A new cheerful factory robot aims to keep European industry competitive by working alongside humans, smiling when it accomplishes a task or when its bosses ensure it stays busy. The pi4_workerbot, developed at Fraunhofer labs, has fingertip sensitivity — it completes the perennially difficult robot task of grasping an egg — and a variety of facial expressions.
It is equipped with three cameras and two arms and stands as tall as an average human, so it can be seamlessly integrated into assembly lines, according to Fraunhofer's Research News.
Although its torso is less dextrous than other humanoid bots like Robonaut, pi4's hand and arm sensitivity could be useful for assembly line work. It can pick up two pieces — say, a gear wheel and a housing — and carefully fiddle with them until the two pieces engage. "The robot smiles, and places the correctly assembled part on the conveyor belt," a Fraunhofer news release explains. The robot's shoulders swivel, affording it several degrees of freedom, and it also has an rotating wrist, which allows precise hand movements.
It has a 3-D camera on its forehead to see its surroundings, and two other cameras allow it to inspect factory items with greater precision than a human eye. In an automotive factory, for instance, it could examine a chrome-plated object by studying how light reflects off the material. The robot is a product of the European Union-funded PISA project, which aims for greater industrial efficiency using robots.
"If a company needs to produce something fast but has no worker resources, the idea would be to rent the workerbot and integrate it into human working spaces," Fraunhofer researcher Dragoljub Surdilovic told The Engineer.
Even better, it can work 24 hours a day, and it would prefer to stay busy. "If its work is going smoothly, it will smile happily. If it looks bored, it's waiting for work, and the production manager knows the production process can be speeded up," according to Fraunhofer Research News.
I'm sure people will absolutely love working next to this tireless, smug, smiling robot as it slowly takes all of their jobs away. Oh well, time to get a better education.
. . .a good new career choice for them would be Robot Maintenance
@both: Or better yet, milita training for when they figure out how to repair themselves and find that we have no purpose at all.
How will the economy work when everything is made by robots? Will people own "stock" in them and receive dividends from their productivity? Perhaps one day the Federal Reserve will have to regulate the "robot supply" to prevent bubbles and crashes.
It's surprising machine create by human as a like human..
It smiles when it's busy -- why? It sounds like a reasonably capable machine. Why did they add the smile crap?
What's next -- Barbie doll tears for when it gets laid off?
The pi4-robotics workerbot is, in my opinion, a very necessary tool to help small and medium-sized business stay competitive and keep their productive efficiency at the max. It is uniquely European as is the Heartland Robotics worker robot under development in the U.S.
The issue of whether robots take away jobs or just change the mix of work is complex but very important. I wrote about this a few months ago:
I look forward to seeing the pi4 workerbot in action and hearing how it is helping SME facilities compete and produce efficiently.
The Robot Report
The internet is written by robots...for robots...we are powerless but to do its bidding.
I find it is interesting that they are trying to convince people that the robot is "happy", "prefers", ... Bottom line is to make the humans around it think it has these emotions.
I wonder if the humans around it are really that stupid.
As for the debate on robots and automation in general. A very old discussion, I doubt there is much more to say about it.
a very interesting link was provided above by frank tobe, thank you!
while i don't have formed my own opinion yet on this issue, i wonder if i am the only one who is worried about robots getting too sophisticated?
just imagine a future scenario where robots are creating their own, even smarter robots which (who?) can outperform humans in every aspect, including smart, rationale decision making.
the question of 'where do we fit in?' might become ironically crucial.
the robot of the future will inevitably ask itself 'why do we still need humans? they are inefficient, greedy, unreliable and unpredictable.'
and just as if to prove my point, i am reading this:
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor ..."
"Learn to Live & Live to Learn"
Alexander von Humboldt
Very interesting point.
I find it insane that people complain robots will steal all of the jobs... and then buy a Roomba to vacuum their floors.
I'd love to live in a future where Robots do all of the jobs, and humans can have 24 hours (well, maybe ~23.5 if you take into account robot maintenance) to do whatever they want.
Although it is an interesting topic you bring up... how will the economy work?
I think there will likely still be jobs that people have to do--creative works like art, literature, science, etc.
Although your "robot share" idea is very interesting, especially for the non-creative type jobs.
If you believe automated systems are only going to be doing unskilled labor, then you haven't read about genetic algorithms. They allow robots and software to be much better at inventing than humans. Genetic Algorithms are already used to create art, music, architecture -- basically used to optimize any system. They will be used by robots to optimize and create better robots. And very soon - with progressively less human assistance. We are not just rapidly creating our job replacements - we are rapidly creating our species replacement. Robots are evolving many million times faster than humans. But this may be the next step in evolution. Who said carbon-based life forms get to be the dominant life form? One interesting point for companies to start thinking about - who will be purchasing their products if we don't have jobs? Robots don't eat, they don't travel much, they don't need houses or cars or clothing. They're not big on leisure activities like movies, plays, bowling, boating or flying. So I do believe there will be a point where demand for products and services will drop sharply as the "musical chairs" jobs era gets into full swing. Then - we'll need fewer robots. Even large worldwide corporations will soon figure this out. Every job replaced by a robot or a piece of software will reduce demand for their products and services - one way or another. History is no guide for what is to come - we've never yet experienced sweeping digital evolution. I don't believe robots will be doing all the work for us - because you will not have any income with which to purchase the services of a robot - no matter who you are. :-)
We are already using systems to make circuits on silicon which no human can see without a microscope. Quality control is already automated (read robots). If anyone thinks that robots will not be making robots soon, you area in denial. The world of "I Robot" is coming much faster than you might think. The military and big industry is paying for it and they will control it if something does not happen soon to introduce other controls. Robots will soon be doing almost everything from design to finished product. Unless humans get off their buts, they will be dying in nursing homes with robot care takers turning them over on the hour to prevent bed sores because humans will not be able to move them. Dependency on robots will become a necessity due to the lack of people healthy enough to do anything.
If we don't kill off the humans still living in the Amazon, they will be the only ones remaining who will be able to take care of themselves. Then again, robots will probably cut down their homes for the resources to build more robots.
We will probably have tiny robots crawling over house plants zapping mealybugs with tiny lasers or tasers. That's assuming we do not make robotic plants that clean themselves and filter the air on their own or housing so full of robotics that we will only have robotic pets or 3D images of plants and pets that will follow us around.
Robotics can be useful in the right place but the movie industry has done a good job of illustrating possibilities if humans take it too far too fast.
Lots of people down on robots :( I for one welcome our robotic overlords. They certainly can't do a worse job at running this world than we have... or if they did... they will at least ruin the world more efficiently and quicker and by this article...with a smile :)