This year at Davos: How “Industry 4.0” affects you

More than 2,500 attendees from around the globe — including world leaders, business executives, heads of NGOs, academics and cultural icons — will gather in the Congress Center in Davos, Switzerland, for the 46th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. The four-day event will kick off on Wednesday, Jan. 20, and finish on Saturday, Jan. 23.

The world is changing rapidly thanks to the technology revolution and that’s having an enormous impact on our lives at work and at home. The engineer and economist Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, said the scale, scope and complexity of this transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced. That is why this year’s theme in Davos is “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Central to the Fourth Industrial Revolution — also known as “Industry 4.0” — is how the speed and breadth of data being transferred around the world forces us to rethink and reimagine every aspect of our lives. We live in a lighting-fast-paced and interconnected environment where changes to technology, politics, demographics and economics can generate global shockwaves in an instant.

“The challenges are as daunting as the opportunities are compelling,” Schwab said of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “We must have a comprehensive and globally shared understanding of how technology is changing our lives and that of future generations, transforming the economic, social, ecological and cultural contexts in which we live. This is critical, in order to shape our collective future to reflect our common objectives and values.”

Key issues in the 2016 World Economic Forum gathering will include:

How the Fourth Industrial Revolution will transform the healthcare sector, financial services, mobile communications, education and many other industries.How mankind can leverage technology in ways to promote growth for the poor as well as the rich.How breakthroughs in science and technology help solve international public health crises and complex global issues like climate change.How public- and private-sector leaders can better prepare their communities and constituencies for our rapidly changing global security and geopolitical landscape. What does the latest global security picture truly look like in 2016 and beyond? And how can new technologies keep people safe from cyber attacks?How government’s role in this complex, fast-moving world should be redefined to promote transparency in economic, social and environmental reform.

Schwab founded the World Economic Forum in 1971 as the European Management Forum. In the beginning, the mission was to focus on how European companies could adopt some of the management practices found in the United States. The meeting evolved over the years and Schwab’s vision now is to create an environment where global leaders can work together to resolve international conflicts.

Davos has become the place where leaders from many walks of life can share insights and figure out how best to navigate the future. The mission is simple: to improve the state of the world. But of course solving some of these complex issues may seem like mission impossible.

WEF’s co-chairs this year include Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors; Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft; Tidjane Thiam, CEO of Credit Suisse, and Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman and CEO of Hitachi. The acclaimed cellist Yo Yo Ma will be performing the night before the meeting’s official start to welcome participants to Davos, the home for many during that week in January.

CBS News will be reporting live from Davos the entire week.

© 2016 CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/this-year-at-davos-how-industry-4-0-affects-you/

J&J, Alphabet aim for smarter, smaller, cheaper surgical robot | Reuters

Johnson & Johnson and Alphabet Inc’s life sciences unit have formed an independent company to create far smaller, smarter and less costly robotic-assisted systems for surgery than those sold now by other companies, J&J said on Thursday.

Creation of the new company, Verb Surgical Inc, follows an announcement in March by J&J and Google Inc of their plans to pool their technologies and expertise to create robotics for the operating room. Google has since changed its name to Alphabet, and its life sciences unit is now called Verily.

J&J’s Ethicon division, world leader in equipment for general surgery, designed a basic prototype of the robot last year and expects it to be a “disruptive” alternative to existing products, Gary Pruden, global chairman of J&J’s medical devices group, said in an interview.

Current robotic systems, including those sold by market leader Intuitive Surgical Inc, are the size of a compact car and require the surgeon to sit at a control panel about 10 feet from the patient, Pruden said.

Verb’s robot will be about 20 percent the size, allow the surgeon to work closer to the patient and likely be considerably less expensive than current systems, which can cost $2 million or more, he said.

And while robots today are used largely to remove cancerous prostate glands and in gynecological surgery, Verb’s system would be designed for wider use, including thoracic surgery, colorectal surgery and bariatric weight loss procedures, J&J said.

It would come loaded with technologies from Alphabet, including “machine learning,” in which the robot could analyze a video library of images from hundreds of previous surgeries in order to instruct the surgeon where to cut.

