Cute Amazon robots set to take over U.S. streets

Amazon announced on Wednesday (1/23) that it will begin a pilot program near its HQ in Washington state to use its own delivery robots called Amazon Scout for last mile deliveries. The pilot in Snohomish County, WA, will use 6 Scouts and only on weekdays during daylight hours. They will be accompanied by Amazon employees to make sure all goes well.

The familiar-looking 6-wheeler looks similar to other delivery robots though it was developed in-house by Amazon.

Story on TechCrunch

Why it’s Hot

Delivery ‘bots are nothing new (see: Kroger, Eat24, DoorDash, Dominos), but it has a much bigger implication when Amazon is involved. It seems that the Amazon drones that the company promised a few years ago have been pushed aside for now.

Hotel of the future

China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba Group opened its first “future hotel”, also known as “Flyzoo Hotel”, in Hangzhou, China.

Equipped with the latest leading technology, many futuristic features are enabled at the hotel, guests can check into the hotel without talking to anyone. They can walk straight to their rooms and get their faces scanned at the door to gain entry.

Robots can be found everywhere in the hotel, and they would guide the guests by providing recorded voice messages and accompany them during their stay. The guests can also control indoor temperatures, lighting intensity, household appliances through their voices.

A very notable device that the hotel is equipped with is called “Tmall Genie”, which is an AI management system. The system will take orders from guests, including buying groceries.

The one-meter high robot ‘Genie’ powered by Tmall, an AI system, follows guests around, takes orders, helps to buy groceries, orders meals, and picks up laundry through voice command, touch, or simple gestures.

Flyzoo Hotel Hangzhou 201811061912218939

Flyzoo Hotel Hangzhou 8ba9b831-4c01-42d4-ad77-7f19bba520e0

Why it’s hot: As a reply to high labor costs, creating uniformity in hospitality services and mixing up and re-imaging the hotel industry, this robot enabled hotel is smarter, more automated and an inspiration for future digital travelers.

Source

Postmates Evolves their Delivery Robot Design

San Francisco partially banned delivery robots because they obstructed pedestrians, so Postmates built one with eyes, turn signals and a mandate to yield. Serve is Postmates’ new cooler-meet-autonomous-stroller that it hopes can cut costs and speed up deliveries. The semi-autonomous rover uses cameras and Lidar to navigate sidewalks, but always has a human pilot remotely monitoring a fleet of Serves who can take control if there’s a problem. There’s even a “Help” button, touchscreen and video chat display customers or passers-by can use to summon assistance.

Serve will be rolling out in various cities over the next year, starting in Los Angeles. It does deliveries to customers that unlock its cargo hatch with their phone or a passcode, but it also can grab food from restaurants in congested areas and bring them to a Postmates dispatch hub from which delivery people can take packages the last mile. Serve can carry 50 pounds of goods for 25 miles on a single charge — enough to make around a dozen deliveries per day.

“We took time to figure out what is the language for the rover and pedestrians to interact with each other. If a robot is at a sidewalk and wants to be able to cross the street, it needs to show its intent to cross,” Kashani tells me. Thanks to a light ring around the top with turn signals and eyes that can indicate where it’s trying to go.

Why it’s hot: Watch out Uber Eats and Seamless! If executed properly, this could streamline delivery efficiencies and cut down on labor costs for Postmates.

Source: TechCrunch

Postmates’ Food Delivery Robot

Postmates has introduced Los Angeles to Serve, a robot that will deliver food. Serve, which looks like a cooler on wheels with digital eyes, moves at walking speed and can carry up to 50lbs of food. In one charge, it can cover 30 miles.

Customers will be able to order food via the Postmates app, and then will receive a code to unlock the robot to retrieve their food when it arrives. They can also alert Postmates of any issues by interacting with Serve’s digital touch screen.

Serve is outfitted with lidar sensors to ensure it avoids obstacles, and uses a turn signal light to indicate to passersby that it is changing directions.

Postmastes calls Serve a socially aware navigation system, saying, “Serve’s personality is all about understanding people. Nothing about Serve’s intelligence is artificial.” In their announcement about their newest team member, they note that they are trying to be more city-friendly, as they will no longer be contributing to heavy street traffic.

Why It’s Hot

Postmastes has come up with a smart solution to enhance their delivery service while being environmentally conscious.

Source: https://www.technologyreview.com/the-download/612605/postmates-has-launched-a-delivery-robot-that-will-bring-lunch-to-your-door/

Internet-connected robots help combat isolation and loneliness

AV1, a cute-looking, internet-connected robot made by Oslo-based start-uo No Isolation helps children who have chronic diseases unable to attend school participate in classes remotely and keep in touch with teachers and friends.

