Army of a million microscopic robots created to explore on tiny scale

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Artist’s rendition of an array of microscopic robots

 A troop of a million walking robots could enable scientific exploration at a microscopic level.

Researchers have developed microscopic robots before, but they weren’t able to move by themselves, says Marc Miskin at the University of Pennsylvania. That is partly because of a lack of micrometre-scale actuators – components required for movement, such as the bending of a robot’s legs.

Miskin and his colleagues overcame this by developing a new type of actuator made of an extremely thin layer of platinum. Each robot uses four of these tiny actuators as legs, connected to solar cells on its back that enable the legs to bend in response to laser light and propel their square metallic bodies forwards.

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RoBeetle is a tiny robot that uses methanol for fuel

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RoBeetle is a tiny robot that uses methanol for fuel

One of the biggest challenges facing researchers who are working on small robots is how to power them. The problem is that most batteries add significantly to the weight and take up lots of space inside small robots, making them impractical. Scientists have come up with a robot called the RoBeetle that doesn’t use a battery, instead relying on liquid methanol for power.

The body of the RoBeetle is a fuel tank filled with methanol. It has four legs with the rear legs fixed and the front legs attached to a transmission. The transmission is connected to a leaf spring-tensioned in a way that pulls the legs backwards. Its design allows the robot to stand upright when still.

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Japanese robot to clock in at a convenience store in test of retail automation

TOKYO (Reuters) – In August, a robot vaguely resembling a kangaroo will begin stacking sandwiches, drinks and ready meals on shelves at a Japanese convenience store in a test its maker, Telexistence, hopes will help trigger a wave of retail automation.

Following that trial, store operator FamilyMart says it plans to use robot workers at 20 stores around Tokyo by 2022. At first, people will operate them remotely – until the machines’ artificial intelligence (AI) can learn to mimic human movements. Rival convenience store chain Lawson is deploying its first robot in September, according to Telexistence.

“It advances the scope and scale of human existence,” the robot maker’s chief executive, Jin Tomioka, said as he explained how its technology lets people sense and experience places other than where they are.

The idea, dubbed telexistence, was first proposed by the start up’s co-founder, University of Tokyo professor Susumu Tachi, four decades ago.

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Facebook built a new fiber-spinning robot to make internet service cheaper

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Facebook has designed a robot that can install fiber on traditional power lines, as shown in this rendering.

 The robot’s code name is Bombyx, which is Latin for silkworm, and pilot tests with the machine begin next year.

The robot rests delicately atop a power line, balanced high above the ground, almost as if it’s floating. Like a short, stocky tightrope walker, it gradually makes its way forward, leaving a string of cable in its wake. When it comes to a pole, it gracefully elevates its body to pass the roadblock and keep chugging along.

This isn’t a circus robot. Facebook developed the machine to install fiber cables on medium-voltage power lines around the globe. The aim is to make it cheaper for internet service providers to build out their networks using super-fast and reliable fiber connections. Installing fiber is a pricey endeavor, limiting where it can be deployed. If the cost of installation goes down, says Facebook, so too does the cost of service for the end user.

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MIT-designed robot can disinfect a warehouse floor in 30 minutes — and could one day be employed in grocery stores and schools

This coronavirus-killing MIT robot could end up in your local supermarket

(CNN)MIT has designed a robot that is capable of disinfecting the floor of a 4,000-square foot warehouse in only half an hour, and it could one day be used to clean your local grocery store or school.

The university’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) worked with Ava Robotics — a company that focuses on creating telepresence robots — and the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) to develop a robot that uses a custom UV-C light to disinfect surfaces and neutralize aerosolized forms of the coronavirus.

Development on this project began in early April, and one of the researchers said that it came in direct response to the pandemic. The results have been encouraging enough that the researchers say that autonomous UV disinfection could be done in other environments such as supermarkets, factories and restaurants.

Covid-19 mainly spreads via airborne transmission, and it is capable of remaining on surfaces for several days. With states across the US reporting a surge in cases and no concrete timetable for a possible vaccine, there is currently no near-term end to the pandemic. That leaves schools and supermarkets looking for solutions to effectively disinfect areas.