Pruden said further development of Verb’s robot will take a few more years.

“Our goal is to have a lower-cost product, with the smallest footprint, with greater capability, that helps to raise the standard of care,” Pruden said. “That would be a market disruption.”

Scott Huennekens, former chief executive of medical imaging company Volcano Corp, has been named CEO of Verb, which will be headquartered in Mountain View, California.

Verily already has several projects in the works, including the development of a smart contact lens in partnership with Swiss drugmaker Novartis that has an embedded glucose sensor. It would allow diabetics to monitor themselves continuously by measuring the blood sugar in their tears.

(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Leslie Adler)

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-alphabet-johnson-johnson-robots-idUSKBN0TT1SB20151210

Robots are key in China’s strategy to surpass rivals

BEIJING — The Canbot can say its name, respond to voice commands, and “dance” as it plays Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” Other robots China is displaying at the World Robot Conference can play badminton, sand cell phone cases and sort computer chips.

China is showcasing its burgeoning robot industry at the five-day exhibition in Beijing, part of a national effort to promote use of more advanced technologies in Chinese factories and create high-end products that redefine the meaning of “Made in China.”

Apart from the cool factor, China’s sweeping plans to upgrade its factories and production lines depend on building and better using advanced robots. Automation is crucial for industries facing rising labor costs and slowing growth in the work force thanks to the “one-child” policy era and aging of the population.

China will have to make big strides to leap ahead of Germany, Japan and other nations whose robots are generations ahead.

Infinities International Group, based in eastern China’s Shandong, advertises its Canbot U-Partner as a service robot that could be programmed to run in shopping malls, restaurants and banks. But it’s modeled on the “Pepper” robot made by Japan’s SoftBank.

Nearby, Peng Zhihui and Luo Binyi stood with “Ares,” a human-sized robot they designed with exposed metal arms and hands and a wide range of uses in mind, from the military to performing basic tasks in a home.

Peng and Luo, both 24, developed the mannequin-like Ares while attending college in southwestern China’s Sichuan province. A Shanghai investment company pitched in some funding.

“Many robots aren’t very useful right now, but will show their true value when they are used in homes in the future,” Peng said.

Thousands of factories in southern China’s industrial centers which long were manned by low-cost migrant workers, are now turning to robots. China has become the world’s top consumer of industrial robots and will soon have the most commercial robots in operation of any country. Foxconn, the Taiwanese firm that assembles Apple’s iPhones in China, has installed 40,000 robots in its factories.

China made robotics a focal point of its recent “Made in China 2025” plan, and has set national goals of producing 100,000 industrial robots a year and having 150 robots in operation for every 10,000 employees by 2020, a figure known as robot density. Currently, China ranks 28th in the world for robot density, behind Portugal and Indonesia. Chinese suppliers sold about 20,000 robots last year to local companies.

“There has never been such a dynamic rise in such a short period of time in any other market,” the International Federation of Robotics said in an analysis of China’s robot industry published earlier this year.

Steve Wyatt, head of sales and marketing for Switzerland-based ABB Robotics, said his company employs more than 1,600 people in China and has seen its sales in China grow by a factor of 50.

But the country remains behind in terms of the complexity of tasks Chinese-made robots can handle, Wyatt said.

Chinese appliance maker Midea Group recently announced it was purchasing almost all of German industrial robot manufacturer Kuka.

Wing Chu, a senior economist at the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, said China will continue to seek foreign expertise to advance in robotics as part of a broader effort to transform its economy.

“In the longer term, China wants to upgrade all its industries,” he said.

© 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/robots-are-key-to-chinas-strategy-to-surpass-rivals/

Tiny Robots Use Gecko Power To Carry Heavy Weights

A pair of Stanford University PhD students at the school’s Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Lab have developed what they call MicroTugs, or mini bots that use adhesive power similar to what’s found on the feet of geckos and ants to pull off incredible feats of strength.

One robot weighing less than a third of an ounce can carry a 2.2-pound weight vertically up a glass wall.

Another robot weighs less than half an ounce, but can drag 2,000 times its own weight on a flat surface.

