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The Rise of Robotic Labor 308

kkleiner wrote in with a link to a singularityhub story about the increase of automated manufacturing world-wide. The article reads: "The accelerating rise in robot labor of the past decade, and its expansion into all areas of production, have led many to worry about the future of human workers. Yet how extensive is the robotic take over of labor? Our friends at Mezzmer Eyeglasses did some impressive research and created an even more impressive infographic explaining the present and future of robots in the workplace."
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The Rise of Robotic Labor

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  • Robots (Score:4, Interesting)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @05:04PM (#37403436)

    Q: How come all our labor got outsourced to 3rd world countries despite our significantly higher levels of modernization, efficiency, infrastructure, and technology?

    A: Because it's cheaper to throw a thousand people at a problem that'll work for peanuts than purchase, install, and maintain a robot. ... In short, there's no "rise" of robotic labor going on guys. On the contrary: The robots aren't competitive in a market where people work for cheap, no benefits, and there's (literally) billions of them that would jump at the chance to have the job of repetitive labor.

  • by frinkster ( 149158 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @05:11PM (#37403526)

    Earlier this year, Toyota opened their first new factory in Japan in 18 years []. There are very few robots in the factory; they even have humans doing the welding work. Toyota claims that all of the savings gained by robots is lost due to building the factory to accommodate automation and buying and maintaining the robots. In fact, Toyota has been moving away from heavy automation for the last 10 years.

  • by pspahn ( 1175617 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @05:24PM (#37403666)

    It's not about making everyone poor, it's about making everyone equal.

    Right, because a neurologist should receive the same compensation as the guy scraping lard off the floor of a greasy spoon.

    Maybe while we're at it, we can just put all the smart kids in the same classes as all the developmentally disabled kids. That should level the playing field a bit.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @06:08PM (#37404216) Homepage

    I tend to agree. The article says there are only 8.7 million robots in the world. (I'm not sure about their definition. Do they count Roombas. Hard automation driven by cams?) That's an incredibly small number. It's one year of production for Toyota or GM, for example.

    The big problem is that the cost of the mechanics hasn't declined much. That's mostly a lack of volume issue. However, the control electronics keeps getting cheaper, since it's computer technology.

    Robot vision systems have improved a lot. Many pick and place robots now have at least a basic vision system for fine alignment. This is cheaper than trying to make the robot and the fixture so rigid that the job can be done blind. The biggest headache in industrial robotics is simply getting everything lined up so precisely that a dumb machine can do the job. Adding enough smarts to allow for some misalignment makes things work much better.

    There's been progress on unstructured vision. Towel folding [] now works. The software is really slow. That can probably be fixed. []

    Having been in the field, I will say that we're now at the point where throwing money at the problem works. That wasn't true in the 1980s and 1990s. (See NASA's Flight Telerobotic Servicer, [] a $200 million flop.). The DARPA Grand Challenge was instructive in showing what money can do. The 2004 Grand Challenge was pathetic - nothing worked very well. At the 2005 Grand Challenge, the worst vehicles were better than anything from 2004, and the best ones were really good. It took NASCAR-sized budgets and the combined efforts of entire computer science departments and auto manufacturers, but it worked.

  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <dnaltropnidad>> on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @06:11PM (#37404256) Homepage Journal

    Not the point. The point of minimizing robots, as well as the other changes, is that Toyota plans to sell factories to places that don't have the infrastructure in place for maintaining robots.

    That plans it not about making cars, it's about making a few small economy cars in 3rd worlds cities where they can put up one of these factories in a couple of weeks.

"It takes all sorts of in & out-door schooling to get adapted to my kind of fooling" - R. Frost