The excellent NYTimes article linked below outlines how robotics is bringing manufacturing back from overseas, but without repatriating the jobs we traditionally associate with factories.
While most of this is very positive in terms of the general economic impact, especially on domestic economies, it marks a dramatic shift in perspective - especially when it comes to the perceived value of workers. For example, when referencing Foxconn chairman Terry Gou:
Foxconn has not disclosed how many workers will be displaced or when. But its chairman, Terry Gou, has publicly endorsed a growing use of robots. Speaking of his more than one million employees worldwide, he said in January, according to the official Xinhua news agency: “As human beings are also animals, to manage one million animals gives me a headache.”
Needless to say, it's also become a key issue in the current Presidential election campaign, or at least a political football that both sides want to grab and run with.
The Obama administration says this technological shift presents a historic opportunity for the nation to stay competitive. “The only way we are going to maintain manufacturing in the U.S. is if we have higher productivity,” said Tom Kalil, deputy director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
All that being said, it's a given that manufacturing jobs will be drastically eliminated in the same way that most agricultural jobs went the way of the Dodo bird during our grandparents generation. The critical question, the question that everyone seems to be ignoring, is what will most of the people in the population do to create meaningful value that others are willing to pay for.
The Android Robot Walker STL is available on Thingiverse for download and 3D printing. It uses the Makerbot Windup Walker mechanism.
Michael Curry and his 3D printed robot Minions at Makerbot Headquarters in Brooklyn, NYC last week.
Furby is back, and he looks really bad - in a good way....
The new Furby has some interesting, and hopefully engaging, improvements especially in the way that it interacts with humans. The only thing that appears a bit off target are the LCD eyes. While they appear useful in indicating changes in Furby's personality (or personalities), the LCD eyes don't really match the rest of Furby's body and give an eerie, somewhat unsettling feeling to the toy. It will be interesting to see if that impacts market acceptance and take-up on the toy as we move into the critical 2012 holiday gift buying season.
I first met Hajime Sakamoto in 2005 during a ROBO-ONE competition in Tokyo. One of the most striking and impressive things about Sakamoto was his total dedication to humanoid robotics
Many of the other ROBO-ONE competitors design excellent, world-class robots but they do it primarily as a hobby. It's a way for them to express their creativity, skill, and passion away from the day to day work grind. It's a pleasant and fulfilling escape from their daily duties. But for Sakamoto, designing and building high performance humanoid robots is a way of life.
Designing and producing robot parts with 3D printers has become a reality with the advent of affordable devices like the MakerBot, but after you create the necessary parts, how can you attach them to each other in a reliable, robust way that will withstand actual use in the unforgiving real world?
Our friends over at I Heart Robotics have come up with practical solution - brass inserts that install in most 3D printed plastic parts using a soldering iron. According to their tests, the insert holding strength should be more than sufficient for most applications.