Tag: Robot

Robot kills fellow worker

In what could be a first, a robot is being sued for killing a human colleague.

In July 2015, Wanda Holbrook, “a maintenance technician performing routine duties on an assembly line” at an auto-parts maker in Ionia, Michigan, called Ventra Ionia Main, “was ‘trapped by robotic machinery’ and crushed to death”.

On March 7, her husband, William Holbrook, filed a wrongful death complaint in Michigan federal court, naming five North American robotics companies involved in engineering and integrating the machines and parts used at the plant. These included Prodomax, Flex-N-Gate, FANUC, Nachi, and Lincoln Electric.

Holbrook’s job involved keeping robots in working order. She routinely inspected and adjusted processes on the assembly line at Ventra, which makes bumpers.

Holbrook was performing her regular duties when a machine acted very irregularly, according to the lawsuit reported in Courthouse News.

Holbrook was in the plant’s six-cell “100 section” when a robot unexpectedly activated, taking her by surprise. The cells are separated by safety doors and the robot should not have been able to move. But it somehow reached Holbrook, and was intent on loading a trailer-hitch assembly part right where she stood over a similar part in another cell.

The machine loaded the hardware onto Holbrook’s head. She was unable to escape, and her skull was crushed. Co-workers who eventually noticed that something seemed amiss found Holbrook dead.

William Holbrook seeks an unspecified amount of damages, arguing that before her gruesome death, his wife “suffered tremendous fright, shock and conscious pain and suffering”.

He also names three of the defendants — FANUC, Nachi, and Lincoln Electric — in two additional claims of product liability and breach of implied warranty.

The case argues that the robots, tools, controllers, and associated parts were not properly designed, manufactured or tested, and not fit for use.

“The robot from section 130 should have never entered section 140, and should have never attempted to load a hitch assembly within a fixture that was already loaded with a hitch assembly. A failure of one or more of defendants’ safety systems or devices had taken place, causing Wanda’s death,” the lawsuit alleges.

Gates rubbished over robot tax idea

Software King of the World and sworn enemy of the mosquito, Sir William Gates III, has attracted much mock over his idea to tax robots.

Gates pointed out that if robots were going to do the work of a person they should be taxed. That way at least they could help pay the unemployment benefits of those who don’t have jobs because of the robots.

Former Treasury Secretary Summers wrote a Washington Post opinion piece  in which he dubbed Gates “profoundly misguided”.

“Why pick on robots?” Summers said that progress, however messy and disruptive sometimes, ultimately benefits society overall.

Mike Shedlock, a financial adviser with Sitka Pacific Capital Management in Edmonds, Washington, wrote on his bog that robot owners, who likely would pay the tax, would simply pass it along by jacking up prices.

The European Union’s parliament in February rejected a measure to impose a tax on robots, using much the same reasoning as Gates’ critics.

However, it was not all criticism. One Bloomberg columnist thought Gates was right to say that we should start thinking ahead of time about how to use policy to mitigate the disruptions of automation.” So if we’re not going to tax robots, then how should society handle the next great wave of automated labour?

NASA wants self-controlling robots

humans-channel4-amc-sci-fi-tv-seriesNASA’s autonomous robotics group have created a 3D robot user interface which could be the first step towards robots with independent minds.

The group is currently developing new technology to improve how humans explore the solar system, and how robots can help.

Terry Fong, senior scientist for autonomous systems at the NASA Ames Research Centre, said that the cunning plan was for humans to interact with autonomous systems and create trusted systems.

When NASA began working with remotely operated robots several years ago, Fong said the scientists needed a piece of software that would allow them to look at terrain and sensor data coming from autonomous robots. That led to the creation of the VERVE interface which allows scientists to see and grasp the three-dimensional world of remotely operated robots.

Verve has been tested with NASA’s K10 planetary rovers (a prototype mobile robot that can travel bumpy terrain), with its K-Rex planetary rovers (robot to determine soil moisture), with SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) on the International Space Station (ISS), and the new Astrobee – a robot that can fly around the ISS.

In 2013, NASA carried out a series of tests with astronauts on the ISS, during which astronauts who were flying 200 miles above Earth remotely operated the K10 planetary rover in California.

Maria Bualat, deputy lead of intelligent robotics group at the NASA Ames Research Centre said that because of the time delay, astronauts can’t just “joystick a robot” and need the bot to complete tasks on its own.

