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A guide to enjoying the (inevitable) robot takeover

Thu, 08/30/2012 - 11:02am
Kasey Panetta, Associate Editor

Let's face it: Robots are better than people.

They’re more dependable than humans (i.e. no sick days), they’re usually cheaper, and they don’t complain. The downside is pretty obvious as well, at least with the primitive robots we have today: They can’t think for themselves.  (For the record, when they can think for themselves we might be in trouble so this might belong in the positives category.)

But, before they take over and enslave the human race, let’s take a look at some of the new robots on the block that will make your life just a tad easier in the meantime.

A robot that mows your lawn
I imagine this robot to be sort of like a Roomba for your yard. The Honda Miimo claims to be the first commercial robotic lawn mower of its kind. It’s pretty advanced for a lawn mower. It knows to mow in a random pattern, typically shaving off 2-3mm with each pass. Plus, it monitors its own charge level on the lithium-ion battery and returns to its dock when it needs a charge, so you won’t be tripping over it after it dies somewhere.

According to Honda, it features a “fan, built-in to its blade holder, which creates airflow to effectively ‘suck' the grass towards the blades. This ensures a superior finish and a more consistent distribution of clippings back into the root system.”

The two models offer either 300m or 500m perimeter cut, and it’s guided by a boundary wire you can install either underground or in the grass so it won’t wander into your garden. Plus, like the Roomba, it will bounce off any objects in the way and go in the opposite direction. The 500m model will mow up to 3,000 square meters—no details on how long it takes—so it should be suitable for moderately sized yards.

A robot that makes your noodles
One thing robots are really good at is completing tasks that are really boring, like making noodles. Traditionally, one chef is assigned solely to the task of cutting dough into strips. Apparently—I’ve never tried it, but it sounds true—this is very boring and pretty tough on your body. As a result, it’s difficult to find chefs who want this position or who stay in it for very long. So, one restaurateur created a robot, called Robot Chef, who was designed specifically to fill this oft-complained-about position. The robot works on the same principle as a windshield wiper. It has an arm which moves up and down, and each motion slices off a piece of the dough to be made into a noodle.



The robot costs about $2,000—about 50 percent less than a traditional employee—and it has actually caused an increase in business because people are fascinated by the new, gruff-looking, employee. Initial reports indicate the noodles taste just as good.


A robot that throws the first pitch (fast)
The Detroit Tigers had two guest pitchers throw the first ball at a recent game. One was Gold Medalist Jordyn Wieber and one was a robot named Cy-ber Young. I know we already have “robots” that throw baseballs, but this one is better for two reasons. First of all, it was designed from the ground up by a group of high school students—I like to encourage these things because that is very cool—but also, this thing throws a mean fast ball up to 100 mph. The throw at the game was about 44mph—slower than the Little League Championships—but the designers said in addition to a much better fastball, the Cy-ber Young robot can also throw a curveball. Plus, it’s incredibly accurate and able to hit a target consistently.

If you’ve been keeping track, we’ve just replaced lawn mowers, chefs, and professional pitchers in about 600 words. Be afraid.


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