Future Tech Robotics Edition: Human etiquette for robot workers & robot crop pickers.
A robot 3D printer that can make a building in hours
The list of materials that can be produced by 3D printing has grown to include not just plastics but also metal, glass, and even food. Now, MIT engineers are expanding the list further, with the design of a system that can 3D print the basic structure of an entire building.
Structures built with this system could be produced faster and less expensively than traditional construction methods allow, the researchers say. A building could also be completely customized to the needs of a particular site and the desires of its maker.
Even the internal structure could be modified in new ways; different materials could be incorporated as the process goes along, and material density could be varied to provide optimum combinations of strength, insulation, or other properties.
Ultimately, the researchers say, this approach could enable the design and construction of new kinds of buildings that would not be feasible with traditional building methods.
Teaching robot workers proper manners
From New Scientist:
A robotic arm is sublime at stacking boxes on a production line, but workplace robots struggle with social niceties. Now researchers are teaching robots the right way to act in social situations in the hope of making it easier for humans and robots to work together.
Human social interactions are full of subtle cues that are tricky for robots to interpret, says Song-Chun Zhu at the University of California, Los Angeles. So Zhu and his team set out to teach Baxter – an industrial robot designed to work alongside humans – to respond to social cues in a more natural way.
The team trained Baxter on videos of humans shaking hands, waving, helping each other up, passing over a cup and high-fiving. The robot’s learning algorithm generated rough skeletons of each person’s movement and used those outlines to infer human intentions and mimic their responses in social situations.
Robot fruit orchard pickers can work 24/7
From Popular Mechanics:
Harvesting Washington state’s vast fruit orchards each year requires thousands of farmworkers… That system eventually could change dramatically as at least two companies are rushing to get robotic fruit-picking machines to market.
The robotic pickers don’t get tired and can work 24 hours a day. “Human pickers are getting scarce,” said Gad Kober, a co-founder of Israel-based FFRobotics. “Young people do not want to work in farms, and elderly pickers are slowly retiring.”
FFRobotics and Abundant Robotics, of Hayward, California, are racing to get their mechanical pickers to market within the next couple of years. Harvest has been mechanized for large portions of the agriculture industry such as wheat, corn, green beans and tomatoes for some time. But for more fragile commodities like apples, berries, table grapes and lettuce — where the crop’s appearance is especially important — harvest is still done by hand.
See more IT & Tech innovation stories and let us know the interesting technology stories you come across.