History, Product, Science, Technology
Tagged Business improvement, GE, Industrial economy, robots, Technology
Child’s Play: Machines Learning Like Kids Will Usher In The Next Industrial Revolution
By Mike Keller – No matter what you believe on this subject, there’s no doubt that smart machines are firmly planted in the global zeitgeist these days.
“You’ve got people painting a very dark picture of robotics,” says John Lizzi, who heads GE’s research lab on distributed intelligent systems.
“The concept of AI taking over is interesting, but getting anywhere near that type of capability is very far away. And while the rest of the world is dreaming up these science-fiction futures, we’re taking the technology and solving real problems today.”
Since the first robots started working on factory floors 55 years ago, a significant number of smart machines have come on the market and are now under development. In recent years, several have grabbed attention for how they promise to improve work and home life. These include Google’s self-driving cars as well as humble domestic helpers like iRobot’s Roomba.
Then, of course, there are the millions of robotic arms and other industrial machines deployed in automotive manufacturing, healthcare and other industries. They have proven themselves thoroughly in factories and their expanding skills mean that the ranks of bots toiling among us is certain to grow.
According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), 1.5 million industrial robots were operating at the end of 2014, and an estimated 12 percent yearly increase in that number means 2.3 million will be operating by the end of 2018. more> http://goo.gl/JuPb20
Posted in Broadband, Business, Economic development, Economy, Education, History, Net, Product, Technology
Tagged Broadband, Business improvement, GE, Industrial economy, Internet, Jobs, Manufacturing, robots