Instead of studying on their own at home, these children can study along their friends at school via the robot. The robot can sit in the classroom and live stream video and audio back to a tablet or smartphone. Children at home can speak through the robot and participate in the class. They can also control where the robot is looking.

The robot’s head will blink to alert the teacher if the student wants to ask a question. It’ll also turn blue to signal the teacher that the student becomes too sick or tired to participate.

AV1 robot on a classroom desk

Why it’s hot: Being present for an occasion is easier than ever. For people with chronic diseases internet-connected robots make them feel comfortable for being present without displaying their illness.

Source

Robot Delivery Drivers take Silicon Valley

Starship Technologies, an autonomous delivery startup created in 2014 by two Skype co-founders, has been in public testing mode in 20 countries around the world since 2015. Now the company says it is ready for its first “major commercial rollout”.

Employees of company ‘Intuit’ in Mountain View, California, will be able to order breakfast, lunch and coffee from their staff cafeteria and have it delivered to any point in the company’s Silicon Valley campus by one of Starship’s six-wheeled autonomous robots.

“You place your order, it’s one click, then you drop a pin where you want the robot to meet you,” says Starship co-founder Janus Friis. “We’ve seen huge demand for breakfast. For some reason people just don’t want to wait – they want to go straight to work and avoid the queue in the early hours of the day.”

Starship is now on the lookout for other campuses across western Europe and the US where it can deploy the robots.

Why it’s hot: This is just another step towards the autonomous driving cars and Amazon drone-delivered packages – talk about a seamless customer experience!

Source: PSFK

MIT goes into the deep end with a fake fish

MIT researchers created a robotic fish in order to study sea life. It was modeled after a real fish in order to blend in with the sea life.

“We view SoFi as a first step toward developing almost an underwater observatory of sorts,” says Rus. “It has the potential to be a new type of tool for ocean exploration and to open up new avenues for uncovering the mysteries of marine life.”

Story on Popular Mechanics

Why It’s Hot

Hopefully the next gen SoFi’s will be able to go deeper into the ocean and explore things out of the reach of humans.

Giant Exoskeleton Racing League

Furrion, a company that normally makes high-end appliances, created a mech called Prosthesis to start a new kind of racing league.

“The Prosthesis is an exoskeleton that weighs 8,000 pounds, has a top speed of 20 mph, and the company says the battery can power the mech for an hour. This isn’t a robot. It’s an exoskeleton that requires a driver.”

– TechCrunch

Here’s their video promoting it:

Such hype! So what do the people of YouTube think?

Good points. It seems like it really wouldn’t be that exciting to watch people race in slow moving machines that are all built the same way. I looked around a bit and found this video that shows how it’s controlled. Seems like there would be some skill required to actually get it to move the right way.

So yeah, I guess it could be exciting to watch people struggle to control this heavy slow machine. It doesn’t say when the first race will be but I’ll for sure tune in for it.

Laundry folding robot? Yes, please.

FoldiMate debuted a prototype of its laundry-folding machine at CES 2017, but it has yet to actually deliver a product to market, though it has an updated the design that will be unveiled at CES 2018 (a few days from today).

The product video below is all style, no substance with no actual images of laundry being folded but it’s meant to be a teaser.

Why It’s Hot

If the concept works, it will probably excite the average Joe so much more than another bulky VR headset because it is practical.

Saudi Arabia gives a fake person real citizenship

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A robot built by Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics named Sophia has been granted citizenship by the government of Saudi Arabia. Nobody is saying exactly what that means but, according to Futurism, “The move seems symbolic, at best, designed to attract investors for future technologies like AI and robotics.” Saudi Arabia has been trying to up its credibility as a tech player to compete with neighbors such as the United Arab Emirates.

Sophia was “designed to look like Audrey Hepburn” according to the robot maker. I see.

Sophia’s announcement is below:

Story on Popular Mechanics

The stunt was not viewed positively to all as some have made valid points about foreign workers’ inability to gain similar citizenship status despite their own contributions to Saudi society.

Here is the full video of Sophia’s (awkward) address to the Future Investment Initiative conference, held at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Why It’s Hot

This announcement adds fuel to the debate about what rights, if any, robots will have in our society. It also calls into question if countries such as Saudi Arabia have a moral responsibility to treat their female citizens and foreign workers equally to- or better than robots.

Robot, a kid’s best friend?

Robots are making their way into schools and education to help children lower their stress and boost their creativity. Among those who have diseases such as diabetes and autism, robots can even help restore their self-confidence.

One research shows that autism children engage better with robots than humans because they are simple and predictable.

