Here are two very interesting articles that show the pros and cons of robots. Bottom line, it is whether you have a positive attitude toward technology and automation or you fear both technology and automation. As you have the opportunity to read the first article take note of what is causing the fear, so then when you read the second article, you can then sense that robots are helpful and do take away dangerous and boring jobs.
So, find your easy chair, pick up your iPad or laptop, grab yourself a Pepsi, Coke, or water and take a little time reading. I think you will find these fascinating.
Quote for the Day: “The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.” — Joseph Addison
PricewaterhouseCoopers (dba PwC) researched and wrote a report that said over a third of jobs in the United States were ripe to be replaced by automation. PwC is a consulting firm that was acquired by IBM and folded into IBM Global Business Services unit in October 2002. Eventually PwC began to rebuild its management consulting practice by acquiring firms such as Bearing Point and PTRM.
Because it gained experience and knowledge in the areas of automation and artificial intelligence within IBM, it has been able to use its research arm to develop reports of interest like this one. One of the key facets of the report is that those that could be at risk of automation are those that do not have as high an education level as others. The “high risk” industries include finance, hospitality, and transportation.
Robots were not deemed to replace that many human workers which runs contrary to other reports that have been seen on this site. The main reason is the cost of the robots, including repairs and maintenance, would be too expensive compared to human workers. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that artificial intelligence is not “even on my radar screen. I think it’s 50 or 100 more years.” This will come as a pleasant surprise for employees in some industries.
His take is that automation would enable human workers “to do more productive jobs at higher wages.” His focus is to ensure the U.S. is investing in education and training for the American worker.
And that’s the rub. Most industries have begun to hire more workers at lower wages than before 2008. Yes, more people are working, but for families it is almost a requirement for both the husband and the wife to work to make ends meet. Robots have become a secondary discussion since wage growth has been so anemic.
Quotes for the Day:
“All the technology in the world will never replace a positive attitude.”— Harvey Mackay
“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions, and not on our circumstances.”— Martha Washington
A recent IDC press release stated the Asia Pacific region is the fastest growing robotics market led primarily by China, Korea, and, of course, Japan. The research firm forecasts this region will account for two-thirds of global robotics spend from the years of 2016 to 2020. Also estimated was the fact this region will grow from $60 billion (B) to slightly over $133B by 2020 (a compound annual growth rate of 22%).
Robotics is reported to be able to “drive the wave of industry transformation” and disrupt many aspects of business operations and business models. One area mentioned by IDC was in the area of commercial and consumer service robotics.
As wasmentioned in this blog, the future of personal robotics looks bright, especially for the baby boomers and their parents who need the companionship, queuing (for the time to take medicines, eating, and other activities of daily living (ADLs)), and support that families need to do with their parents, but for one reason or another are not able to accomplish. The newer robots on the market seek to help families handle these functions quite well although the pricing is far out or range today.
Here is a link to the report:
A humorous story for the day:
A young technician and his General Manager board a train headed through the mountains on its way to Wichita. They can find no place to sit except for two seats right across the aisle from a young woman and her grandmother.
After a while, it is obvious that the young woman and the young tech are interested in each other because they are giving each other “looks.”
Soon the train passes into a tunnel and it is pitch black. There is a sound of the smack of a kiss followed by the sound of the smack of a slap.
When the train emerges from the tunnel, the four sit there without saying a word.
The grandmother is thinking to herself: “It was very brash for that young man to kiss my granddaughter, but I’m glad she slapped him.”
The General Manager is setting there thinking: “I didn’t know the young tech was brave enough to kiss the girl, but I sure wish she hadn’t missed him when she slapped and hit me!”
The young woman was sitting and thinking: “I’m glad the guy kissed me, but I wish my grandmother had not slapped him!”
The young tech sat there with a satisfied smile on his face. He thought to himself: “Life is good. How often does a guy have the chance to kiss a beautiful girl and slap his General Manager all at the same time!
It is a few days shy of the end of 2016. Various authors have summarized what they felt the most important events that occurred over 2016. Since this is a blog about robots and motors, the link below will take you to an article that is one of the best. Enjoy the remainder of 2016 with an eye on a most fabulous 2017!
Quote for the Day: “I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner.” —Audrey Hepburn
Dear friends, it has been a while since I committed to create a video of the Robotis Mini robot for all of you to view. This is my favorite robot of all time (at least for now). It was a labor of love – took about 13 hours to assemble and wire the robot plus another 3 hours to assemble the pins required to make the subassemblies for the robot.
In this video I used the app to control the Mini, however, another cool way to make this robot move is by using the voice recognition on the app. It allows the robot to headstands, rolls and advancing forward for a longer period of time. It was very satisfying seeing the robot boot up and work the FIRST time! To me the key thing about building the robot was ensuring all of the servo wiring was not too tight so the connections did not get cut or come out of the servos.
