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Slideshow: Robots Tackle Surprising Tasks

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Rob Spiegel
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The new race of robots
Rob Spiegel   10/31/2013 8:04:28 PM
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For decades, robots have completed repetitive human tasks in automotive factory lines. Now robots are getting a crack at more sophisticated human tasks such as administer drugs and washing the hair of hospital patients.

Droid
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Re: The new race of robots
Droid   11/1/2013 9:26:35 AM
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Not sure about having a robot care for me while I'm drooling in my oatmeal at the nursing home.  I'm thinking there are a number of disgusting cleanup tasks that the nursing staff would like to pass on to the new robotic staff....   So please if you are developing a robot - make sure it has gentle hands.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: The new race of robots
Rob Spiegel   11/1/2013 11:48:22 AM
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Hey Droid, good point. I wonder if we'll eventually see stories about robots gone wild in nursing homes.

NadineJ
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Re: The new race of robots
NadineJ   11/1/2013 1:17:51 PM
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"robots gone wild??"  Rob, can you elaborate on that?

Rob Spiegel
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Re: The new race of robots
Rob Spiegel   11/1/2013 2:38:22 PM
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Hey Nadine, how about robot malfunctioning in the nursing home?

NadineJ
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Re: The new race of robots
NadineJ   11/1/2013 1:15:06 PM
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Droid, it's true that the things we ask health care workers to do are considered disgusting.  But, the robots can help keep nurses and staff safe and healthy.  Lifting hundreds of pounds of dead weight to check for bedsores, change a bad pan or transfer a patient from a bed to a wheelchair causes thousands of back injuries every year.

Robots working with people could be a good solution for end of life care.

Ralphy Boy
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Re: The new race of robots
Ralphy Boy   11/1/2013 3:09:43 PM
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Those are great examples of what is out there Rob...

It looks like the current batch of sophisticated robots are mostly specialized in very narrow tasks. The hospital helpers come to mind... One washes hair, another admins drugs, another lifts in and out of bed. In a few years that will likely change. But how many jobs will be lost to a small fleet of HC Robots once they can do it all? Stay tuned I guess.

On another note... It's not that simple a thing to program bots for the unexpected. We have a new 400 ton press that is off loaded by an industrial Fanuc 6 axis LR Mate 200ic.

http://www.fanucrobotics.com/cmsmedia/datasheets/LR%20Mate%20200iC%20Series_10.pdf

After certain types of faults or maintenance events it will some times attempt to commit suicide if the exact sequence of buttons is not pressed during restart. What it does is rapid into the press when the press is not expecting it. The light curtain is all that saves the robot from being terminated...

It has done this 2 nights in a row now. It's being looked into by the machine builder's code guys.

I am resisting hanging a 'Terminator' name tag on the control panel cause... no one will be laughing if it finds a coded loophole around the light curtain.

Back to the HC Bots... Take care when restarting after a fault... I wouldn't want my Depends (or anything else for that matter) on/in the wrong end.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: The new race of robots
Rob Spiegel   11/1/2013 3:16:08 PM
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That's a great story, Ralphy Boy. Sounds like the safety system held up well. Once the problem is solved, you should submit it as a Shderlok Ohms entry.

Ralphy Boy
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Re: The new race of robots
Ralphy Boy   11/1/2013 3:22:55 PM
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Thanks for the thought Rob, but we are just now getting to run this piece at night. The 2 day shift operators are engineers and they are inside the debug loop. I may not even be told when it is fixed. It may just stop happening one day night.

The day guys have seen this a few times too though so 'we' didn't discover anything new. New machines are frequently slowly developing list of action items... This is a big one in my mind. 

Rob Spiegel
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Re: The new race of robots
Rob Spiegel   11/1/2013 3:36:27 PM
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Yes, this does sound like a big one, Ralphy Boy. It would be a good story to tell at Design News -- to illustrate what can go wrong, how it can be fixed, and how safety worked when things went haywire.

Ralphy Boy
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Re: The new race of robots
Ralphy Boy   11/1/2013 11:00:37 PM
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Hey Rob...

The problem seems to lie in that the press has a control panel and controller, and the robot has its own controller and control panel. Both AB, but I suspect that the robot does not have to ask permission before entering the press's work space. So, if it gets out of sequence it can dive right in if it decides to. Then the press e-stops until you remove the bot.

The problem for us (me and the night operator) is that it requires a password and more pendant knowledge than we have at the moment in order to back the robot out. So, we ended 2 nights with the robot inside the press. Imagine that kind'a scenario in a healthcare situation...

Rob Spiegel
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Re: The new race of robots
Rob Spiegel   11/3/2013 7:10:44 PM
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Yes, Ralphy Boy, the malfunction of a medical robot -- whether it's one that cares for patents or one that assists in operations -- is not a pleasant thought. Robot malfunction a disturbing enough that it has been depicted in numerous movies.