“This is the equivalent of a human adult dragging a blue whale around on land,” the researchers note.

What’s even more amazing is that the tests are actually bound by the limits of the actuators in the robots, not the adhesive power of the feet. That, the research team said in the video description, should allow them to pull almost twice as much — or the equivalent of a human dragging two blue whales.

The tiny bots contain a battery, a winch, a processor, a motor, wheels and an adhesive layer on the belly. The adhesive layer contains small rubber spikes similar to the “setae” that cover the toes of geckos, NBC News reports.

As the video above explains, the adhesive layer doesn’t stick unless the bot is pulling a load with its winch. When it does, the wheels lift and the belly lowers to stick to the surface. Once an object has been pulled, the adhesive belly lifts and the wheels come back down, allowing the robot to move freely again.

Eventually, the technology could be used on larger robots to carry heavy items around a construction site or in emergencies, such as bringing a rope ladder to someone trapped in a tall burning building, according to New Scientist.

The MicroTugs will be the subject of a presentation at next month’s International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Seattle. The authors have also published two papers on their developments, which can be found here and here.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/27/gecko-power-robots_n_7157692.html

China’s robotics rush shows how its debt can get out of control | Reuters

By Nathaniel Taplin

| WUHU, China

WUHU, China Down a side street bracketed by massage parlors and cheap hotels in this city on the banks of the Yangtze river, a humanoid food service robot trundles around the corner of a table in a cafe, red eyes flashing in tune with synthesized classical music.

The Wuhu Hands On Café’s waiter, named “Hero,” has no customers on a drizzly Friday morning. He is, though, a symbol of Wuhu city’s hopes of becoming a major center for robotics, and the local government’s ability to chase that dream through the debt markets, whether it makes commercial sense or not.

“Hero” was the result of six months research at a nearby robotics park that has cost 2.2 billion yuan ($332 million) to establish. For the park’s next stage, including a hotel, an exhibition center and a cultural plaza, Wuhu is raising another 1.2 billion yuan through a so-called local government finance vehicle (LGFV), and offering a raft of incentives for firms to set up there.

The problem is it is not alone. Dozens of other medium-sized Chinese cities like Wuhu, which is west of Shanghai in Anhui province and has a population of around four million, have similar robotics park plans.

And the ease with which municipalities can use off balance companies like LGFVs to finance infrastructure – some needed, some not – is rapidly boosting China’s already high debt burden. Meanwhile, investors gambling that Beijing will not allow the debt to default while infrastructure remains a critical support for growth, have bid up LGFV bonds to new highs.

Beijing’s drive to make the nation a leader in robotics through its “Made in China 2025” initiative launched last year has set off a rush as municipalities up and down the country vie to become China’s robotics center.

The investment boom comes as the industry is already showing warning signs of overcapacity, despite increasing demand for robots in auto manufacturing and electronics.

Growth in demand for industrial robots in China fell by more than two-thirds to 17 percent in 2015 – and yet more than 40 robotics parks have sprouted throughout the country in the last two years, according to industry data. In June, the National Business Daily reported Vice Minister of Industry and Information Technology Xin Guobin warning that China’s robotics industry is showing signs of over investment and of “a high-end sector becoming low-end.”

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology had no immediate comment when contacted by Reuters.

SHORING UP GROWTH

LGFVs first gained popularity in China in the 1990s as a way to fund municipal projects without running afoul of new restrictions on cities’ official borrowing.

They played a key role in shoring up economic growth in the global financial crisis but also became a major source of China’s debt burden. Outstanding debt was $26.56 trillion, or 255 percent of gross domestic product at the end of 2015, up from 220 percent just two years before, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

A short-lived crackdown by Beijing on LGFV financing in late 2014 was quickly watered down as growth sputtered to a twenty-five year low last year.

In China as a whole, LGFV bond financing climbed 72 percent in the first five months of 2016 from the same period last year to 740 billion yuan, while the vehicles’ total outstanding bond debt now stands at around five trillion yuan, according to Everbright Securities data sourced from the Chinese information provider WIND.