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Tiny weed-killing robots could make pesticides obsolete

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This swarm of robots may herald a chemical-free food revolution

The fleet of Greenfield Robotics weedbots ready and waiting for beta test trials. Photos courtesy of Greenfield Robotics.

Clint Brauer’s farm outside of Cheney, Kansas, could be described as Old MacDonald’s Farm plus robots. Along with 5,500 square feet of vegetable-growing greenhouses, classes teaching local families to grow their food, a herd of 105 sheep, and Warren G—a banana-eating llama named after the rapper—is a fleet of ten, 140-pound, battery-operated robots.

Brauer, the co-founder of Greenfield Robotics, grew up a farm kid. He left for the big city tech and digital world, but eventually made his way back to the family farm. Now, it’s the R&D headquarters for the Greenfield Robotics team, plus a working farm.

When Brauer returned to his agricultural roots, he did so with a purpose: to prove that food could be grown without harmful chemicals and by embracing soil- and planet-friendly practices. He did just that, becoming one of the premier farmers growing vegetables in Kansas without pesticides, selling to local markets, grocery store chains, and chefs.

But it wasn’t enough to make the difference Brauer was hoping for. Sure, he was growing a lot of environmentally friendly, pesticide-free vegetables. But a few acres in chemical-free vegetable production was nothing compared to miles and miles of broadacre, arable farmland that make up the majority of America’s agricultural lands.

Brauer was especially intrigued by no-till solutions for soil health. No-till is exactly what it sounds like: farming without using techniques like plowing and cultivation, which “disturb” the soil to kill weeds. Many U.S. farmers, especially those in America’s heartland of corn, soy, and wheat production, have already switched to or are looking to embrace no-till practices. Over 104 million acres were farmed no-till in 2017, an increase of 8% since 2012. Just over 900 million acres, including no-till land, were farmed in the United States in 2017, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture.

But parking machinery to improve soil health often comes with a trade that didn’t sit well with Brauer: dependence on chemical weed control. No-till works to improve soil health, but the trade-off in chemical use is not much better for the environment than conventional farming. Regardless of the type of farming, the problem is the same.

“You got to start with weeds. It’s the number one thing that farmers are fighting,” Brauer says.

That’s where the robots come in.

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An artificial skin made with graphene could revolutionize robotic surgery

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Computer and Robot Assisted Surgery is an area receiving broad attention worldwide because of its strong potential to advance new levels of healthcare. In Europe, the robotics and cognitive science communities have been independently pursuing research in this field, making significant, but fragmented contributions. Furthermore, strong surgical instrument manufacturers are now present in Europe.

Robotic surgery is minimally invasive, meaning that instead of operating on patients through large incisions, doctors use miniaturized surgical instruments, helped by a camera on a console located in the operating room. In the past two decades, a growing number of complex urological, gynecological, cardiothoracic and general surgical procedures are being performed at an increasing number of worldwide hospitals. The benefits for the patient are fewer traumas on the body, minimal scarring and faster recovery time than traditional procedures. And it is a safe and controlled environment as humans are always guiding the surgical robots and specifying what actions they take.

The high cost of surgical robots has been a barrier, but the global market for surgical robots is experiencing a compound annual growth rate of 10.4%, from $3.9 billion in 2018 to $6.5 billion by 2023, according to Markets and Markets.

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Dog-like robots now on sale for $75,000, with conditions

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FILE – In this May 24, 2018, file photo, a Boston Dynamics SpotMini robot walks through a conference room during a robotics summit in Boston. Boston Dynamics on Tuesday, June 16, 2020 started selling its four-legged Spot robots online for just under $75,000 each. The agile robots can walk, climb stairs and open doors. But people who buy them online must agree not to arm them or intentionally use them as weapons, among other conditions.

You can now buy one of those unnerving animal-like robots you might have seen on YouTube — so long as you don’t plan to use it to harm or intimidate anyone.

Boston Dynamics on Tuesday started selling its four-legged Spot robots online for just under $75,000 each.

