Walmart currently deploys a small number of robots at its stores across the U.S., but this week it says it’s “going big” with the technology, rolling out thousands more machines so that its human workers can spend more time helping customers. So what exactly is Walmart planning? Well, the deployment includes 1,500 autonomous Auto-C floor cleaners, 300 Auto-S shelf scanners to monitor inventory, 1,200 FAST Unloaders that automatically scan and sorts items delivered by trucks, and 900 Pickup Towers that functions like a giant vending machine for customers collecting orders that they placed online. According to Walmart, the robot rollout means that customers will have a better chance of finding a member of staff if they need assistance, while improved inventory management should ensure items are always available on the shelves. Walmart has been testing its different technologies for some time and the company says the response from its store workers regarding their robot … [Read more...] about Robot invasion: Walmart to deploy thousands of automated assistants
Robot revolution? Educational robots could help students learn new skills and good study habits. But researchers still have a lot to learn about the potential risks involved when young kids keep close company with such robots, Maria Temming reported in “Robots are becoming classroom tutors. But will they make the grade?” (SN: 2/16/19, p. 16).The story reminded reader A. Bogart of Isaac Asimov’s novel The Naked Sun, in which robots and humans live side by side. Asimov “raised the specter of some of the same issues with which scientists are now grappling,” Bogart wrote. Although Asimov had a positive view of science and innovation, all inventions are force multipliers, Bogart noted. “That means they can be used to multiply the effects of good and evil,” Bogart wrote. “Even at this early stage, it is well to think about negative impacts as well as positive ones.” Dogged questions Bone fragments of dogs and other animals unearthed … [Read more...] about Readers respond to classroom robots, soil erosion and more
A new robotic gripper is a strong “hand” with a soft touch. The bell-shaped gripper has a silicone rubber skeleton with an intricate origami design, wrapped in an airtight, latex rubber skin. When a vacuum sucks air out of the gripper, the skin constricts, forcing the origami skeleton to collapse into a narrow funnel. The bunched-up gripper’s rigged interior and rough latex skin help it keep ahold of objects. Shuguang Li, a roboticist at Harvard University and MIT, and colleagues plan to present this device at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Montreal in May. In lab experiments, the soft gripper picked up household objects of various sizes and shapes, successfully glomming onto a smartphone and the handle of a mug, among other things. Whereas rigid robotic hands lack dexterity and might be liable to crush delicate objects, this rubber gripper gently handles fragile items such as soft fruits and wine glasses. And unlike other soft robotic … [Read more...] about An origami design helps this robot lift delicate and heavy cargo
Pondering a tablet screen displaying a town scene, a pre-K student tilts her head to the side and taps her lip thoughtfully. “What are we trying to find?” asks the plush, red and blue robot called Tega that’s perched on the desk beside the girl. The bot resembles a teddy bear–sized Furby. “We are trying to find lavender-colored stuff,” the girl explains. Lavender is a new vocabulary word. “OK!” Tega chirps. The girl uses her forefinger to pan around the scene. She eventually selects an image of a girl — not wearing purple. The game puts a red mark through her choice: wrong. The girl slumps down in her chair, head dropped to her chest as Tega says, “I’m sure you will do better next time. I believe in you.” The robot, which MIT researchers are testing with students in a Boston-area public school, tilts toward the girl, who leans in close so that her cheek is right next to Tega’s. Now it’s the … [Read more...] about Robots are becoming classroom tutors. But will they make the grade?
HONOLULU — The notion of ownership comes so easily to humans that even preschoolers have got it down. Robots, on the other hand, often struggle to grasp such abstract concepts. Now researchers have programmed a well-mannered robot that can learn who owns what, as well as what it’s allowed to do with people’s belongings. Teaching robots ownership-related etiquette “is really, really important,” says Matthias Scheutz, a computer scientist and human-robot interaction researcher at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., not involved in the work. You can’t just send out robots “who are blissfully unaware of who owns what.… If I instruct a robot ‘build a fence,’ and it goes to the neighbor’s and starts [stealing] boards, that’s not what we have in mind,” he says. The new socially conscious robot, to be described February 1 at the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, can learn who owns what from explicit … [Read more...] about This robot learned not to mess with other people’s stuff