More Robots, More Jobs

Peter St Onge


Many people fear robots will take all the jobs. This fear drives a number of policy proposals, from Universal Basic Income to taxing or regulating robots. Today I want to talk about what actually happens in automation, and what we should expect in the future.

In a sense, fearing automation is bizarre. We could understand if we were living in medieval Europe, where generation-to-generation there was almost no innovation. Perhaps an improved wagon axle would be the biggest innovation in a lifetime —  “Imagine, junior, how hard it was for Mom and me growing up with those dodgy axles.”

But, instead, here we sit in the midst of history’s greatest natural experiment on jobs and automation: the Industrial Revolution. Which is very specifically 200 years now of machine replacing man.

We’ve got an almost unique historical advantage of knowing precisely what happens when countries industrialize, when Ethiopia, say, becomes Switzerland — more jobs, better jobs, better standard of living. Indeed, industrialized countries have far less need for handouts than un-industrialized countries, specifically because of automation — replacing human labor with physical capital.

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Hyundai is buying a majority in Boston Dynamics, maker of those acrobatic robots that freak everyone out


Hyundai Motor Group has announced it is buying a majority stake in Boston Dynamics, the maker of the advanced robots seen in all those viral videos that seem to freak everyone out. The Korean-based Hyundai announced the deal today, saying it was acquiring 80% of Massachusetts-based Boston Dynamics from Japan’s SoftBank Group for $1.1 billion.

Hyundai says the deal fits within the company’s vision of its desire to transform “human life by combining world-leading robotics technologies with its mobility expertise.” The firm says its decision to acquire Boston Dynamics was based on the key technologies their robots already possess, including “perception, navigation, and intelligence.”

Currently, Boston Dynamics has one commercial robot, Spot, which is the dog-shaped quadruped robot that the company positions as an intelligent surveillance tool to deploy in potentially dangerous locals such as construction sites and oil and gas fields. Boston Dynamics also positions Spot as the bot you want if you need to inspect potentially hazardous packages from afar.

But Boston Dynamics also makes bipedal robots (check out the video below) that Hyundai now says it hopes can be deployed in the service sector. Hyundai sees these humanoid bots eventually being used in the healthcare sector as helpers for the disabled or caretakers of the elderly, specifically noting that its aim is to develop “humanoid robots for sophisticated services such as caregiving for patients at hospitals.”

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LG starts indoor robot delivery service trial

By Cho Mu-Hyun 

LG’s robots can get onto elevators on their own to deliver goods from a convenience store.

LG Electronics said on Monday it has begun trials for its indoor robot delivery service. 

The company’s service robots, called LG Cloi Servebot, will deliver products from convenience stores run by local store chain GS25 to anybody within LG Science Park, the company’s headquarters in Seoul. 

The robots can get onto elevators on their own to move between nine floors above ground and a basement level to deliver lunch boxes, sandwiches, and drinks, LG said.

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AI plastering robot developed for construction sites


Amid the ever-increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) robots at construction sites, a new robot that can perform concrete plastering work on its own has been developed.

 Hyundai Engineering Co., a plant engineering affiliate of Hyundai Motor Group, announced on Wednesday that it had developed the nation’s first AI plastering robot that can flatten concrete floors by itself, adding that it has applied for related patents.

The AI plastering robot, which was developed in collaboration with Robo Block Systems, is a device that rotates two motors with four micro blades to flatten a floor infilled with concrete.

Compared to existing floor plastering machines, the newly-developed AI robot features a lighter design and a greater usability. By making use of an electric motor, the AI robot generates less noise compared to existing machines that use gasoline motors.

The patented ‘AI plastering robot floor flattening technology’ precisely measures the concrete-infilled floor space with a 3D scanner.

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UK Army could be 25-percent robotic by 2030, says British general


Do you want Skynet? Because this is how you get Skynet

The big picture: The UK military is moving forward with plans to develop and deploy several thousand combat robots, some which might be autonomous. So far, militaries worldwide have avoided using unmanned technologies in combat situations. Semi-autonomous drones have a pilot who is always at the controls, so humans make the final strike decisions, not AI.

British Army leaders think that by 2030 nearly a quarter of the UK’s ground troops will be robots. That is almost 30,000 autonomous and remote-controlled fighting machines deployed within about a decade.

