Robots find new way to suck the fun out of living

A couple of dudes named Ben Katz and Jared Di Carlo “have smashed the previous record for solving the Rubik’s cube robotically. Their machine solved the puzzle in 0.38 seconds—a 40-percent improvement over the previous record of 0.637.”

Story on Gizmodo

Below is the old record from 2016. Slackers.

Why It’s Hot

This has obvious implications for the future of work. Imagine how many iPhones this thing will be able to crank out in the future.

Killer Tech

According to Eric Shmidt, a former Google boss, we’ll be amongst killer computers in the next decade or so. But fear not, Eric believes that it’s not completely life-threatening, well, I mean, it kinda is life threatening…. like if an aircraft was fully dependent on tech making life-or-death decisions, we’d all die. But it’s fine because we, the genius species that we are, “will remain in charge of AI for the rest of time.”

Is it hot?
Unless it’s molten metal, I’m not too sure. Does this mean that the Terminator movies and iRobot were just prophecies that told the future? Let’s not glitch out about it just yet, AI is still super helpful, watching your every move, learning everything about you, your strengths, weaknesses … Good ‘ol AI.

AI? More like A…. I think not.

Source: Metro

Robots make presence known at Winter Olympics

Robots have made their presence known at this year’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Luckily, none of them have killed anyone…yet.

We knew that South Korea was going to feature tech very prominently…and that robotic fish tank did not disappoint.

Story on The Verge

Story on Futurism

Why It’s Hot

It’s interesting to see the robotic presence against an event that defines the human spirit at times.


Welcome to your dystopian future

Hiding behind a locked door won’t save you from rogue killer robots anymore thanks to Boston Dynamics’ new innovation. These new models can handle a doorknob pretty well as evidenced by the company’s new teaser video.

Story on TechCrunch

Why It’s Hot

It’s hot from the perspective of technological achievement. It’s not so hot if you ever need to hide from one of these.

The Robots Are Here

An animal shelter in San Francisco has been criticized for using a robot security guard to scare off homeless people.

The San Francisco branch of the SPCA (the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) hired a K5 robot built by Knightscope to patrol the sidewalks outside its facilities as a “way to try dealing with the growing number of needles, car break-ins and crime that seemed to emanate from nearby tent encampments of homeless people.”

Jennifer Scarlett, president of the SF SPCA told the Business Times last week: “We weren’t able to use the sidewalks at all when there’s needles and tents and bikes, so from a walking standpoint I find the robot much easier to navigate than an encampment.”

The robot in question is equipped with four cameras, moves at a pace of three miles per hour, and is cheaper than a human security guard — costing around $6 an hour to rent. The same model of robot previously knocked over a toddler in a mall and fell into a fountain in DC. Knightscope says its robots are intended as deterrents, and for providing mobile surveillance.

Reaction to the news on social media has been overwhelming negative, with people shaming the SPCA for deploying the machine, and encouraging others to vandalize or destroy it. Within a week of the robot starting its duties, some people “put a tarp over it, knocked it over and put barbecue sauce on all the sensors.” One Twitter user reported seeing the robot with feces smeared on it.

“Contrary to sensationalized reports, Knightscope was not brought in to clear the area around the SF SPCA of homeless individuals,” a spokesperson told The Verge. “Knightscope was deployed, however, to serve and protect the SPCA. The SCPA has the right to protect its property, employees and visitors, and Knightscope is dedicated to helping them achieve this goal. The SPCA has reported fewer car break-ins and overall improved safety and quality of the surrounding area.”

In any case, the SPCA K5 might have a limited shelf life in San Francisco. The city recently passed new legislation limiting the use of robots in city streets. Although the rules were aimed primarily at delivery bots, the SPCA has been ordered to keep the K5 off sidewalks or face a $1,000 daily fine. Knightscope is currently negotiating with the city over future deployments.

Why It’s Hot:

  • Knightscope’s response raises questions about how society will respond to robots like these in the future.
  • Seems that because these robots are semi-autonomous, Knightscope, and those who hire them, can shift the blame for its actions.
  • While most people are getting nervous about the physical takeover of robots, no one is worried about the more imminent threat of AI, which is what the majority of industry leaders, such as Elon Musk, are warning us about.

Source: The Verge

Honda shows off a cute and high-tech food stand

At this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, Honda debuted what they call “’a unique form of electric mobility” that was “born to make each person’s ideas and dreams come true.” Its “use is limited only by the imagination.’

Or in other words, it’s a self-driving cooler with LED eyes.”

RoboCas, a cooler-shaped robot with a a telescoping awning

Hello, RoboCas

But Honda has big dreams for this little friend, imagining uses from food vendors to family beach holidays. Honda imagines people using it to open cafes or curry shops wherever they may roam. RoboCas “can follow people in its unique, cute way, bringing happiness and joy to everyone,” the company says. There’s also a Windows tablet stuck on the back, if that helps.

A mobile food vendor prepares her cafe while a man and child sit at a table, ready to order

Could RoboCas change the way mobile food vendors set up shop?

