Wednesday, October 29, 2014

She's going to talk about robots? No way.

I'm sure many of you come to this blog - see at the title and say WTF - I've never seen her post about robots here. What is up with that?

Well, it's not that I don't go to conferences reasonably often that have robots at them - I just don't always have anything interesting to say. Until today.

That's because the news flashed yesterday that Orchard Supply Hardware is going to roll out the OSHbot next month in San Jose. I swear I already planned to visit every single OSH in San Jose to track this thing down. Yes - every single one of them if I had to. Because I already kinda know how this story ends.

I bring this up because I was at a conference a couple of weeks ago that had an Adept manufacturing robot. I thought about posting about the experience after the first US Ebola case, because you just couldn't believe how well this bot autonomously navigated a packed conference room with people. And I've been watching this stuff for more years than I can remember now. I've been waiting forever for a tipping point.

People are always fearful of robots taking their jobs - but if a robot can enter a room and take care of a very infectious patient - people might change their minds. Especially because they have been working on ways to teleopertate the autonomous robots. Which I hadn't seen until this year.

IMO robots have really been in a plateau period for a few years. The lion share of the work has been in improving robot spacial awareness. There are at least a handful of ways to achieve this from a point cloud to contrast algorithms, heat sensors and sonar.  But the best improvement so far is has been with LIDAR getting less expensive. The Adept bot had two LIDAR sensors. One for horizontal vision and another one for vertical vision. And this is exactly why I haven't blogged about robots lately. Posting about these various methods is sort of dry.

All of the methods give robots different depth perception. LIDAR by far has the longest range vision ability. I believe up to three meters.

Sensors getting cheaper is what is going to propel this segment forward. And I think that day is possibly upon us.

At any rate - the job the Adept bot was fitted for was carrying silicon wafers to wherever chip manufacturers wanted them to be. This is usually a very sterile environment. You placed the wafers inside that plastic box in the above photo (or the third photo). But I'm sure it could be almost anything you wanted to keep sterile. There were four slots for the boxes, but the bot only had one box at the time.

The last photo in this series was the charging station.

So, get ready - robots are definitely finally coming to take your jobs. The good news? It's takes of a lot of components to make robots which will create new jobs. And the jobs that robots take - people might not really want anyway. Like helping treat Ebola patients.

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