The name ‘robot’ came from a play written by Czech writer, Karel Capel. ‘Robot’ was used to “denote fictional automata.” According to Wikipedia, “The play begins in a factory that uses a chemical substitute for protoplasm to manufacture living, simplified people called robots. The play does not focus in detail on the technology behind the creation of these living creatures, but in their appearance they prefigure modern ideas of androids, creatures who can be mistaken for humans. These mass-produced workers are depicted as efficient but emotionless, incapable of original thinking and indifferent to self-preservation.”
In 1954 George Devol invented the “first digitally operated and programmable robot” — he named it Unimate. Looking back on this event, it can be seen that this robot ended up becoming the underpinning of the modern robotics industry.
Devol sold Unimate to General Motors and in 1961 it was installed in a automotive manufacturing plant in Trenton, NJ. Its main function was to lift and stack, i.e., to lift hot metal pieces from a die cast machine and stack them for later use. As can be seen by this operation, robots have been used for one of three types of jobs:
- Performing a job with more accuracy and reliability than humans,
- Dangerous jobs or extreme environments (like the above),
- Jobs that are dull and boring.
Educational robots are used to teach how various STEM disciplines work together and do not necessarily encounter resistance from parents, educators, or students. However, there are heated discussions about jobs replacing workers. Since I receive articles from various sources regarding robots – both educational and industrial – I thought I would share a link to an article that asks the question, “But Will Robots Eliminate Jobs?” After reading this short paragraph, you can make up your own mind.
Quote of the Day: ““If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams
Can you believe it has been seven months since Christmas 2015? When I thought about it this past week, I was…well, shocked. Where has 2016 gone? The reason for considering the time since last Christmas is this article on Robotis Darwin Mini Robot. Robotis is a company that was founded in 1999 and is located in Seoul, South Korea. The name Robotis was derived from the question, “What is a robot?” To which the CEO and marketing team said a “Robot is…” and thus the company name was born as Robotis.
As a homeschooling dad I was introduced to Robotis in July 2011 through a subscription to the ROBOT Magazine. Robotis has a U.S. sales arm and through a series of events Robotis sent me two kits — one was an Ollo and the other was a Bioloid kit. They asked me to evaluate each kit and write a review. I have been very satisfied using their robot kits from ease of use and what a student could learn from assembling each kit. When I noticed they were bringing out a humanoid robot, I got excited. Most of the other humanoid robots cost thousands for dollars. I was mainly looking to find a robot that could walk, move its arms, do some tricks, can be controlled using a smartphone with Bluetooth, and had the ability to program. The Robotis Darwin Mini does all of this and more – the robot can be controlled with voice recognition, it has pre-programmed stunts and tricks, and has 16 degrees-of-freedom! Of all the robots I have built over the years, this one is my favorite.
My plan is to create a video of the finished product, use the smartphone app, and have the robot go through some of the exercises. Most probably that will be next time.
Quote for the Day: “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.” — Theodore Roosevelt
Three studies from well-known companies have been released regarding robots. These three studies seem to indicate that American people believe that robots will replace jobs, “but mine is safe.” The first survey was released by Pew Research Center said that 65 percent of people think that computers and robots will do most of the work currently done by humans over the next 50 years. The most interesting aspect is that 80 percent of these same people believe their job is totally safe.
The second study by NPR mentioned the jobs that most probably would be replaced by robots, On top of the list were people who work in customer care centers aka call centers. These positions were deemed to be first of all jobs that would be replaced, other jobs were tax-document preparers, loan officers, and, get a load of this – umpires and referees, vehicle drivers, and a surprising one that I have not read before – fashion models. This probably has to do with 3D printers and the ability for roboticists to create robot models that can walk the runway.
This past May, PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC), said that drones have the high probability to replace $129 billion worth of human labor! These would be jobs related to agriculture, security, and transport. It’s pretty fascinating that people on the ground can get a bird’s eye view of corn fields, office buildings, manufacturing facilities, oil fields, transportation facilities and even major road projects major projects – all due to drones.
Where does all this lead us? The author surmises that the U.S. will have to consider an idea called “basic income” in which people will receive a monthly check on top of their existing income. The economist’s think tanks believe that people will provide less value with their labor and will need to have income coming from another area. I am not in this camp. This is pure and simple ‘redistribution of wealth’ which makes a society soft and complacent.
