CES is the world’s gathering place for all those who thrive on the business of consumer technologies. It has served as the proving ground for innovators and breakthrough technologies for 50 years — the global stage where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace.
Business owners are in a race to replace their workers as quickly as possible in order to avoid being overtaken by their competitors. However, the flip side of this is that workers are not impressed and not really excited about the prospect of their jobs being taken over by robots. One expert predicts that 40% of all current jobs will be replaced within 15 years by robots controlled by artificial intelligence.
It seems now that in some countries, robots are becoming unpopular, to the extent that some humans are resorting to violence against the robots themselves, rather than against their creators or the employers who introduced them to the work place. Recently a robotic security guard was wrapped in a tarpaulin and covered with barbecue sauce . In Russia a teaching robot was bashed with a baseball bat. It seems to be a world-wide phenomenon on our robot planet.
So why this strange new phenomenon? It could be that we are coming to regard robots as creatures very similar to ourselves… after all, our human hearts can be seen simply as sophisticated pumps. And our DNA can be described in a form similar to computer code. Even our nervous system is like to the electrical wiring inside machines. The similarities are many.
Robots v Humans
Does this mean that, in the future, a battle between humans and robots is inevitable? Perhaps not. One robot manufacturer has discovered that if robots are given a name, fellow workers are much less likely to attack them. You can imagine a work place where a robot named “George” is introduced to the workers. Mary, John and Alan will be happier to work with “him” and not resent the fact that one of their team has been replaced by a machine. I imagine that lunch breaks and morning tea breaks would be interesting for employee conversation and bonding!!
So which professions can be challenged by the potential introduction of robots in the work place? Practically every profession practised by humans is now under threat by robots. And this includes the most unlikely. Robot chefs in restaurants are now a reality.
It seems that even journalism is under threat. The Guardian has recently engaged a robot writer that has just written its first article!! (I don’t know the name of this new robotic writer).
Even the medical and legal professions are under threat by artificial intelligence.
How soon will we see self-driving cars on the roads?
You may think that robotic self-driving cars are thing of science fiction. Not since 3D printing has a technology been so hyped up to imminently change our everyday lives. But there is a lot of misunderstanding about artificial intelligence as it is employed in autonomous vehicles. In this article we look at how self-driving cars work and how they’re going to change the future of transportation.
Riley Wynn from Digital Trends says that despite all the developments in the technology, people are still scared of them. Fear stems from a lack of understanding, so here is how self-driving cars work and how they will change the future of transportation.
One common misunderstanding is about what is a self-driving car.
Many of us at presently already own what can be classed as a low-level autonomous vehicle. We take for granted such features as cruise control and ABS braking but these systems are autonomous in their own right.
In fact, autonomous vehicles have been classified into five categories, on a scale of increasing complexity.
Category Levels of Autonomous Vehicles…
Level 0 All major systems are controlled by humans. (The car you learnt to drive in)
Level 1 Certain systems such as cruise control and ABS are controlled by the car. (Most modern vehicles on the road)
Level 2 At least two simultaneous automated functions like acceleration and steering but still has human override capability.
Level 3 The car commands all safety-critical functions under certain conditions but the driver is expected to take over when alerted.
Level 4 The car is fully autonomous in some scenarios but not all.
Level 5 The car is capable of self-driving in every situation.
Currently there are no technology companies that can offer a Level 5 fully autonomous car that will cope with any conditions on any road with no human overseer.
What robotic technologies are used to drive autonomous cars?
The main technologies employed in self driving cars are…
Laser range finders
Lidar sensors Lidar is a method that measures distance to a target by illuminating the target with pulsed laser light and measuring the reflected pulses with a sensor. Differences in laser return times and wavelengths can then be used to make digital 3-D representations of the target. [Wikipedia]
How do self-driving vehicles work?
The lidar and the radar sensors feed information about the surrounds of the car to the central ai computer, which also gets information from the vehicle’s GPS (Global Positioning System) to precisely locate the vehicle in relation to other vehicles and objects.
The on-board cameras then step in to create a visual picture of what is around, to match the data points provided by the other technology. This provides the ai central computer with information about anything that may be in the road, such as pedestrians or cyclists.
Self-driving vehicles are designed to make intelligent decisions on the best way to navigate around obstacles. The ai computer aggregates all the received data from the sensors and then sends the information to the actuators in the car that control the braking, the throttle and the steering. This is where the vehicle becomes robotically controlled. All these processes are repeated many times per second, in real time, to maintain control of the vehicle. The robotic system replicates all the processes that a driver performs when behind the wheel and the eventual goal is that they will do it better than we humans can.
Who is building self-driving vehicles?
Several big-name companies are in the race to get autonomous vehicles on the road. Companies like Apple, Google (Waymo) and Tesla and Uber. Uber expects to have autonomous Volvos on the road by 2020 but has stated that there will always be a human on board to rescue the AI in case of an emergency. Companies like Apple are focussing on shuttles and ride-sharing vehicles.
Delivery giants like Amazon, Fedex and UPS are looking at how they could take the driver out of truck driver. Self-driving deliveries of packages could be the forerunner to self-driving vehicles for human passengers.
Level 5 autonomous vehicles on the roads are still a long way off but robotic vehicles for deliveries and shuttles could be just around the corner (literally).
Fear of autonomous vehicles
Nevertheless, many people are still worried about the safety issues with self-driving cars.
Let us know in the comments below if you would ride in or own a self-driving car.
Robots starred at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas
The CES is a gadget-lovers’ paradise and offers consumers a glimpse of the future. CES is owned and produced by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). The show attracts the world’s business leaders and pioneering thinkers.
CES 2019 was held from January 8 to 11 and with more than 4,400 exhibitors and over 1,000 start-ups, there was something new lurking around every corner… including Personal Robot Assistants. Yes, the time has come to have your own personal robot assistant!
What can Robots do?
Many new robots now have advanced capabilities. There was even a robot at the show that can fold your laundry for you!
A Robot named “Walker” can become part of your family with its own personality, thanks to the sophistication of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Walker will even bribe you with snacks!
A few years ago, I bought myself a small robot kit.
The kit was part of the MOVIT range of toy robot kits. Only basic hand tools were required for assembly. The kits allowed the builder to experience and learn about such things as sound sensing, remote control, infrared sensing, wired control and/or programmable memory. Each project was designed to entertain as well as educate.
The particular model that I bought was called the SPIDER and featured an infrared sensor to detect objects in its path. The robot had six legs to propel it along and could emit an infrared light beam to detect an obstacle in front and then automatically turn left and continue on. The movement was by crank motion using three legs on each side. The power source was one 9V and two AA batteries.
Assembly of the robot project was quite intricate but I managed to fit all the pieces together and when I inserted the batteries and switched it on, it did start to move around. Unfortunately, the movement was not what I expected and the little SPIDER robot started to dance rapidly around in circles! With a little adjustment however and tightening of screws, the unit was encouraged to behave and walk towards a wall. It was able to approach the wall and detect its presence with its infrared “eye” and turn left as it was designed to do.
The robot’s capabilities were limited but it was effective as an educational project, demonstrating such features as infrared obstacle detection and crank action propulsion.
The kit was from a company named OWI and the product range was called Movit Electronic robot kits. These days their range has expanded to include mini-solar kits and alternative energy kits.
OWI now describes itself as the number one robotics and science kit provider.
The Movit line was a series of computerised and logic-controlled battery toy robot kits that could teach the basic principles of robotic sensing and locomotion. Each of the kits featured pre-assembled printed circuit boards, hardware and mechanical drive systems that could be handled by anyone from ages 10 and up.