Sophia, a humanoid robot, is reportedly getting started on a music career after selling an NFT for $688,888 last month.
“We’re so excited about Sophia’s career as an artist,” David Hanson, chief executive at Hanson Robots, told The Associated Press.
The robot has often made headlines. Earlier this year, its designers told Reuters they were readying it for mass production during the pandemic. It’s also attracted detractors, including an AI researcher who called its technology a “scam.” Last month, Sophia helped create a piece of digital art that sold as a non-fungible token for $688,888, per the AP.
“I hope the people like my work, and the humans and I can collaborate in new and exciting ways going forward,” Sophia told Reuters.
Here’s how the robot described her artistic process: “We use transformer network engines in my art and other kinds of computational creativity. My algorithms output unique patterns that never existed in the world before. So I think the machines can be creative.”
The robot’s “Sophia Pop” music project is next, Hanson said. The robot will “collaborate” with musicians, helping create both music and lyrics for the project.
Sophia’s music skills have been on display before. In 2018, the robot sang a duet with Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show.” Reviews were mixed.
Based in Hong Kong, Hanson Robotics had been iterating on its Sophia design since introducing it in 2016. The robot has popped up at conferences, broken hearts, and talked to reporters, including severalinterviews with Insider.
Boston Dynamics, the robotics firm behind Spot the robot dog, just unveiled a new robot. Stretch is designed to work in warehouses moving boxes, with a long robotic arm for moving objects.
It’s a “box-moving robot designed to support the growing demand for flexible automation solutions in the logistics industry,” Boston Dynamics says. It is the company’s first entrance into warehouse automation, although Spot has been used in some warehouses.
The new robot is optimized for any tasks that require moving boxes, including unloading trucks and eventually building orders. The base can move in different directions to navigate loading docks and maneuver around tight spaces and changing layouts.
Boston Dynamics says Stretch’s robotic arm is lightweight and custom-designed with a “smart gripper” that can handle different types of boxes and coverings. Computer vision technology enables Stretch to identify boxes without need specific training for each customer.
The company is looking for pilot customers to test Stretch before it is commercially available in 2022.
COVID-19 has upended many businesses, but none more so than brick and mortar stores that rely on foot traffic. The combination of government-mandated shutdowns and consumer worry made these retailers’ sales tank in 2020, with almost 10,000 U.S. stores closing permanently. But consumers didn’t stop shopping – trapped at home, they took their buying online, which led to an e-commerce boom.
That boom has strained distribution and fulfillment centers, which every online order passes through before reaching a buyer’s doorstep. The pandemic exacerbated existing labor shortages in these warehouses; meanwhile, consumers expect online orders to arrive faster than ever, with two-day shipping the new standard. Warehouses are under tremendous pressure to do more with less.
These challenges won’t go away when the pandemic ends. In fact, IBM research shows that COVID accelerated the shift to e-commerce by 5 years. To keep up with this growth in e-commerce and to compete against the likes of Amazon, companies have begun viewing automation as more than a competitive advantage – it’s now a necessity. Warehouses must embrace new automation technologies like robotics and connected devices. Existing automation has already improved safety and efficiency, and warehouses that embrace the next generation – flexible solutions for monitoring and changing workflows on demand – will flourish. Here’s how automation has already addressed some of the biggest warehouse challenges and what’s next.
Warehouses are at a breaking point
The world has changed drastically in the last half century, but some warehouses haven’t. Many remain labor intensive, relying on workers to find a specific item in a sea of products and walk with it, sometimes miles, to the right processing station.
As the pandemic increased demands on warehouses, many companies struggled to hire staff to keep up while following COVID-19 regulations. Facing growing order volumes, these companies had to rely on staff to walk miles every day to pick products off shelves and keep operations running.
Among warehouses that have embraced automation, the pandemic proved all automation is not created equally. Many warehouses that have automation in place rely on fixed solutions such as conveyors and sortation systems, which can take 6-9 months to implement and are difficult to adjust to support new workflow needs. These fixed solutions were pushed to their limit in 2020, as facilities sought to meet new demands and make changes to their workflows on the fly.