“Loads of infrastructure-investing companies are exhausting every means they can get to get money,” says Li Yujian at Bohai Trust, which offers high-interest loans to companies who cannot get all the financing they need in mainstream debt markets.

COMMANDED NOT CONTROLLED

For a command economy, China has a very decentralized fiscal system with local governments responsible for about 85 percent of fiscal spending but receiving only 50 percent of tax revenues. Officials turn to debt to fill the gap.

As a result, Beijing often lacks a clear picture of what local governments are doing, and cities have little reliable data on their neighbors, leading to a dangerous tendency for duplication – especially when Beijing throws its weight behind a given sector, like robotics.

The convoluted work-arounds to funnel cash to oftentimes risky local projects also tend to muddy the question of who is actually responsible should matters go awry.

“We are just a financing platform. We raise money and we lend it out,” says Yang Bin of the Wuhu city-owned Jiujiang Area Construction Investment Corporation, which sold the bonds for the robotic center’s expansion.

The money will be spent by building contractors for the robotics park. There are also local and central government subsidies to attract firms to use the facilities.

The lynchpin of this elaborate edifice remains government backing, implicit and sometimes explicit. Market participants say investing in LGFV debt is essentially a bet on Beijing’s interest in keeping credit flowing smoothly to local governments.

“All of those companies have very weak standard credit metrics. The reason they can borrow is because of local government support, which depends on central government policy,” says Jie Peng of Western Asset Management in Singapore, which invests in some LGFV debt in large Chinese cities.

The support, including a 3.2 trillion yuan Beijing-backed local government debt swap last year, means LGFVs can offer relatively high interest rates while allowing bondholders to feel they are not likely to be heavily exposed to the consequences if investments sour.

The yield to maturity on the Jiujiang Area Construction Investment Corporation’s 1.2 billion yuan bond is 3.8 percent, about 0.5 of a percentage point higher than official local government debt in the same part of China.

To many investors, that looks like a good deal – LGFV debt has outperformed most other corporate debt over the past year as defaults in other sectors have risen.

The local debt boom, though, has raised fears of a new round of wasted investment. Elsewhere in China, cities are building gargantuan sports stadiums, far bigger than they need; hundreds of amusement parks, many of which do not have the attractions to compete against rivals in neighboring towns; and innovation centers without enough entrepreneurs.

ASPIRATIONAL START-UPS

It is unclear whether the National Wuhu Robotics Park, which currently produces around 1,000 industrial robots a year but plans to boost output to 10,000, will be a success.

Firms are eligible for subsidized rent, subsidized loans, debt guarantees, and monetary awards to attract top talent.

But despite such support, the park contains only a handful of large established enterprises – including Anhui Effort Intelligent Equipment Co Ltd, a major manufacturer of automotive and industrial robots.

Most of the approximately 20 robot manufacturers are aspirational start-ups, or equipment firms hoping to find a new niche. The latter include firms like Anhui Goodluck Science and Technology Co Ltd – which also makes agricultural equipment, chainsaws, and lawn mowers.

Robotics park officials and the Wuhu City Jiujiang Economic Development Zone Committee declined to be interviewed for this article, while a park spokesperson did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Some of the items under development border on novelties, like “Hero” made by a company called Okayrobot. Besides waiters and military grade segways, Okayrobot is also investing in items as diverse as air conditioned helmets, horizontal showering pods for hospitals and robotic exoskeletons that allow the very old and the disabled to walk.

“Allowing 75-year-old mothers and fathers to live like young people, that is what Okayrobot wants to do,” says general manager Wang Lipeng, gesturing to a PowerPoint showing an exoskeleton-clad man hoisting a woman in his arms, next to another emerging from a fireball.

“The policies here are very good,” added Wang. “And that has drawn the interest of a lot of firms to invest and produce.”

(Additional reporting by the Shanghai Newsroom; Editing by Martin Howell)

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-debt-robotics-insight-idUSKCN10E0EV

Michigan Couple Charged With Corporate Espionage

In the latest in a flurry of industrial espionage cases, a Michigan couple has been accused of stealing $40 million worth of trade secrets from General Motors and selling them to a Chinese car maker.

