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The Robot Report column by Frank Tobe

There is growing demand for more flexibility in factories and shops. Collaborative robotics, a sub-set of service robotics in labs, manufacturing and material handling, is where the action is today because co-bots are meeting these new demands, while caged legacy robots are not. Service and assistance robotics, with and without mobility, are an emerging and somewhat futuristic field, albeit one which is developing rapidly.‣ weiterlesen

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Tactile sensing and force feedback are – and have been – problem areas for robot grasping. Humans could see, select and pick so much faster. Yet to handle the millions of different everyday items in our factories and warehouses, costly positioning and camera systems have been required. These systems made it easy for fast robots with simple grippers to pick items as they came along – but at great cost.

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America’s manufacturing heyday is gone, and so are millions of jobs, lost to modernization. A new report from PwC estimates that 38% of American jobs are at ‚high risk‘ of being replaced by technology within the next 15 years. How soon automation will replace workers is not the real problem. The real threat to American jobs will come if China does it first.

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2016 was a banner year for acquisitions of companies involved in robotics and automation: 50 sold; eleven for amounts over $500 million; five were over a billion. 30 of the 50 companies disclosed transaction amounts which totaled up to a colossal $18.867 billion.

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Fanuc, the world’s largest maker of industrial robots, plans to start connecting 400,000 of their installed systems by the end of this year. The goal is to collect data about their operations and, through the use of deep learning, improve performance. Similarly, Kuka is building a deep-learning AI network for their industrial robots.

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