Learn more at the Verge

China’s (robots) got talent

Chinese company WL Intelligent Technology’s Dobi robots have broken a Guinness World Record  for the “most robots dancing simultaneously,” 1,069 of them to be exact.

They beat the previous record of 1,007 dancing robots (?!?) set just last year by Chinese robotics firm Ever Win Company’s QRC-2 Robots.

Lest you think that this was an easy feat, some of the robots fell over while dancing and were not counted in the final tally.

Story on The Verge

Why It’s Hot:

China is certainly leading the way in both dancing robot technology as well as fun ways to promote a product.


Tarzan, Robot of the Jungle

Designed after a sloth, Tarzan the automated robot was built to monitor food production.


Tasked with finding a way to automate crop monitoring, a Georgia institute of technology team has engineered a robot that can do so with minimal human assistance. Tarzan, the robot, is built keeping in mind the difficulties robots have while navigating uneven terrain. Although drones seem like a good solution, stringing Tarzan across the top of fields allows it to be monitoring while not being in the air consistently.

Swinging in soon to destroy us: Robot apes

You hear something rustling in the trees above you. You keep running, unsure of how to escape, just trying to outrun whatever is coming for you. You look over your shoulder and you catch a glimpse of it swinging from branch to branch. You shouldn’t have looked back, it’s now all over. The beast swings down, descending on you, and humanity’s hopes fade as the life drains from your eyes.

When the robot uprising begins, we’ll now have to worry about ape-like bots that can swing through trees with the ease of a gibbon raining down upon us. Much like the robot cheetahs, bats, hornets, ostriches, and myriad other robot animals scientists are already working on, we may one day be doomed by our desire to mimic what occurs naturally in the world.

Why it’s Hot:

  • By analyzing the problem without the constraints of what is possible, you can find solutions that are not necessarily obvious.

Hey can that robot make me live forever?

Robots, nanobots, human-looking robots…the race is on. It’s not a race to market. It’s actually a race to immortality. The Japanese pioneered the robot development as early as 2005…with RI-MAN: 

But the evolution has gone much further and, like so many things, is accelerating.

As the author, Peter Nichol says on Medical nanotechnology is expected to employ nanorobots that will be injected into the patient to perform work at a cellular level. Ingestibles and internables bring forward the introduction of broadband-enabled digital tools that are eaten and “smart” pills that use wireless technology to help monitor internal reactions to medications.

Robotics for healthcare are classified in three main categories of use:

  1. Direct patient care robots: surgical robots (used for performing clinical procedures), exoskeletons (for bionic extensions of self like the Ekso suit), and prosthetics (replacing lost limbs).  Over 500 people a day loses a limb in America with 2 million Americans living with limb loss according to the CDC.
  2. Indirect patient care robots: pharmacy robots (streamlining automation, autonomous robots for inventory control reducing labor costs), delivery robots (providing medical goods throughout a hospital autonomously), and disinfection robots (interacting with people with known infectious diseases such as healthcare-associated infections or HAIs).
  3. Home healthcare robots: robotic telepresence solutions (addressing the aging population with robotic assistance).

Why is this hot?

  • Robotics, pioneered by the Japanese as early as 2005 (RI-MAN above) is fast moving to nurses with human features and AI ability to do Q&A. They are already in research and university hospitals.
  • While the 3 categories are a general framework, the nanobot itself crawling through your bloodstream, checking for cancer cells, knitting your arteries, oxygenating our blood, preventing them from hardening and causing heart disease.
  • For those of you under 30 who think your immortal, you may have a chance.

I leave you with a forward-looking TED TALK on this topic from January, 2017:


how technology is helping us reflect on ourselves…

Most of the time when you read about robotics, it’s about the technological feats and capabilities being accomplished. But a robotic installation called Mimic, created recently for the Toronto Film Festival, took a different tack. A company called Design I/O took an industrial robot arm, built for “automation in industrial applications, from welding to palletizing to injection molding”, and gave it a human personality and human reactions. The robot was able to interact with people around it, exhibiting three human inclinations – trust, interest, and curiosity, “along with a taxonomy for body language that correspond to what the UR5 is feeling”. According to Design I/O’s Theo Watson, “We realized that these three feelings could define so much in how the robot responds to visitors…and in some ways these are some of the most primary metrics we lean on in our daily interactions, so much so that they aren’t immediately obvious.”

Why it’s hot

First, it shows how inevitably the interactions we have with “bots” could be more humanlike – how they could physically react based on our emotions and movements. But what’s interesting to me is how as we are doing this, it forces a natural reflection on what makes us interact the way we do as humans. Not that there isn’t probably large amounts of scientific research on the inner workings of our brains and bodies to explain, but on a more pedestrian level, it’s reminding us of “how we work” as human beings.

If salad ingredients and robots made love…

It would be a company called Chowbotics. They just landed $5 mil in Series A, further developing the food service robotic industry.