Shashan Du, 51, and her husband Yu Qin, 49, appeared in federal court on Thursday for arraignment on charges punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment and heavy fines upon conviction.

The couple, who have been under investigation since 2006, is charged with four crimes including conspiracy to possess trade secrets without authorization, unauthorized possession of trade secrets, and wire fraud.

The industry documents allegedly stolen and sold involved GM’s research into its hybrid vehicles, according to court documents. GM estimates the value of the stolen documents to be close to $40 million.

“We’ve unfortunately had a few of these incidents occur over the past few years,” Sandra Berchtold of the FBI Detroit office told ABC News. “Michigan is a big area of growing technology, especially in the automotive industry.”

According to the federal indictment obtained by ABC News, between December 2003 to May 2006, Du, a former GM employee, allegedly uploaded a confidential GM document entitled “Hybrid Electric Drive System” and saved thousands of pages of sensitive GM trade information relating to hybrid vehicles onto a hard drive.

Du then allegedly used her GM email account to relay the information to her husband Qin, who is accused of using it to benefit Millennium Technology International Inc., a company the couple owns together.

Months later, Qin supposedly approached Chery Automobile, a China-based automotive manufacturer and GM competitor, to sell the new the hybrid technology.

The alleged theft forced GM to upgrade its security system.

The federal indictment further includes that “in light of the sensitivity and value of information relating to its hybrid vehicle development, GM took reasonable measures to protect and keep secret such information, including restricting access to this information, maintaining electronic and physical security features, training employees on information security measures, marking documents with proprietary warnings, and requiring the execution on non-disclosure agreements by employees and suppliers.”

U.S. District Attorney Barbara McQuade said, “As our auto industry works to find new areas of innovation, such as hybrid technology, we will not tolerate the theft of our trade secrets from foreign competitors. We will aggressively prosecute people who steal from the investment that our auto industry has made in research and development.”

Attorneys for Du and Qin did not return calls for comment.

http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/Business/michigan-couple-charged-corporate-espionage/story?id=11236400

Automation shrinking the US economy? | Bulls & Bears | The Cost of Freedom

DISCLAIMER: THE FOLLOWING “Cost of Freedom Recap” CONTAINS STRONG OPINIONS WHICH ARE NOT A REFLECTION OF THE OPINIONS OF FOX NEWS AND SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON AS INVESTMENT ADVICE WHEN MAKING PERSONAL INVESTMENT DECISIONS. IT IS FOX NEWS’ POLICY THAT CONTRIBUTORS DISCLOSE POSITIONS THEY HOLD IN STOCKS THEY DISCUSS, THOUGH POSITIONS MAY CHANGE. READERS OF “Cost of Freedom Recap” MUST TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR OWN INVESTMENT DECISIONS.

MORE COMPANIES PLAN TO REPLACE WORKERS WITH MACHINES AMID CALLS TO HIKE MINIMUM WAGE

GARY B SMITH: The minimum wage affects many jobs, many of which could be replaced by machines. We saw it years ago, with bank tellers. Now, almost everybody uses an ATM. We see McDonald’s experiment in Europe, and at my supermarket, it’s the same thing, self-check-out. It forces the company’s hand, and if I can do that cheaper and faster with machines and the robotics’ industry is happy to comply.

JONAS MAX FERRIS: Every one of these technologies is improving. You can make the case that raising the minimum wage could push work offshore to countries with really low wages and no technology, and it’s going to happen anyway. When Google creates a self-driving car, because it’s a better technology than having somebody not drive well and play the wrong radio when they’re in the car with you.

JOHN LAYFIELD: Amazon is going to have 10,000 robots in their warehouse. This is going to be inevitable. This is going to be sped up by the minimum wage being raised. This is a natural transition for the economy. If you add Twitter and WhatsApp together, you have a $27 billion. We are creating wealth in this country but we aren’t creating jobs.

TRACY BYRNES: We are not losing jobs but creating different ones, and maybe we should look at the educational system to train them for these jobs. We need kids to make the equipment so they can replace people, and we need somebody that will make the drone that will deliver wine to my house on a Friday night. It’s a replacement factor. This is where we are going.