The agile robots can walk, climb stairs and observe their surroundings with cameras and other sensors. But people who buy them online must agree not to arm them or intentionally use them as weapons, among other conditions.

“The key goal for us is to make sure people trust robots,” Michael Perry, the company’s vice president for business development, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Somebody wanted to use Spot for a haunted house and we said no to that. It frames the robot in a negative context.”

The terms and conditions state that “Spot is an amazing robot, but is not certified safe for in-home use or intended for use near children or others who may not appreciate the hazards associated with its operation.”

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The robots continue to invade the fast food sphere

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A KFC in Moscow sends chicken along a conveyor belt to be delivered by a robotic arm.

The last dispatch from The Takeout’s robot beat was May 5. That’s six whole weeks during which the robots, unbothered by our human troubles, continued making advancements in their quest to replace the human race. As is so often the case, they have set their sights on a new way to optimize fast food, perhaps understanding that this is where they can exert the most influence over us.

Humans have generally understood for decades that the robots have been coming for our jobs, with a capacity for automation that renders many human workers obsolete—in theory, anyway. Recent estimates show that by 2030, a whopping 38% of American jobs will be eliminated in favor of automation. Now, with the entire world in the clutches of a pandemic, it’s possible that humans have begun to warm to the robots, which are not perceived to be as germ-covered as humans and can better facilitate social distancing measures (plus, you know, companies don’t have to pay them a living wage). With that in mind, KFC is currently testing “fast food of the future” in Moscow. Take a look:

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Robots will take 50 million jobs in the next decade. These are the skills you’ll need to stay employed

A new report finds that automation will take over a significant part of work activities in Europe by 2030.

 In the next 10 years, robots will take over 50 million jobs.

More than 90 million workers across Europe (about 40% of the total workforce) will have to develop significant new skills within their current roles in the next ten years, as automation puts 51 million jobs at risk, warns a new report from analyst firm McKinsey.

And almost all of today’s European workers will face some degree of change as their jobs evolve because of technology. But although the statistics seemingly feed into a common fear of robots taking over our jobs, quick conclusions needn’t be drawn: the research also shows that employment growth in other sectors will largely compensate for overall job loss.

So much, in fact, that Europe might find itself short of up to six million workers by 2030. As new opportunities emerge in fields like technology, for example, McKinsey anticipates that finding sufficient workers with the required skills to fill the jobs that are being created on the continent will be challenging.

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Robot waiters serve drinks and take temperatures at this Dutch restaurant

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View of a serving robot at restaurant Dadawan on May 28, 2020 in Maastricht, Netherlands. Robots will serve food and drinks to the customers as well as to measure body temperature before customers enter the restaurant. Restaurants and cafes will re-open in The Netherlands on June 1st. as part of the Coronavirus lockdown ease.

Robots have been hired to greet customers, take their temperatures and serve them drinks at a restaurant in the Netherlands.

Dadawan, an Asian-fusion restaurant in Maastricht, reopened on 1 June as part of measures to ease lockdown restrictions in the Netherlands. And to help with social distancing, the restaurant has hired three robots named Amy, Aker and James. The humanoid robots have mechanical arms, torsos and LED-lit faces and take on some of the customer-facing tasks to reduce person-to-person contact.

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The most intimate areas of your vacation will be deep-cleaned by a freaky robot

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Hotels, planes, and restaurants want your dollars back. Here are some of their plans to make it safe.

It’s something we look forward to all year: summer vacation. This time-honored tradition is an opportunity to get away from the stress of our daily lives and see new places, dip our toes in cool waters, or simply tune out the rest of the world for a few days. But this year, the continuing threat of Covid-19 has thrown that grand tradition for a loop, threatening to cancel it like a pool with bad pH levels.

And it’s not just wannabe-tourists who are suffering the loss of their vacations. As a result of Covid-19, 4 million people in the hospitality industry have lost their jobs. More than $21 billion in revenue has also been lost.

The question of “Is it safe to travel this summer?” is on the minds of many, and while there isn’t a clear answer yet, freaky googly-eyed robots are here to help us whenever we arrive.

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