“On the other hand, you still want the human in the loop, because the human brings a lot of experience and very powerful cognitive ability that can deal with issues that the autonomy’s not quite ready to handle.”

Human capabilities and robotic capabilities comprise a powerful combination.

One of the goals at NASA is to transfer its technology to the commercial sector, such as supporting autonomous vehicles in partnership with Nissan.

German robot maker divorces US arm

9001fd8dad9c18686a3bd19bd803603cGerman industrial robot maker Kuka has flogged off its Systems US-Aerospace-Business to Advanced Integration Technology to satisfy demands from US watchdogs who were unhappy about its takeover by a Chinese buyer.

Home appliance maker Midea  launched its offer for Kuka in May, the biggest Chinese deal for a German industrial technology company.

Kuka said its takeover by Midea needed the approval of the US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States and the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls.

“The sale of the Systems US-Aerospace-Business is a crucial prerequisite to obtain these approvals,” it said.

However there is a wave of hostility in the US over Chinese firms coming over there and buying up their companies particularly if these have strategic technologies abroad without allowing reciprocal transactions at home. The US earlier this month blocked a deal for a Chinese buyer to take over German chip equipment maker Aixtron for this reason.

Kuka’s Systems Aerospace business focuses on tooling and the automation of assembly processes such as drilling and riveting for aircraft manufacturing.

Passport robot tells Asian bloke to open his eyes

A screenshot of New Zealand man Richard Lee's passport photo rejection notice, supplied to ReutersYou would think that a robot would not have a problem with race – after “all you humans look alike”.

But a Kiwi bloke of Asian descent had his passport photograph rejected when facial recognition software mistakenly registered his eyes as being closed.

Richard Lee’s attempt to renew his passport was blocked after he submitted the picture to an online passport photo checker run by New Zealand’s department of internal affairs.

The automated system told the 22-year-old engineering student the photo was invalid because his eyes were closed, even though they were clearly open.

Of course the story has now been posted on Facebook and the problem of racist robots made public.

Lee however does not blame the technology because it is a new thing and he is an engineer so he knows how pants these things can be when they first come out.

“It was a robot, no hard feelings. I got my passport renewed in the end.”

A NZ government spokesman said that up to 20 percent of passport photos submitted online are rejected for various reasons, an Internal Affairs spokesman said.

“The most common error is a subject’s eyes being closed and that was the generic error message sent in this case,” he said.


CEOs will replace you with a robot like a shot

humans-channel4-amc-sci-fi-tv-seriesA new study has revealed that most CEOs will replace their human staff with computers and AI the moment they get the chance.

Beancounters at Korn Ferry interviewed 800 business leaders across a variety of multi-million and multi-billion dollar global organisations. The firm says that 44 percent of the CEOs surveyed agreed that robotics, automation and AI would reshape the future of many work places by making people “largely irrelevant”.

Of course they are speaking as those who know they are irrelevant and just need to replace all the other staff workers while they still have the authority to do so.

The global managing director of solutions at Korn Ferry Jean-Marc Laouchez said that leaders were facing what experts call a tangibility bias.

“Facing uncertainty, they are putting priority in their thinking, planning and execution on the tangible — what they can see, touch and measure, such as technology instruments,” he said.

Many CEOs have allowed technology to occupy anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of their priorities when it comes to strategic focus, financial investment and their time.

The firm also compiled a list of the top five assets of companies which did not even list human talent as an asset and instead included Real Estate, Brand, Product / Service, R&D/ Innovation and Technology as the number one asset.

Laouchez offered his view on why human talent was not considered an asset by the CEOs surveyed, saying: “Putting an exact value on people is much more difficult, even though people directly influence the value of technology, innovation and products.”

While artificial intelligence and robotics will play a huge role in the future of business, Korn Ferry believes that CEOs should not undervalue the creativity and influence that people can bring to a business.

Perhaps they only do so because they lack any creativity themselves and spend most of their time inventing new buzzwords to justify their huge salaries and periodic corporate layoffs.

US elections see the rise of the Twitter bots

Alice_Micro_Robot_SwarmResearchers have shown that the lead candidates in both the US elections are relying on Twitter bots to get out their message.

Researchers demonstrated in their analysis of Twitter traffic during the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and found huge numbers of active bots which were being used to amplify support on Twitter.