SASCHA BURNS: What we have to do is train for new jobs. You didn’t have a car mechanic until you had a car. I can’t imagine that you guys support the government would pay for this kind of job training.

FEDERAL AGENCY SCRAPPING BONUS REVIEWS BASED ON PERFORMANCE

JOHN LAYFIELD: I don’t know what alternative universe this works in. Nothing makes me sicker in the world than everybody getting a trophy. Winning and losing happens, if you have no grading system for the employees, you are not rewarding the good employees but you are rewarding the bad employees. This is an absolute disaster.

SASCHA BURNS: The only good thing about it is its less expensive than settling all the lawsuits that were going to happen. It’s a big mess, and yes, it’s ridiculous. A lot it has to do with the way the agency was put together, so quickly, a public sector and private sector, and it’s a snafu.

JONAS MAX FERRIS: Without a profit motive, I’m not sure if you can have discretion over bonuses. You can all of a sudden play favorites because what do you care? You aren’t making any money anyway. Donald sterling was not not going to give bonuses to black players, because that would be stupid. Who cares in the government, give them the bonuses. That’s what happens when you have the bonus discretion. Profits keep us honest in some ways.

TRACY BYRNES: It’s apathy when everybody gets a good score. This notion of the pay grade system, when you know what you are going to earn every year, it doesn’t want to make you get out and do anything better than basely what you think you are going to earn.

GARY B SMITH: If you are the hard working CFPB person and you come in, and he is getting the same bonus as I am? Why am I going to work hard? Everybody will start slacking because there is no incentive to do a great job.

“DIVORCE PARTIES” ON THE RISE ACROSS AMERICA

TRACY BYRNES: There are 101 excuses to have parties today, and if your divorce makes you that happy, more power to you.

JOHN LAYFIELD: You take a practice swing in golf and most people need a practice marriage.

GARY B SMITH: I personally if I got divorced, I would be very sad. I would not be in the mood for a party. But that being said, I agree with Tracy, if they have the money, they want to spend it, it makes them feel good, and contributes to the economy, then I say fantastic and have at it.

SASCHA BURNS: They are stimulating the economy, and as long as I don’t have to get a bridesmaid’s dress or buy anything useless off the registry, then I hope they have a great time.

JONAS MAX FERRIS: This is a better use of your money. This is letting the word know you are available for another marriage and you can marry more money, and this could be a good investment, even though you are wasting $25,000.

PREDICTIONS

GARY B. SMITH: GET READY FOR THE SELLOFF! (DXD) RETURNS A 10 percent GAIN BY SEPT

JOHN LAYFIELD: GOLDMAN SACHS AND BRAZIL BOTH WINNERS! (GS) KICKS UP A 20 percent PROFIT IN 1 YR

TRACY BYRNES: “HIDDEN CASH” MILLIONAIRE PROVES WE DON’T NEED GOV’T HANDOUTS

JONAS MAX FERRIS: PAMPER YOUR PET! (HOT) BARKS UP 15 percent IN 1 YR

http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/cost-of-freedom/2014/06/02/automation-shrinking-us-economy

DARPA’s New Robotic Limb Will Let Amputees Feel Again

Mind-controlled robotic limbs have, in some form, existed for a while: As early as 2010, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency funded testing for limbs controlled by signals directly from an amputee’s brain. On Thursday, DARPA released a video revealing a new technology called targeted muscle re-innveration, which allows amputees to control artificial limbs in a new way.

The technology, developed as part of DARPA’s Reliable Neural-Interface Technology (RE-NET) program, reads brain signals that are already connecting to nerves and muscles, such as those that cause phantom pain. It rewires the nerve endings that controlled an amputee’s original limb to the new, robotic limb, allowing a person to control his or her prosthetic with existing muscle structures. Amputees would not be dependent on visual feedback, as they are with existing technology, and would regain some sense of touch.