Its flagship product is called Sally, a salad-making robot that uses 20 different food canister to prepare and serve more than 1,000 types of salad. Number of pilot customers have signed on- restaurants, co-working spaces, and corporate cafeterias.

Benefits :

  • Sally-made salads can be precisely measured – know exactly how many calories are going into your food.
  • Data-driven platform can measure both popularity of specific recipes, # of caloric intake, increase or decline of demand on ingredients  – all that can help both healthcare and the food industry make better informed decisions.


“Run for your life, the robots are coming”

Image result for bicentennial man

Boston Dynamics’ next generation robot, Atlas, feels almost too human, even with his clunky walk and lack of facial features. This anthropomorphic adaptation to tech has many functional implications in the workforce, as well as being an impressive feat of engineering. However, an unexpected “side effect” becomes apparent towards the end of this demo when Atlas is being knocked off balance to showcase his superior build…it actually elicits empathetic emotions from the human viewer. It feels as if he is being bullied.

This caught us off-guard – although robots are increasingly common in our daily lives, and we are even used to technologies having their own personalities (ala Siri sassy retorts), sympathy for a robot was a visceral response that was totally unexpected. The feeling was driven by instinct rather than logic.

As strategists, we know how powerful these emotions can be, and in fact, it is our job to tap into them, making us believe robots like Atlas can never replace us. Yet, a recent AdAge article makes us question the safety of our jobs in this robot-filled-future.

The author has no doubts that robotics of some kind will play a role in all jobs, one way or another, sooner than later. In this article, he suggests that the last jobs to go will be those with a “unique combination of human intuition, reasoning, empathy, and emotion”, but in spite of this, advertisers are not on the list. Coke’s recent efforts further validate his conclusion.

As of today, we don’t know what the future of our industry will look like, but we do know this: It is our job to stay ahead of all innovations and technologies and to learn everything we can about how our jobs will evolve to include our new robotic co-workers.


  • The anthropomorphic applications to robotics serve a much higher purpose that just functionality – these techniques are being applied to help us embrace them (figuratively and literally)
  • Technology is evolving to a place where it is not only poised to replace humans in the workplace but is also driving us to discover a new connection to robotic objects on a mass scale
  • The future of man and machine will likely depend on being able to co-exist, which begs the question – How we can we as advertisers get ahead of the game and prepare for this type of collaboration?

Liz Medina & Rachel Schneer


Harnessing Pixar’s Cute Factor, Robot’s Goal is to Light Up Your Day


Pixar character animator, Alonso Martinez, has made an adorable real-life creation: Mira.

Martinez, who’s worked on films like Up and Inside Out, says that the robot—a peek-a-boo-playing sphere that lights up one half to express excitement—was built with the goal of creating strong emotional connections.

“Experience with my last robot taught me that I wanted to concentrate all of my efforts toward what I cared the most about,” Martinez tells PSFK. “I love creating characters that make people smile and one day I hope to make robots that not only entertain us, but provide insights into our lives and fuel us to be better.”

But already, Mira seems to do just that: With a tiny camera installed on her head, she is able to detect and track faces and will soon be able to detect facial expressions, too.

“With the ability to hold her in my hands it was not only easier to make sculptural decisions, but also think about how users might interact with her,” he says.

With a more minimal design that consists only of lights, sounds, and head movement, the current version of Mira was built to see if she had enough degrees of expression to be able to form an emotional connection with humans. The next version, meanwhile, will look to achieve prolonged positive engagement with us.

“Like the cognitive development of a baby, Mira is at the stage where the funniest thing in the world is object permanence, hence why she loves playing the game of peek-a-boo,” Martinez says. “Humans are absolutely incredible at pattern recognition and as soon as robots acts in a predictable way, it breaks the magic of the illusion of life.”

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot

In the developing world of robotics, we see function and form, but now this development is the start of built-in emotional connections — previously just science fiction. The idea is literally in its infancy, but I will be curious to see if emotional technology becomes an ongoing trend

Open-Source Industrial Robotics

Robo.Op is an open hardware / open software platform for hacking industrial robots (IRs). Robo.Op makes it cheaper and easier to customize your IR for creative use, so you can explore the fringes of industrial robotics. The toolkit is made up of a modular physical prototyping platform, a simplified software interface, and a centralized hub for sharing knowledge, tools, and code.

(source: Mad Lab)

Why It’s Hot:

The explosion of robotics is fascinating and can help solve many problems that we are faced with today. However, it is very expensive to purchase parts and acquire knowledge to begin to build robots. So much research has already been done, but it is hard to gain access to those knowledge pools to embark on your own test & learn sessions involving the complex systems and mechanics of robots. Robo.Op helps solve for this, and opens up a vast amount of current learning around the subject of robotics to anyone and everyone interested. With the continued advancement of the robotics industry we could be facing something similar to Moore’s Law for robotics, in which case providing open-source tools will ensure that more individual’s and organizations will have the opportunity to play a big part in the advancement of the robotics industry.