Unfortunately, the attitude of some people today is entitlement and those men and women that have taken risks to build businesses that employ people are the target of the ‘have-nots.’ Those people love to talk abut taxing the rich to support their ‘survivalist’ lifestyle. This is ludicrous. It all starts in the home at an early age where kids learn responsibility, respect, honesty, integrity, and the need to take care of people less fortunate. (The home needs to have parents that love their children and discipline them to raise them as solid citizens. There is much that needs to be done in this area that needs to be discussed, but it is not part of this website). However, there are plenty of jobs available that need the above qualities – the entitlement attitude prevents these people from becoming employees. There are now 11 states that now have more people on welfare than that are working: California, New Mexico, Mississippi, Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, New York, Maine, and South Carolina. This is really sad. No wonder companies are looking to employ robots – robots arrive on time, they don’t take breaks, they work, they don’t complain, and they are accurate. When a robot needs to be reprogrammed or replaced, its master, the human technician is there to do so.
Healthcare and STEM careers seem to be the promise of the future. Consider these as you direct your children to their future careers.
Quote for the Day: “Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb. You may never reach the summit; for that you will be forgiven. But if you don’t make at least one serious attempt to get above the snow-line, years later you will find yourself lying on your deathbed, and all you will feel is emptiness.” — Hugh Macleod
Last Friday turned out to be one special day. A good friend of mine asked me to speak to his students about STEM careers and other topics of interest. I took my buddy, Scott, up on his request for several reasons:
- He has a class of pre-engineering students (actually I found out that he has 5 classes that he teaches during the day),
- The students are well-mannered and show keen interest in their future,
- I enjoy speaking to students on a subject that is near and dear to my heart, and
- Scott has worked for IBM and Perot Systems as an electrical engineer and “retired” from both companies, then,
- He went back to get his Masters in Education – he is a real hero to me,
- Scott will be retiring from teaching after this year and I wanted him to have some of the day off.
After being introduced by Scott, I mentioned that when I first met Mr. B that I didn’t think he liked me at all, but over the years we have become best friends. One thing I have observed with students that Scott has taught over the years is after the students get in high school, they come back and let them know how much they appreciated how he taught the class and prepared them for high school. In some cases those that went on to college came back and let him know that his class is what helped them the most to do well in engineering. I encouraged these students to do the same.
After some other ‘ice breakers’ we were ready for what I loved to speak about – robots! This time I was going to show the students a timeline from when I first started teaching my sons and daughter about robots up to the present. The first robot we built was found in a Boy’s Life magazine. We called it our trash can robot (see Figure 1 for a rendition of what we were attempting to build).
The robot was a very basic wheeled robot that used two Tyco motors to drive the robot and a tethered cable tied to a control box with 4 DPDT (double pole, double throw) switches that allowed the motors for the bottom wheels to turn either direction and the motors that drove the arms to be able to turn each direction. If someone is interested in the instructions on how to build this basic yet fun tethered robot, here are the instructions.
Next, I moved on to the Lego Wall Follower Maze robot. It was one I had built to show our 4-H members a robot that could solve a maze using the ‘left hand rule.’ Lego always gets students involved especially when the robot wanders around the room looking for a wall to follow. When building a wall follower robot, most Lego enthusiasts say the ultrasonic sensor should be pointing directly in front of the robot or to the side of the robot. That never worked for me, so I built it so the ultrasonic sensor pointed forward in a 45 degree angle. The robot was the only bot that made it into and out of the maze.
Next on the agenda was a robot I took to last year’s session. It was a robot made by Wowwee called MiP (Mobile Inverted Pendulum). I wanted to get one of these robots because it is a self-balancing robot (a lot like a Segway) that has a gyroscope and an accelerometer built in. The robot was a hit because it kept making unusual sounds that kept the students attention. Here is a link to a nine minute YouTube review of the MiP robot MiP Robot
Additionally here’s a picture of the MiP robot (see Figure 2). On the left is a stunt teeter ramp where you can use the free MiP app and drive the bot up and over the ramp. You have to practice some before you can be a master roboticist. The robot is sitting on a tray accessory where you can have the MiP bot carry some light objects around. Overall, the bot has seven modes that you can make it do various tricks.
The fourth robot is my smallest robot. It is appropriately called a Wink robot that I bought from a Kickstarter project. The beauty of this robot is that you can program in Arduino, a C++ like language. The most difficult part of getting the robot to work was to download all of the files, the Arduino code, and special code the company, Plum Geek, provided. Once you get all of the files in the correct folders, it is easy to set up the correct serial port in order to create the Arduino “sketch” or programming palette.
The students really enjoyed how fast this little bot moved around the floor with the LEDs blinking different colors and also the sounds it made when it was near an obstacle. If you want something that gives you immediate feedback on your programming, the Wink is the robot for you. Below is the video that was used on the Kickstarter campaign.