Targeted muscle re-innervation has gotten a lot of funding from the RE-NET program because, as the U.K’s Register notes, it eliminates the need for surgery on “the densest and most power-efficient computer on the planet” — the human brain. With improvements in medical technology and an increase in the number of amputees coming home from war, the need for new advances in technology is especially important. DARPA, with this new prosthetic, seems to be on the right track.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/03/darpa-robotic-limb_n_3368445.html

Robots are key in China’s strategy to surpass rivals

BEIJING — The Canbot can say its name, respond to voice commands, and “dance” as it plays Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” Other robots China is displaying at the World Robot Conference can play badminton, sand cell phone cases and sort computer chips.

China is showcasing its burgeoning robot industry at the five-day exhibition in Beijing, part of a national effort to promote use of more advanced technologies in Chinese factories and create high-end products that redefine the meaning of “Made in China.”

Apart from the cool factor, China’s sweeping plans to upgrade its factories and production lines depend on building and better using advanced robots. Automation is crucial for industries facing rising labor costs and slowing growth in the work force thanks to the “one-child” policy era and aging of the population.

China will have to make big strides to leap ahead of Germany, Japan and other nations whose robots are generations ahead.

Infinities International Group, based in eastern China’s Shandong, advertises its Canbot U-Partner as a service robot that could be programmed to run in shopping malls, restaurants and banks. But it’s modeled on the “Pepper” robot made by Japan’s SoftBank.

Nearby, Peng Zhihui and Luo Binyi stood with “Ares,” a human-sized robot they designed with exposed metal arms and hands and a wide range of uses in mind, from the military to performing basic tasks in a home.

Peng and Luo, both 24, developed the mannequin-like Ares while attending college in southwestern China’s Sichuan province. A Shanghai investment company pitched in some funding.

“Many robots aren’t very useful right now, but will show their true value when they are used in homes in the future,” Peng said.

Thousands of factories in southern China’s industrial centers which long were manned by low-cost migrant workers, are now turning to robots. China has become the world’s top consumer of industrial robots and will soon have the most commercial robots in operation of any country. Foxconn, the Taiwanese firm that assembles Apple’s iPhones in China, has installed 40,000 robots in its factories.

China made robotics a focal point of its recent “Made in China 2025” plan, and has set national goals of producing 100,000 industrial robots a year and having 150 robots in operation for every 10,000 employees by 2020, a figure known as robot density. Currently, China ranks 28th in the world for robot density, behind Portugal and Indonesia. Chinese suppliers sold about 20,000 robots last year to local companies.

“There has never been such a dynamic rise in such a short period of time in any other market,” the International Federation of Robotics said in an analysis of China’s robot industry published earlier this year.

Steve Wyatt, head of sales and marketing for Switzerland-based ABB Robotics, said his company employs more than 1,600 people in China and has seen its sales in China grow by a factor of 50.

But the country remains behind in terms of the complexity of tasks Chinese-made robots can handle, Wyatt said.

Chinese appliance maker Midea Group recently announced it was purchasing almost all of German industrial robot manufacturer Kuka.

Wing Chu, a senior economist at the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, said China will continue to seek foreign expertise to advance in robotics as part of a broader effort to transform its economy.

“In the longer term, China wants to upgrade all its industries,” he said.

© 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/robots-are-key-to-chinas-strategy-to-surpass-rivals/

NASA Robotics – Robotics Alliance Project

Help NASA Create Better Vision for Robonaut

NASA's Robonaut 2 or R2

Humans use glasses to help them see better, but for robots, the fix is in their code. NASA is asking coders to create algorithms for Robonaut 2, or R2, that will improve its 3-D vision. The Robonaut Vision Tool Manipulation contest kicks off on Feb. 23, and offers a total of $10,000 in prizes for the best algorithms.

R2 is the first humanoid robot in space, currently being tested on the International Space Station. Serving as an extra set of hands for station crew members, the robot is looking to help with the more mundane or repetitive tasks that are required for maintaining the million-pound laboratory, freeing up its human colleagues for critical science and repair work. For example, R2 manages inventory using an RFID reader and fastens bolts with a drill.

+ Robonaut Vision Tool Manipulation Contest

+ More info on Robonaut 2

https://robotics.nasa.gov/