William K.
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Re: The new race of robots
William K.   11/8/2013 10:05:07 AM
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Quite a few years ago I designed a robot system to load a connecting rod trim press. The operation was one of the more dangerous, since sometimes it took both hands to place the part correctly in the trim die. The robot and the press controllers did need to handshake, which was in this case set s of contacts connected to digital inputs. Thee were two in each direction, one being a request for motion and the other being a request for the other to wait. The system worked quite well, and it was possibly the most welcomed of any system that I have created. The press operators loved it, the safety team loved it, the managers loved it because it increased production, and the union loved it because it simply moved the operators job out of the danger zone. The operator was assigned to place the con-rods onto a conveyer inswtead of placing them into the trim die.

mattd
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The task I want
mattd   11/1/2013 9:50:01 AM
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How about a robot that can actually scratch my back...I might be willing to pay some good money for that!

bobjengr
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SURPRISING TASKS
bobjengr   11/3/2013 3:31:40 PM
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 Thank you Rob for the great slide show.  Robotic systems seem to be more and more life-like as the years go by.  I am surprised at how the Japanese have chosen to investigate usage of the "bots" relative to their ageing population.   My father is in an assisted living complex and I can certainly see  applications in that facility especially for mundane tasks such as picking up and delivering laundry, bringing meals, possibly in bringing medications, etc etc.  I feel quite confident that this important technology will eventually be applied in that fashion here in the "states". Again, excellent slide show. 

Rob Spiegel
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Re: SURPRISING TASKS
Rob Spiegel   11/3/2013 7:15:40 PM
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Thanks Bobjengr. You can bet we'll see these robots show up in the U.S. if they're successful in Japan. And they'll show up for the same reason robots are successful in industry -- they reduce labor costs.

William K.
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What about hackers? and "harmless BBs"?
William K.   11/8/2013 10:17:38 AM
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While servant and helper robots are certainly able to be a real benefit, there is an area for great caution, which is outside interference. Based on my daily getting attempts to hijack my computer for unknown purposes it is clear that lots of individuals would cause all kinds of problems if they were allowed to get through. And we just know that most of these will have wireless communications added if they don't already have it. And we also know that there is no such thing as truely secure wireless communication, at least not for more than a few hours. So there certainly needs to be some reliable manual non-hackable means to switch them off. 

And for that warfighter robot shooting "harmless BBs", they may not hurt much at 100 FPS, but that same BB at 1500 FPS or more is quite deadly. And at the military velocity of about 2500FPS they are even more dangerous. Note that I am only challenging the description, not the product. BUt a relatively slow moving large robot just does not seem to me to be very invincable. I could easily knock it out with an ordinary car. One hit at 65MPH and the robot is damaged. And a radio controlled car is current technology. 

Rob Spiegel
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Re: What about hackers? and "harmless BBs"?
Rob Spiegel   11/8/2013 10:37:50 AM
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Good points, William K. So what does a BB do at those speeds? I would imagine it would plow right through the body, leaving small but potentially deadly hols in internal organs.

William K.
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Re: What about hackers? and "harmless BBs"?
William K.   11/8/2013 11:48:16 AM
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Rob, at the higher velocities a round object creates a shock wave that also rips tissue apart in an expanding cone shape. Of course the small mass of the .177 cal BBs delivers a lot less energy than the larger calibers, but consider that the standard NATO issue was .222 caliber for many years. Of course, that is a lot more mass, but those are serious military bullets designed to do lots of damage. The one "nicer" thing about BBs is that they don't tumble as they pass through. But at higher velocities they can still make a nasty mess.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: What about hackers? and "harmless BBs"?
Rob Spiegel   11/8/2013 12:19:38 PM
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Interesting, William K. So the BB spewing robot is potentially more dangers than it seems.

William K.
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Re: What about hackers? and "harmless BBs"?
William K.   11/9/2013 8:10:55 PM
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The danger of the BB spewing robot depends a whole lot on the velocity of the BBs. At 100FPS they would still be an eye hazard, and at lesser speeds they would more likely be a tripping hazard. But at a thousand feet per second they can start to do real damage. After all E= MV**2

BrainiacV
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Kill'em with a smile
BrainiacV   12/10/2013 9:57:56 AM
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The Kuratas robot from Suidobashi Heavy Industry has a smile detection mode to fire the BB gun.  The female model demonstrating it cracked up and couldn't stop smiling, it was like the ED-209 blazing away at the corporate exec in Robocop.

tluxon
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Seems like a good way to ween...
tluxon   7/22/2014 12:55:50 PM
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... off a useless eater would be to deny them physical movement and social interaction.  I sure hope we find a more honoring way to utilize robots than have them replace humans in caring for the heritage-carrying elderly.

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