Well, it's tough for the reporter when an entire industry uses a term that's losing its context. For example, I remember when ASIC manufacturers came up with the terms LSI (large system integration), and then VLSI (very large system integration) to describe complexity levels of early ASICs. Worse, these absurd terms were used during a time of rapid change, so even if they did had a precise meaning they became quickly outdated.
I was used to the industry's term "dexterous" being used for the industrial robot arms until I did the research for the humanoid hand slideshow. That's when I realized what a huge gap there is between the two approaches.
Yes, as technology improves, all terms get a bit relative, don't they, Ann? And some day the level of dexterity in even humanoid robots will be greatly surpassed by the latest and greatest. The industry I'm sure will come up with an even newer term for them. :)
I think the use of the term "dexterous" for these robots is a relative one. It's been used by the manufacturers for some time, but that was before the new generation of robot hands we look at in that recent slideshow. And yes, the use of industrial robots is definitely increasing, as we wrote about recently: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=258342
Well, it probably is a bit of a stretch, Ann, but industrial robots are doing more and more. Of course they will never rival humanoid robots for their ability to perform tasks like humans would. I do think the use of robots, especially in automation, is on the rise; I believe recent analyst reports have even pointed to this fact.
I saw ABB's robots in action at MD&M West and co-located shows recently, and Chuck is right, these things are very fast. But it's a bit of a stretch to call industrial robots dexterous, at least compared to the humanoid hands in our recent slideshow: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=260644
Along with the speed comes that repeatability that can deliver quality if the machine is set up properly. that type of repeatability is something that humans just can't deliver. However, humans will always be able to adapt and that is something that computers can struggle with. Without sensors or some type of way for the computer to sense how the parts are positioned it will perform the task the same each and every time irregardless of how the part is positioned. For the American worker I think developements like these stress the importance of furthering ones education and being able to adapt to an environment where repairing, operating and programming robots is a more required job skill than assembling parts.
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