We love robots. They are endlessly fascinating to us as we contemplate the technological advances that make robots useful to humans. They can carry gear, map territories, and enter spaces unsafe to humans. But of all their uses, we particularly like how robots can bust a move and dance (remember Spot the robot dancing to Uptown Funk?)!
Thanks to its incredibly animated robots and technology, Boston Dynamics may be the world’s most well-known robotics company. Boston Dynamics was originally an offshoot of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is now owned by Hyundai Motor Group. Its robots include Atlas, Spot, Big Dog, and Handle.
Programming the robots to dance was a daunting task, requiring hundreds of hours of work. The programming had to let robots balance, bounce, and (seemingly) even carry a rhythm. Atlas the robot uses a vast array of sensors, actuators, and a gyroscope to help it balance. It also contains three quad-core onboard computers. The result is an imaginative display of robotic versatility and possibility.
Dancing to the 1962 hit song “Do you love me?” by The Contours, Atlas and friends seem determined to get humans to love them indeed.
Spot, the robotic dog from Boston Dynamics, is now prowling manufacturing plants for Ford Motor Co. Ford calls the dog “Fluffy” and it doesn’t act as barking security guard, but rather is helping to map and update engineering plans at several manufacturing facilities. Fluffy wanders the 2-million-squar-foot transmission plan floor with its digital engineering handler, using laser scanning and imaging to produce detailed and accurate maps that Ford engineers can use to revamp the facility.
You may have heard of Spot previously as one of Boston Dynamics intriguing robotic lines. Boston Dynamics now sells Spot for $74,500 (for commercial purposes only). Since September, Boston Dynamics has sold or leased more than 250 Spot robots. Spot is typically used in construction or the electric utility industry, but was also recently used at a hospital’s emergency department to help assess patients with Covid-19.
Spot weighs 70 pounds and is equipped with five cameras that give it 360-degree vision to avoid obstacles and travels at 3 mph for several hours, constantly gathering data (without needing dog treats or a place to pee). The nimble robot is able to navigate tight spaces that the average-sized person can’t reach. It can climb stairs, cross metal grates, and keep its balance on slippery surfaces.
At Ford, Fluffy scans the plant in half of the time as needed by humans, and significantly reduces costs while maintaining accuracy.
But can it fetch the newspaper?
Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
Discuss the concepts of products, product line, and product mix.
So far the year 2020 has drastically altered lives around the world in every way possible. Think about it – since this past March, there has been a significant shift in consumer spending patterns. Globally, consumers have changed what they buy and where they buy it. Stores and restaurants closed. Online shopping boomed. And more.
Just consider what happened during the toilet paper shortage of 2020 to see how consumer behavior changed. And it’s not just toilet paper or flour; the global coronavirus pandemic has made changes not only in our households, work, education, transportation, social groups, but also in fashion. Fashion? Yes, fashion.
As recently as March (only five months ago!) it was doubtful that the average U.S. household had a supply of face masks. Think about it. Did your household stock any face masks prior to 2020? Now compare that with the number of face masks you have today in your home, car, briefcase, purse, bike bag, and office. It’s quite a big change and has created an entirely new product category for fashionable face masks.
There is a lot of variety and of course price variations. Some companies are giving away face masks branded with their logo. Other companies are creating new patterns and designs that let people express their personalities. They can be as inexpensive as cloth masks for a dollar or two, all the way up to a $1.5 million jeweled mask!b
Stay safe – and fashionable.
Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
Poll students: What industries do they think are affected by the coronavirus? (Did any list fashion?)
Discuss the impacts of the coronavirus on companies.
Poll students: How many face masks did they have at the beginning of the year? How many do they have now?