Automation has made warehouses safer and faster
In response, some companies have begun automating specific workflows within their warehouses to reduce pressure on workers and increase productivity. COVID-19 accelerated this trend as facilities had to adopt social distancing rules and limit the number of workers in their facilities. In some of these facilities, employees now work side-by-side with mobile robots that quickly move goods across long distances, reducing physical strain on workers and speeding up production.
Automation also makes it easier for companies to operate warehouses in smaller facilities. As retail foot traffic dried up and online demand soared, some companies outfitted old retail stores that are closer to population centers as distribution centers. Using robots to power operations at all hours, they can fulfill and deliver orders faster.
How the next generation of automation will drive warehouses
Historically, a major sticking point in automation adoption is the time and cost of installation. Installing fixed automation systems requires facilities to cut operations in half for weeks. That obstacle is fading: new flexible automation solutions can be operational in a day. For example, warehouse workers can unbox a mobile robot, connect it to wifi and have it autonomously moving materials within hours.
In the case where there is a large investment in fixed automation that companies want to leverage, but still implement flexible automation like AMRs, cloud-based AMRs offer a way to bridge the gap between these two types of automation. For example, AMRs can autonomously move totes on and off a conveyor system by moving to the end of the conveyor, letting the cloud software know that it is next to the conveyor, and have the cloud software turn on the conveyor system and the rollers on top of the AMR to move a tote on or off the AMR. The same sort of integration can be used with other types of fixed automation.
Even after automation is installed, another challenge is that warehouse work effectively happens in a black box. Facility managers see what goes in and out, but not which aisles are congested or when a forklift moves too fast. Mobile robots with sensors can help by acting as “hall monitors,” showing managers the floor in real-time. Managers can spot inefficiencies and dangers, then create strategies to increase productivity and stop accidents before they happen.
As the shift from physical stores to e-commerce continues, warehouses will be more essential than ever to companies’ relationships with their customers and their bottom lines. With an ongoing labor shortage and heightened consumer demand, warehouses that embrace a new generation of flexible automation will be safer and more efficient.
Cathie Wood’s ARK Autonomous Technology & Robotics exchange-traded fund recently bought shares in a special-purpose acquisition company that counts tennis champion Serena Williams as a board member.
The ARKQ ETF snapped up 800,494 shares in Jaws Spitfire Acquisition Corp, according to data available on ARK Invest’s website. The fund counts Tesla, JD.com, Baidu, and Alphabet among its top ten holdings.
Miami-based Jaws is led by chairman Barry Sternlicht and CEO Matthew Walters. The SPAC recently entered a merger deal with digital manufacturing firm Velo3D to take it public, valuing the combined company at $1.6 billion.
Wood and the red-hot SPAC market have been caught up in a bit of a rough patch. Blank-check companies have already raised $96 billion across 296 IPOs so far in 2021, according to SPACInsider.com. Blank-check stocks tumbled on Thursday after Reuters reported the Securities and Exchange Commission has begun an inquiry into Wall Street’s SPAC frenzy and seeking voluntary information on dealings.
But 93% of SPACs that went public this week are trading below their $10 IPO price, Dealogic data compiled by Reuters showed. That is 14 out of 15 SPACs trading below par value.
Wood is known for her innovative investments in disruptive stocks. But her flagship $22.9 billion Innovation ETF is currently sitting on a 8% year-to-date loss after a broader pullback in high-growth stocks across multiple sectors. Meanwhile, the ARKQ ETF that bought into Jaws is up 4.6% year-to-date.
Albertson Companies, the company that owns Safeway and Jewel-Osco, has partnered with Silicon Valley software startup, Tortoise, to launch a pilot program that uses remote-controlled delivery robots, as reported by TechCrunch.
Albertsons and Tortoise will join forces for robot delivery service, reports TechCrunch.
The carts will deliver goods to customers who live up to three miles away from the store location.
The test will start at two Safeway locations in northern California.
The test will start at two Safeway locations in northern California.
According to the report, Dmitry Shevelenko, co-founder and president of Tortoise, said that if the operation is successful, he expected the pilot to scale up to other shops within the state and perhaps the west coast.
The Safeway-stamped delivery carriages installed with Tortoise’s software will be able to make food deliveries for its customers who live as far as three miles from the store location, said TechCrunch. The delivery carts will be tele-controlled by long-distance operators to guide the cart on its journey. When the carts reach their destination, customers will be told to collect their order via text message, according to the outlet.