Another research that works with children with diabetes makes their robots “imperfect” and have them make mistakes so they don’t intimidate the children. Children learn that they don’t have to be perfect all the time.

Why it’s hot (or not): are robots the right companions for children? What impact would it have on human interactions if children are exposed to AI at such a young age?

 

 

Cassie, the ostrich bot

Bipedal robots have been a tough ask for engineers. Creating a bot that’s steady, self-balancing, and able to adapt to uneven terrain (one of the main advantages of going bipedal in the first place!) is a tough ask. But, as this newly unveiled bot from Agility Robotics proves, we’re getting good at it.

Like ostriches (and humans), Cassie has three degrees of freedom in its hips and flexible, powered ankles, but knees that only flex one way. This creates not only a natural gait, but a way to steer that’s similar to our own. As with ATRIAS, quick and careful placement of the feet makes Cassie resistant to slips, stumbles, and the occasional malicious grad student.

Why it’s hot?
Cassie can go pretty much anywhere humans can. Rocky ground? Stairs? It could be used to make search-and-rescue bots; to help improve prosthetic limbs or exoskeletons; and, could also perform dangerous jobs like nuclear plant inspection. If the bots become cheap enough, it can deliver packages, and if you’re busy, why not send Cassie to the store?

 

Human-like robots edge closer to reality

If you’ve lived in fear of a futuristic robot rebellion, the newest creation from Google-owned Boston Dynamics won’t do much to ease your fears. The Atlas humanoid robot is probably the most lifelike, agile and resilient robot built to date.  As the video shows, it can walk on snow and keep its balance, open doors, stack 10-pound boxes on shelves and even pick itself up from the floor after being knocked down. And that’s where things get a little frightening.

Even though this is only a demonstration, Atlas’ handler abuses it by knocking boxes out of its hands and then shoving it in the back with a stick so it falls on the floor. But much like a ninja fighter, it springs back up and keeps on going. If you hearken back to Robo-cop, all this robot needs is a weapon to turn the tables on its human tormentor.

Why It’s Hot

Robots such as Atlas will some day be doing much of the back-breaking labor humans now do — picking crops, construction, fire fighting. But as the author of the cnet.com article where this appeared says, “Elon Musk once warned that Skynet (the evil artificial intelligence from the Terminator movies) could only be a few years off, and Google is increasingly looking like Skynet.” So while Atlas may act pretty cool and have good applications, it does have its ominous side.

March to the Beat of Your Own Robot

As if the music industry wasn’t competitive enough, artists may soon have to worry about more than just each other. With the help of a 27-year-old musical artificial intelligence student, robots may be ready to share the stage.

Mason Bertan, a graduate student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, is teaching robots how to make jazz music by breaking down jazz theory and musical improv into a programming language the robots are able to understand. Not only can these robots produce their own music, but they are also aware of their physical bodies and capable of moving them to the music. These aren’t giant, industrial machines but rather head-banging, foot-tapping musicians!

Read more via Mashable.

Why It’s Hot: We have seen robot technology in the home and in the doctor’s office, and now we’re seeing – and hearing – it in music too. These physical beings create music on their own, as well as listen to and understand it. Also, as Bretan points out, the algorithms that the robots use to create music relies on their physical bodies – in other words, “if you give the same algorithm to a different robot (like a marimba-playing robot with one arm or 10 arms), you will get different musical behaviors and outcomes.” Just as with humans, the creative options are endless.

As someone who prefers music produced more organically, I’m not sure how much we need music-making robots. And as is the case with almost every new fancy piece of technology, the necessity is a hot topic of debate: We may not need it, but it’s hard to deny that it’s pretty cool.

Meet Jibo, The World’s First Family Robot

Jibo is the world’s first family robot.

“JIBO’s potential extends far beyond engaging in casual conversation and completing daily tasks.”- Yahoo

“This Friendly Robot Could One Day Be Your Family’s Personal Assistant”- Wired

“JIBO isn’t an appliance, it’s a companion, one that can interact and react with its human owners in ways that delight.“- Mashable

jibo

The Jibo robot does the same stuff as your phone, and is very comparable to Siri.” It’s a little pod with a motorized swivel, equipped with cameras, microphones and a display. It recognizes faces and voices, and can act as a personal assistant by setting reminders, delivering messages and offering to take group photos. It also serves as a telepresence robot for video chat.” (Time.com)

Why it’s hot: Is this the future? 100 years ago no one would have ever imagined that cell phones would make their way into society and people would become dependent on such devices.Today we look at Jibo and some may think this is an outrageous idea, while others applaud the creators. Who would buy such a thing, why is it necessary? But maybe this is the next step in technology.