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That Robot Can Dance!

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.

But can they salsa?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. First, show the video of Atlas and Spot dancing: https://youtu.be/fn3KWM1kuAw
  2. Bring up Boston Dynamics’s Web site: http://www.bostondynamics.com
  3. Bring up Boston Dynamics YouTube page with videos and show robots in action: https://www.youtube.com/user/BostonDynamics
  4. Dancing Spot can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/kHBcVlqpvZ8
  5. Discuss the concepts of products, product line, and product mix.
  6. What are commercial and business applications for each robot?
  7. What companies might buy robots (beyond the military)?
  8. Divide students into teams. Have each team develop a business-to-business marketing campaign for robots.

Source:  Associated Press; Boston Dynamics

 

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Spot, the Robotic Dog, Now Prowls the Floor at Ford

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:

  1. Discuss the concepts of products, product line, and product mix.
  2. Bring up Boston Dynamics’s Web site: http://www.bostondynamics.com
  3. More videos can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7vVhkEfw4nOGp8TyDk7RcQ.
  4. Show a video of Fluffy at Ford: https://www.wsj.com/video/the-robot-revolution-is-happeninglike-it-or-not/33C97F82-2E8B-4371-B635-C3DE3E375671.html
  5. Have students develop a marketing campaign to sell Spot to businesses.
  6. Finally, make sure to watch Spot dancing to Uptown Funk! https://youtu.be/kHBcVlqpvZ8

Source:  Boston Dynamics; Engadget; Wall Street Journal; other news sources

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Peloton Adds New Products and Cuts (Some) Prices

The pandemic has been tough on most companies. Consumer demand for products has shifted, as well as buying behavior. Some companies won’t make it successfully through this period. However, unlike other companies, Peloton seems to have weathered the Covid-19 pandemic very well. Sales for home fitness equipment have been strong as gyms and fitness centers have closed or limited the number of patrons in their facilities.

Recently, Peloton expanded its product line with new versions, and has cut prices on older equipment by roughly 16%. Peloton currently sells two primary types of exercise equipment: a stationary bike priced at $2,245 and a treadmill priced at $4,295. When the new products launch, the new Peloton Bike+ will be $2, 495, but the older bike will be reduced to $1,895. The new bike will accommodate more than just biking and includes upgraded cycling, a better sound system, and a 24-inch touchscreen that swivels for yoga or weight training in a different area.

The new treadmill will be cheaper at $2,495 compared to the existing treadmill at $4,295. The new prices are intended to extend the customer base while still offering high-margin products.

Peloton continues to offer “connected fitness” to its subscribers, linking them to instructors and other workout fans so that even when working out alone at home, customers can connect with a community of other riders and instructors. Monthly subscription memberships are $39/month and the company currently has roughly 866,000 subscribers. In addition to cycling classes, the company streams yoga instruction, strength training, running, and more workout programs.

Ready to ride?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss industries impacted by Covid-19. Which companies are winners? Losers?
  2. How has the pandemic impacted Peloton?
  3. Show Peloton’s Web site: https://www.onepeloton.com/
  4. What is the impact of the new products and price reductions for older products?
  5. Compare a Peloton bike and subscription to the average gym membership. What are advantages and disadvantages?
  6. Divide students into teams and have each team research and compare Peloton’s products and services to its competitors:
    1. NordicTrack: https://www.nordictrack.com/
    2. Echelon Fitness: https://echelonfit.com/
    3. Mirror: https://www.mirror.co/
    4. Tonal: https://www.tonal.com/
  7. What pricing strategies is Peloton using? Will this be an advantage or a disadvantage compared to the competition?

Sources: Associated Press; New York Times; Wall Street Journal; other news sources

 

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