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Manufacturing

Rodney Brooks on Cars as Robots

How many people have operated their own robot? A lot more than you might think, Rethink Robotics founder and CTO Rodney Brooks would say. "I tell everyone, 'You're driving around inside a robot, and 10 years from now it's going to become an even smarter robot,'" Brooks told us at our Techonomy Detroit conference. "Cars are the epicenter, actually, of robotics." Brooks also elaborated on how easy-to-use robots are in a position to transform the manufacturing industry, making it more efficient, more localized, and less generic--a potential boon for cities like Detroit.   More

Manufacturing

Roboticist Rodney Brooks on How Automation Helps Makers

Rodney Brooks, founder and CTO of Rethink Robotics, joined us at our Techonomy Detroit conference to talk about the intersection between robotics and the maker movement. Robots like Rethink's Baxter offer small industries a tool to make workers more productive. But because Baxter operates on a software platform, it also benefits from users who think of new functionality and specializations for the robot. "There's going to be some kids out there who come up with some ideas that we would never have thought of in a million years," Brooks said. Those users may in turn use Baxter for smaller scale, maker oriented production.   More

Techonomy Events

What Happened at Techonomy 2012, and What to Expect This Year

Techonomy's David Kirkpatrick shares highlights from our 2012 Tucson conference, which was more business-centric than previous gatherings. As a place "where the suits meet the geeks," the Techonomy conference looks at the big issues changing retail, banking, money, international trade, and leadership, as well as how the trends of cloud, mobile, social, and big data impact business.   More

Jobs Manufacturing

The Humanoid Robots Start Arriving

Steve Jurvetson, a VC friend of Techonomy's at Draper Fisher Jurvetson, ordered a humanoid "Baxter" robot from Rethink Robotics and shared these shots of taking it out of the box and plugging it into the wall. Right out of the box, Jurvetson programmed Baxter by moving its arms. On his first try, he taught the robot to move cups across a table, reporting that Baxter was able to persevere even as people placed cups in random locations on the table. "It learns what its hands can do by looking at them against the table as background," writes Jurvetson.   More

Energy & Green Tech Jobs Manufacturing

Deloitte’s Chris Park: 3D Printing for Cleaner and Leaner U.S. Manufacturing

Revitalizing manufacturing is essential to U.S. economic recovery, but it’s not clear yet how this new phase might look. One thing is certain: it won’t look anything thing like manufacturing did 15 or even 5 years ago. PARC CEO Stephen Hoover has spoken at Techonomy events about how innovations like 3D printing and crowdsourcing can drive a paradigm shift in manufacturing. But can a new American manufacturing approach also be eco-friendly? Techonomy spoke with Chris Park, a principal at Deloitte who helps clients with their environmental, social, and sustainability performance, about how next-generation manufacturing technology could reduce environmental impact and bring jobs back to the U.S.   More

Manufacturing

Making Robots Better Team Players

Humans are intelligent, yet unpredictable. Robots are programmed to be predictably logical. Can they get along? These days they don't have much of a choice, as robots increasingly perform human tasks and work with human teams. As reported in SmartPlanet, researchers at MIT are examining ways to establish trustworthy and efficient relationships between humans and robots, using a cross training approach to team building. Their research shows that teams in which a robot and its human partner swap roles on different days become more efficient.   More

Manufacturing

Why Robots Might Boost Industry While Killing Jobs

Globalization is an easy culprit for the recent wave of U.S. unemployment, with domestic jobs shipped overseas to be replaced by cheap labor, often without adverse impact on the quality of a company's products or services. Apple is just one high-profile example of this trend. But automation and robotics may be contributing even more to our stubborn unemployment figures. Paradoxically, robots could also help bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. The Jan. 13 broadcast of 60 Minutes featured several Techonomists to help explain how this might happen.   More

Techonomy Events

Meet Baxter: The Robot That Will Take Your Job

Who’s your biggest competition for that new job? Turns out, it could be a robot named Baxter. This humanoid robot, created by Rodney Brooks and his team at Rethink Robotics, is easy to program and costs only $22,000. At the Techonomy conference in Tucson, Ariz., Brooks joined MIT research scientist Andrew McAfee to talk about how robots will change our lives.   More