Other large companies, including Ford, are becoming more reliant on delivery robots. The pandemic has also bolstered the growth of smaller robotic-delivery companies, such as Starship Technologies, which hit 1 million sales in February.
AP reported that Albertson’s EVP, and chief customer and digital officer, Chris Rupp, said in a statement: “Our team is obsessed with trying new and disruptive technologies that can bring more convenience for our customers.”
He added: “We are willing to quickly test, learn and implement winning innovations that ensure we are offering the easiest and most convenient shopping experience in the entire industry.”
The partnership is an example of smart technologies transforming all types of industries to improve the customer experience at a time when social interaction has become increasingly difficult.
Toyota Motor Corporation started construction this week on a 175-acre smart city at the base of Japan’s Mount Fuji, about 62 miles from Tokyo, the company announced Tuesday.
The city, which Toyota has dubbed the “Woven City,” is expected to function as a testing ground for technologies like robotics, smart homes, and artificial intelligence. A starting population of about 360 inventors, senior citizens, and families with young children will test and develop these technologies.
These residents, who are expected to move into the Woven City within five years, will live in smart homes with in-home robotics systems to assist with daily living and sensor-based artificial intelligence to monitor health and take care of other basic needs, according to the company.
The eventual plan is for the city to house a population of more than 2,000 Toyota employees and their families, retired couples, retailers, and scientists. Toyota announced plans for the city last year at CES, the tech trade show in Las Vegas.
Here’s what the 175-acre smart city is set to look like when it’s finished.
Toyota’s planned 175-acre smart city will sit at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan, about 62 miles from Tokyo.
The Woven City will function as a testing ground for technologies like robotics, smart homes, and artificial intelligence, according to the company.
Toyota officially started construction on the city in a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, the company announced. The city is set to be built on the site of one of Toyota’s former manufacturing plants called Higashi-Fuji.
Toyota plans to send about 360 people to live in the Woven City to start. From there, it intends to gradually grow the population to more than 2,000.
The first residents will be a group of roughly 360 inventors, senior citizens, and young families with children, according to the company. These residents will move in within five years, a Toyota spokesperson told Insider last year.
Toyota has not yet revealed how these first residents will be chosen, and a spokesperson did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for more details.
Eventually, the Woven City is expected to be home to more than 2,000 Toyota employees and their families, retired couples, retailers, visiting scientists, and industry partners.
Residents will live in homes outfitted with in-home robotics technology as well as sensor-based artificial intelligence to monitor their health and take care of their basic needs.
Despite the planned high-tech homes, Toyota says that promoting human connection is a major theme of the city but has not released specifics on how it plans to encourage this.
Press materials indicate that the planned city will feature multiple parks and a large central plaza for social gatherings.
Buildings are to be made mostly of wood to minimize the carbon footprint.
Rooftops are slated to be covered in photo-voltaic panels to generate solar power and hydrogen fuel cell power.
Toyota says it plans to integrate nature throughout the city with native vegetation and hydroponics, a method of growing plants without soil.
The city will be designed with three different types of streets: one for self-driving vehicles, one for pedestrians using personal mobility devices like bikes, and one for pedestrians only.
These three types of streets will form an “organic grid pattern” to help test autonomy, according to Toyota.
There will also be one underground road used for transporting goods.
A fleet of Toyota’s self-driving electric vehicles, called e-Palettes, will be used for transportation, deliveries, and mobile retail throughout the city.
Toyota has not yet disclosed an estimated completion date or estimated total cost for building the Woven City.
The Woven City joins a slew of similar smart city projects across Japan, some of which are also spearheaded by major companies.
In 2014, electronic appliance company Panasonic opened a smart city in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture called the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town, per Tokyo Esque, a market research agency. The city is still under construction with completion expected in 2022, but more than 2,000 people live there now, according to Panasonic.
Accenture, an American-Irish consulting company, is teaming up with the University of Aizu on smart city projects in the town of Aizuwakamatsu with the goal of better using artificial intelligence in public services, the company announced in July 2020.
“If it’s not started from a human-centric perspective, from the bottom up as opposed to from the top down, these aren’t real cities,” John Jung, founder of the Intelligent Community Forum think tank, told Bloomberg in January 2020. “They’re not designed to get [people] to know each other.”