“I suspect we could have an army of 120,000, of which 30,000 might be robots, who knows?” General Sir Nick Carter told The Guardian in an interview.

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Inside China’s iPhone factory: Fascinating footage shows Apple components being made in a fully automated plant manned by robots


The manufacturer in southern China’s Shenzhen is entirely staffed by robots

The automated plant is dubbed ‘lights-out’ factory with AI-powered machines

It can save costs on labour and energy while improving product quality, it is said

Apple devices and iPhone components are now being produced in a Chinese out-source factory from dusk till dawn without any human workers.

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‘Robot soldiers could make up quarter of British army by 2030s’


General Sir Nick Carter, chief of the Defence Staff,

Thirty thousand “robot soldiers” could form an integral part of the British army in the 2030s, working alongside humans in and around the frontline, the head of the armed forces said in a television interview on Sunday.

Gen Sir Nick Carter said the armed forces needed “to think about how we measure effects in a different way” – and he called on the government to proceed with the previously promised five-year integrated defence review.

Speaking to Sky News on the morning of Remembrance Sunday, the chief of the defence staff suggested that “an armed forces that’s designed for the 2030s” could include large numbers of autonomous or remotely controlled machines.

“I mean, I suspect we could have an army of 120,000, of which 30,000 might be robots, who knows?” Carter said, although he stressed he was not setting any particular target in terms of future numbers.

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If you train robots like dogs, they learn faster


Instead of needing a month, it mastered new “tricks” in just days with reinforcement learning.

Treats-for-tricks works for training dogs — and apparently AI robots, too.

That’s the takeaway from a new study out of Johns Hopkins, where researchers have developed a new training system that allowed a robot to quickly learn how to do multi-step tasks in the real world — by mimicking the way canines learn new tricks.

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Disney’s robot can perform realistic eye movements & social interaction

In the past few years, scientists and engineers have developed robots for automated systems such as performing repetitive tasks. Meanwhile, Disney Research has been developing human-like robots with abilities ranging from performing stunts to having eerie eye interactions.

Disney Research recently published a paper that described a realistic and interactive gaze with the Audio-Animatronic humanoid. Previous robot developments have focused on technical implementation with human interaction. The team’s latest advancements include creating a gaze interaction “through the lens of character animation where the fidelity and believability of motion are paramount,” wrote the authors.

For nearly three decades, Disney has been developing animatronic figures, or life-like robots combined with audio and visual elements. These animal or human characters are seen in Disney theme parks around the world.

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How a hyperrealistic robo-dolphin is paving the way for animatronic aquariums

Imagine, if you will, that David Attenborough or Jacques Cousteau was put in charge of a technologically advanced theme park like the one on the TV series Westworld, offering visitors a plethora of robots to interact with that are so compellingly lifelike as to be indistinguishable from the real thing.

Now imagine that, instead of an old American West setting like Westworld, this high-tech theme park was a robotic version of SeaWorld, filled with dozens of intelligent (or, at least, artificially intelligent) marine mammals, from dolphins to orcas, that look and act just like their ocean-dwelling counterparts. But, you know, without the need to take these animals out of their natural habitats and put them into cramped tanks for our amusement.

That could be the future of marine parks — and it’s one that San Francisco-based engineering company Edge Innovations wants to help make science reality instead of science fiction.

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Robot courier delivering food from shop to home


From the last week of September onwards, customers of REDI shopping centre may have spotted a small, wheeled robot moving about on its own. Its task is to deliver meals on demand from K-Supermarket to the Majakka high-rise building. Customers can place an order via the building’s Asumi service on their computer or mobile device, and the delivery robot courier will take the products directly to the customer or to the collection point in the building’s shared facilities.

This is an ongoing robot delivery pilot in Kalasatama district in Helsinki implemented by technology company Dimalog in collaboration with Omron and service design agency Muotohiomo. The pilot is coordinated by the city of Helsinki’s innovation company Forum Virium Helsinki with its partners SRV and KONE. SRV is involved regarding the smart living services directed at Majakka residents, while KONE Oyj offers the lift interfaces for the delivery robot to move about in Majakka. Another essential partner is REDI’s K-Supermarket, which has the opportunity to test the robot in its services.

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