Samuel Woolley, director of research at Political Bots, said automated accounts were tweeting messages with hashtags associated with the candidates. For example, #makeamericagreatagain or #draintheswamp for Trump; #imwithher for Clinton. The numbers were huge  –  one third of all tweets using pro-Trump hashtags were created by bots and one fifth of all Clinton hashtags were generated by automated accounts.

Woolley said that the bots were acting as a prosthesis for small groups of people to affect conversation on social media. This bot activity was often picked up by the “real media” to show who had a lot of support online.

“But what we found was that a lot of traffic surrounding Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is actually manufactured,” he said.

This has been seen in the past. Such bots were used in the 2008 special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s Massachuetts Senate seat in 2008.

A conservative group in Iowa, the American Future Fund, set up nine Twitter accounts that sent 929 tweets and reached more than 60,000 people with messages accusing the Democratic candidate in the race, Martha Coakley, of being anti-Catholic, the researchers found.

“Political actors and governments worldwide have begun using bots to manipulate public opinion, choke off debate, and muddy political issues. Political bots tend to be developed and deployed in sensitive political moments when public opinion is polarized,” Woolley and his colleagues wrote in their report.

“The problem is that a lot of people don’t know bots exist, and that trends on social media or even online polls can be gamed by bots very easily.

It has been estimated that the proportion of bots to humans on the Internet is about 50-50.

US Army to have more killer robots than people by 2025

Robby the Robot - Wikimedia CommonsA top British cyber-spook has told the Daily Express that the US was considering plans to employ thousands of robots by 2025.

John Bassett, a British spy who worked for the agency GCHQ for nearly 20 years told coppers and counter-terrorism officials in London that by 2025 the US army will actually have more combat robots than it will have human soldiers.

Many of those combat robots will be trucks that can drive themselves, and they will get better at not falling off cliffs and it is possible that in the West combat robots outnumber human soldiers.

Robotic military equipment is already being used by the US Navy and Air Force, in the shape of drones and autonomous ships. In April robotic warfare took a major leap forward after the US Navy launched its very first self-piloting ship designed to hunt enemy submarines.

Of course drones have been a feature of US operations in the Middle East to disrupt terrorist groups. However, those aircrafts are still controlled by humans operating from bases in the US.

Bassett also said artificial intelligence and robots technology would combine to create powerful fighting machines. The cyber security expert said: “Artificial intelligence, robotics in general, those will begin to mesh together.”

UK watchdog issues laws for Robots

Robby the Robot - Wikimedia CommonsThe UK’s national standards body charged with creating the technical standards and certification for various products and services, has just produced its first set of official ethics guidelines relating to robots.

British Standards Institution felt there was really a need for a set of guidelines, setting out the ethical principles surrounding how robots are used.

Dan Palmer, head of market development at BSI, said that the BS 8611 guidelines start by echoing Asimov’s Three Laws that Robots should not be designed solely or primarily to kill or harm humans.

It adds: “It should be possible to find out who is responsible for any robot and its behavior. There’s even discussion about whether it’s desirable for a robot to form an emotional bond with its users, an awareness of the possibility robots could be racist and/or sexist in their conduct, and other contentious gray areas.”

The standards notes that ethical hazards are broader than physical hazards. Most physical hazards are associated with psychological ones due to associated fear and stress. Thus, physical hazards imply ethical hazards and safety design features are part of ethical design. Safety elements are covered by safety standards however; this British Standard is concerned with the ethical elements.


Russians arrest a robot

Pepper the Robot, courtesy Xavier CareA robot was arrested by Inspector Knacker of the Moscow yard after it attended a political rally.

The rally was for Valery Kalachev, a candidate for the Russian Parliament, who had rented the robot for his campaign.  The robot has been seen at a number of demonstrations and did not appear to be violent, nor particularly interested in the overthrow of Tsar Putin.

Police have not confirmed why they detained the machine named Promobot, but local media are reporting the company behind the robot said police were called because it was “recording voters’ opinions on topics for further processing and analysis by the candidate’s team”.

A Promobot representative thinks it was detained because “perhaps this action wasn’t authorised” although quite why it was handcuffed shows that the Russian coppers were not taking chances.

After all a different Promobot model made headlines in June when it made two breaks for freedom from a scientific research lab in Moscow. If its battery had not run out it would have been on its way to Switzerland by now.