January 10, 2019

For thousands of years, people have been baking bread by largely following the same procedure: dough is kneaded into a loaf and then placed in a hot oven until it’s done. And while this may sound simple enough, baking a perfect loaf of bread actually requires a great deal of skill and years of experience. That is unless you have a BreadBot, a new machine that automates nearly every aspect of the baking process.

Recently unveiled at the annual Consumer Continue reading

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November 1, 2018

With about 6,700 hotels operating under 30 brands in more than a hundred countries, Marriott International is by far the world’s largest hotel chain. Last year the company earned profits totaling $1.37 billion as guests from around the globe checked in and out of properties like Sheraton, Ritz-Carlton, and Westin. Over the last few weeks, however, 23 hotels owned by Marriott have not been operating as usual. That’s because since October 8th the employees at these locations have been on Continue reading

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October 16, 2018

The Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo has steadily grown into an international brand known for its inexpensive but stylish designs. As you might expect, maintaining this image requires the company to strike a delicate balance between creating interesting products and keeping costs low. That’s why Uniqlo recently announced that robots have replaced 90 percent of the staff at one of its warehouses.

Along with drastically cutting costs, the company’s newly automated warehouse will also be able to operate 24 hours a Continue reading

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September 21, 2018

Depending on which way you look at it, the rise of automated labor in the workplace can serve as either a source of optimism or anxiety. On the pro side of the argument, robotic workers will be highly efficient and more willing to perform monotonous tasks than their human counterparts. Of course, matters of “efficiency” don’t mean much to people who could lose their jobs because of automation. And according to a new study published by the World Economic Forum, Continue reading

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September 11, 2018

When a company releases a notice about a new job opening, it can receive hundreds of responses from potential candidates. And before the detailed portion of the interview process begins, somebody has to call all those people to ask them basic questions about the job and their interest in it. This can be a grueling procedure, as Russian entrepreneurs Alexei Kostarev and Alexander Uraksin know quite well. In 2010 the pair had to screen more than 1,500 candidates over the Continue reading

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July 26, 2018

For the past few years, a number of technology companies have championed self-driving cars as the future of transportation. But recently the concept has received some bad press thanks to a string of accidents involving autonomous vehicles. For instance, last month a Waymo test car made headlines when it ended up in a five-car crash. Meanwhile, several Tesla vehicles in “driver-assist” mode have been involved in collisions, including one fatal incident. As a result, consumers are becoming more wary about Continue reading

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From picking up apples to distressing jeans, automation is spreading to almost every business you can imagine. And if you happen to live in the Boston area, you could swing by the new restaurant Spyce today and have your lunch prepared by robots. This automated eatery is the result of a partnership between a group of young engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and renowned chef Daniel Boulud. Together these intrepid entrepreneurs claim they have created “the world’s Continue reading

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April 6, 2018

Industrial robots were once so dangerous that factory employees could not work in the same room as them due to safety concerns. This video shows just how far technology has come since those early years, with today’s soft-handed robots able to pick up delicate items like fruit or plush toys.

Questions:

  1. Why have items like apples traditionally been difficult for robots to handle? How does modern “soft-robotics” address this problem?
  2. Do you think robots could eventually displace much of the Continue reading
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March 1, 2018

Levi Strauss started selling blue jeans more than 100 years ago to miners and farmers who appreciated how long the pants could last under tough conditions. And while today’s consumers love the distressed look that denim achieves with a lot of wear, they don’t exactly want to toil in a mine in order to scuff up their jeans properly. Instead, over the years Levi’s has done all the fraying, fading and ripping themselves in a time-consuming process. Besides taking about Continue reading

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October 13, 2017

This light and breezy video takes you to Mcity, a tiny town that serves as the test track for the University of Michigan’s autonomous vehicle research program. Engineers observe closely as self-driving cars learn how to avoid pedestrians and navigate through obstacles in a realistic setting.

Questions:

  1. What is the benefit of testing products like autonomous vehicles in controlled but realistic settings?
  2. Do you think self-driving cars will become a common sight on the road within a few years?
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