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OPLIN 4Cast #771: From Roombas to Rover, robots are becoming even more mainstream

Posted in 4cast, and robotics

A couple of months ago, I broke down and bought a Roomba. With two oft-shedding, long-hair cats, we were simply losing the battle against keeping our home free of loose fur. It’s (mostly) worked pretty well, but I admit to initially being just a little freaked out by the thing talking to me and by how independent it seemed. Roombas might be the first instance of widely-adopted robots for the home, but they certainly won’t be the last. I, for one, am not sure I’m ready to totally welcome our robot overlords.

  • Amazon’s new Astro robot is here, and it’s pure meme fuel [Android Police] “Astro has also already been the subject of media attention, but for all the wrong reasons. Particularly, people have taken to Twitter to mock the robot’s appearance and concept. Others are worried that the robot might be a slippery slope for Amazon to know more about you than it should, with leaked documents obtained by Vice showing how Astro tracks pretty much everything you do at home while not being particularly good at a lot of basic tasks, like circumnavigating obstacles and preventing falls down the stairs. Big yikes.”
  • Robots: stealing our jobs or solving labour shortages? [The Guardian] “All of this has created a powerful incentive for businesses to invest in automation as a way to adapt to the worker shortage. As British farms confront the absence of seasonal workers who once flooded in from eastern Europe, interest in agricultural robots is growing. The UK-based startup Small Robot Company, for example, has developed two robots capable of killing weeds in wheat fields while cutting down dramatically on the use of chemical pesticides. “
  • Miniature Customizable Robot Dogs [Trend Hunter] “The ‘Mini Pupper’ robotic dog kit is a miniature take on larger, more expensive alternatives on the market that is focused on providing makers and students alike with a way to incorporate the technology into their collection.”
  • Insurers Increase Investments in Drones, Robots [Wall Street Journal] “The company’s latest investment is Spot, a 70-pound, four-legged robot from Boston Dynamics Inc. that can be used to access unoccupied, structurally compromised houses and buildings to assess damage. Farmers will be the first insurance carrier to deploy the mobile robot.”

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