My final robot is my pride and joy. My wife and children gave me this robot for Christmas 2015. It took me 103 days to start working on it due to a prior engagement working with our local 4-H Robotic Club (please see my prior posts). Once I got started on building this robot, I could not stop. It took me 3 hours to assemble the pins and another 10 hours assembling the 16 servo motors, the cables, the protective gear, and the excellent skeleton which made it look like a humanoid.
This robot is made by Robotis and it used the same pins as what was used in Ollo Explorer Kit I built a few years ago (see prior blog). After a few pins were inserted as directed in the instructions, my prior experience kicked in and it became easy to assemble. One thing you have to watch out for is ensuring you weave the cables through the proper channel. If you don’t and later when you turn it on, it might cause the wires to come loose or break.
Like the MiP robot, you can download a free app and immediately get the robot to move (if you have taken your time installing each servo correctly). I was so thrilled to see the robot come alive after I had recharged the two batteries. The same Eureka feeling I had when I built my DC motors and turned on the switch, came over me when this robot started to move.
It has several ways to get it to move and so far I have used the button mode and the voice recognition mode. I still have a lot to learn to be able to string together commands to make the robot start walking, stop and wave, do a pushup, stand up, sit down, and then do a handstand. It is really remarkable seeing it do all of these actions. It is a 16 degree-of-freedom (DOF) robot and all that is required is some imagination. Below are three pictures of the completed robot. Unfortunately, I did not have the stickers on the robot at the time of photography (see Figure 3, 4, and 5).
Overall, it was a wonderful day. It was a lot of fun and at least three students from each of four classes were able to win some king-sized chocolate candy for answering some lateral thinking problems. I left each class with six steps for each student to think about:
- Need to think about your future (by considering what you enjoyed doing when you were 12 because at age 12 what you did was what you enjoyed and you probably weren’t paid for it),
- Be open to change,
- Maintain a life-long love-of-learning,
- Be willing to help people solve their problems,
- Know you are on the earth for a God-given purpose,
It will be sad to see that Scott will retire in a few weeks, but knowing Scott, he’ll work around his home, completing honey-do lists, and then find a position that will fulfill his engineering love. He will be missed for sure.
Quote for the Day: “It just takes one idea to live like a king for the rest of your life.” — Ross Perot
As mentioned previously, our local 4-H Robotics teams headed by our fantastic 4-H agent, Ryan Farley, (see Figure 1) wrapped up a very successful year on April 16th at the District 4 Lego Robotics Competition. One of our teams, called the Kings (see Figure 2), finished as the Overall Runner-Up out of 35 beginner teams. All three teams (Aces, Kings, and Jokers (see Figure 3 and Figure 4)) finished in the top five in the Lego Sumobot Challenge, the Aces team came in second in the line follower challenge (see Figure 5), and the Jokers team came in fourth in the “tree” challenge (where they had to push the trees off the sumo ring in the shortest amount of time.
The crowd was comprised of parents, 4-H members, 4-H agents, judges, coaches, friends, and families (see Figure 6). The most exciting challenge of the day was the Sumobot challenge where each team has designed and programmed its robot to push the competitor robot out of the sumo ring (see Figure 7) This is where the crowd really got into it with whistling, clapping, and “you’ll do better next time” comments. The most difficult of the four challenges was the wall follower maze challenge (see Figure 8). Very few teams made it through the maze and most ended up exceeding the maximum amount of time.
A grand time was had by all – it was a long day, but a successful day at that. Our season ran from January until the final culminating event at the District 4 championships in the middle of April. Most teams started in October 2015 and seemed to have a head start, but this group of 4-H members applied themselves quickly to the tasks at hand and made it a priority to meet with their teams once a week for 6 weeks and for the last 5 weeks we met twice (even with Spring Break going on).
The great thing about this group of team members is that they shared their ideas on programming freely which allowed each team to have a program for each of the four challenges. This made each team a participant in each event. One mother was able to get a printout of the difficult line follower challenge which allowed each team to practice multiple times before entering the event. This gave each team confidence going to the event.
This was the first year that we used Lego Mindstorms EV3 (Evolution 3) robot kits with the new LabView software. The assembly did not take much time at all, but the programming required new thought processing with the ability to figure out all of the programming palettes. It took a few weeks understanding how to move around the software to feel comfortable with it. A few years ago, our teams used the Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 robot kits that had a down level version of the LabView software. This latest version is by far the best programming environment we have ever had.
When most people think of 4-H, they think of agriculture so when they heard that we were going to re-start a Robotics Club they were confused. 4-H is moving on, looking to becoming a part of all students lives, whether in Agriculture or even in robotics. Who knows? Maybe 4-H will consider robotic drones someday so farmers can see the results of fertilizers they have used.