Tag Archives: robotics

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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Flippy Gets a New Gig at White Castle

The fast food industry has long had a labor problem. It can hard to find restaurant workers, particularly for fast-food chains where the jobs can be long, hot, and greasy. Add in food safety preparation issues for handling the COVID-19 pandemic and the problem grows. One of the more thankless jobs is probably working the fryer. It’s boring, repetitive, and carries a high risk of burns from hot oils.

White Castle, with 365 restaurants in the U.S., is piloting a new solution at a store in Chicago. Coming to the rescue is Flippy, the robot-on-a-rail (ROAR), that will soon be working the fry station. Flippy has a long, articulated arm that glides along an overhead rail to work the fry station, including filling the basket, timing the oil, and removing the fries without burning anyone. Safer food prep can help employees focus more on the customer, and less on production.

Flippy is a product of Miso Robotics in Pasadena, Calif., and is billed as the world’s first autonomous robotic kitchen assistant that can learn from its surroundings. It can work a grill or fryer, cooks perfectly and consistently every time, collaborates with kitchen staff, and is OSHA safety-compliant. The robotic arm isn’t cheap though. Flippy costs between $60,000 – $100,000.

Hungry for fries?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: Who was worked at a fast-food restaurant? What was the experience like for them?
  2. Show video of Flippy at White Castle: https://youtu.be/5vjf13h2f6o
  3. View videos and more information at Miso Robotics: https://youtu.be/5vjf13h2f6o
  4. Discuss the buying process for organizations. Who would influence the decision-making?
  5. For Flippy the robot food-preparation product, have students work on the actions taken in each of the five steps.
    1. Problem recognition?
    2. Information search?
    3. Evaluative criteria?
    4. Purchase decision?
    5. Post-purchase behavior?
  6. What are key considerations in each step?
  7. Debrief the exercise.

Source:  AdWeek; Forbes; Tech Crunch; other news sources

 

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Fresh Food Vending Machines

Consider the humble vending machines. They are virtually everywhere, and we do mean everywhere! We see them in stores, hallways, offices, subway stations, laundry mats, gas stations, and more. Not only are the vending machines convenient, but they are easy to use, can take cash or cards, and consumers do not have to interact with a cashier or sales person. Easy. Fast. Convenient. And, usually not very good eating.

Yes, the common vending machines as just that – common. They have been around so long that they no longer excite consumers. There is nothing particularly interesting, and virtually little food that is healthy for us. When was the last time you looked forward to eating a meal or snack dispensed by a vending machine?

That may be about to change with the advent of new machines that dispense fresh, healthy food in high density locations. Instead of soda, candy bars, and chips, today’s machines carry salads, yogurt parfaits, pudding, specialty coffee drinks, and much more satisfying fare. Not only are the foods better, the service is faster than stopping at a fast-food joint and waiting in long lines. And, as an added bonus, some of the machines will even recycle the packaging to reduce waste.

Here are few of the new alternatives:

  • Farmer’s Fridge – 400+ machines in office buildings and food courts in six states
  • Fresh Bowl – Seven locations in New York
  • Chowbotics – 100 salad robots that build orders from touchscreens
  • Le Bread Xpress – Five bake machines that cook croissants, pizza, and quiche
  • Briggo – High-end coffee cars that make 100 custom drinks per hour

Hungry and in a rush? Let’s meet at the vending machine.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: Where are vending machines? What do they buy form vending machines? Why do they buy from vending machines?
  2. Divide students into groups. Have each group take an existing vending machine and work out an update for today’s consumers.
  3. Alternative: Show Web sites of new vending machines dispensing fresh food and have a team of students analyze each vending machine and company.
  4. For each company, determine the target market, where it should be located, and the messaging.

Source: Black, J. (13 February 2020). The machine that lets you skip the salad bar. Wall Street Journal.

 

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