Tag Archives: robotics

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

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Classroom Activities

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Classroom Activities

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

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Classroom Activities