Wendy’s to Introduce More Automation to Dodge Paying Minimum Wage

US fast food chain Wendy’s has admitted that, rather than maintain its current staffing levels at the new minimum wage rate, it will seek to replace staff with self-ordering kiosks and back-of-house automated systems, and cover wage hikes of existing staff by raising its prices.

During a sales call, Wendy’s Chief Financial Officer Todd Penegor admitted that the company will “continue to look at initiatives and how we work to offset any impacts of future wage inflation through technology initiatives, whether that’s customer self-order kiosks, whether that’s automating more in the back of the house in the restaurant. And you’ll see a lot more coming on that front later this year from us.”

CEO Emil Brolick added that “our franchisees will likely look at the opportunity to reduce overall staff, look at the opportunity to certainly reduce hours and any other cost reduction opportunities, not just price. You know there are some people out there who naively say that these wages can simply be passed along in terms of price increases. I don’t think that the average franchisee believes that.”

Last week, California and New York became the first states to agree to a $15/hr minimum wage rise by 2022, with campaigners fighting to have the policy adopted across the United States.

Restaurants in China Fires Robot Staff for Incompetence

It seems we shouldn’t worry about automation taking away jobs from us humans just yet, with one restaurant in Guangzhou, China being forced to “fire” its robotic staff members for incompetence, while two others with robot waiters going out of business.

Human staff members, who worked alongside the inept machines, had nothing positive to say about their robotic colleagues, unsurprisingly.

“The robots weren’t able to carry soup or other food steady and they would frequently break down,” one employee of the unnamed restaurant that fired its robot staff told Workers’ Daily (translation via ShanghaiList). “The boss has decided never to use them again.”

“Their skills are somewhat limited,” another waitress said, accusing the automatons of failing to perform tasks vital for restaurant waiting staff. “They can’t take orders or pour hot water for customers.”

“The robots can attract plenty of customers, but they definitely can’t reduce the need for human labor,” the restaurant’s owner added.

“Zhang Yun, vice-principal of Guangdong University of Technology, explained that while robots were excellent at improving productivity in the manufacturing industry where tasks are repetitive, they were unable to perform well in fields where frequent human interaction was necessary,” ShanghaiList explained.

Despite reports that automation could render half the world’s population unemployed within 30 years, a number of companies are moving away from using robotic workers in favour of human input, with Mercedes, for example, hiring more human workers to implement its customised car program.

Microsoft Populates Skype With Helper-Bots

Your Skype chats could just get a little bit smarter thanks to Microsoft’s new array of assistive helper-bots. These bots were on show at Build 2016, where Microsoft demonstrated how Cortana, as well as a number of third-party ‘bots’ were able to inject information and optional actions into Skype messaging conversations. At the basest level, Cortana was able to highlight the major parts of a conversation, from which a user can select to get more details on the subject.

The bots don’t just add extra context to your existing conversations either, as at any time users will be able to switch over to a private AI chat, where they will be able to converse with Cortana and the other bots.

An example of this system in action would be part of a conversation about an upcoming event. On request, Cortana would be able to add the event to your calendar and obtain relevant locational and other vital information regarding it from the rest of the conversation. From there, the options branch out, a hotel bot may suggest a reservation in a nearby hotel or a social networking bot may remind you to catch up with friends who are in the area.

This may seem crazy and some will have reservations about the privacy of their data in the face of these AI bots, but they are real and Microsoft has already released the first wave of them on Skype for Windows, Android and iOS. The suite of bots currently available is sparse, but Microsoft plans to allow third-party developers to create their own bots for the service and will be releasing a specially designed software development kit to this end.

Mercedes to Replace Factory Robots with Human Workers

With robot dominating manufacturing processes, and estimates suggesting that automation could make up to half the world’s human population unemployed within 30 years, and that one-third of jobs in the UK will be done by robotic or artificial intelligence systems by 2035, car-maker Mercedes has announced the surprising move of replacing its production line robots with human workers. The decision was made, Mercedes told Bloomberg, in order to support its full array of customisable options available to customers.

“Robots can’t deal with the degree of individualization and the many variants that we have today,” Markus Schaefer, Head of Production for Mercedes, told Bloomberg at the Daimler AG’s Sindelfingen factory. “We’re saving money and safeguarding our future by employing more people.”

Schaefer, who is heading up the new customisation initiative, is also aiming to reduce production time from 61 hours per vehicle to 30 hours, and he believes that human staff can adapt to the range of customisation options quicker than an automated production line can.

“The variety is too much to take on for the machines,” Schaefer added. “They can’t work with all the different options and keep pace with changes.”

While the company will not eschew robots and automation entirely, its remaining mechanical systems will become smaller and more flexible to allow workers to utilise them for various purposes.

Mercedes hopes that its new E-Class model, available this March, will spearhead both its customisation portfolio and its return to using human workers.

VIA Introduces ARTiGO A600 Smart Automation Control System

Smart homes and general smart automation of all sorts of things is one of the wonderful things about the time we currently live in. All the things we (nerds and geeks) have dreamt of building for years is finally possible. VIA has now introduced a new control system that again could help make it a lot easier and smarter, the VIA ARTiGO A600 Smart Automation Control System.

The ultra-compact and fanless smart automation control system is specifically designed for enterprise IoT and M2M applications that require reliable low-power computing and extensive I/O support. The ARTiGO A600 comes with four integrated 3-pole Phoenix RS-485 COM ports with full 3.75KV isolation, a COM connector for an RS-232 port, and a DIO port for 8-bit GPIO to provide dependable connections to automated equipment and machinery.

Other I/O features include two Mini USB 2.0 ports, one Mini HDMI port, one 10/100Mbps Ethernet port, and one miniPCIe slot. The whole unit only measures 12.5cm x 12.5cm x 3cm and you can even add an optional Wi-Fi module through the onboard USB pin headers.

Inside the ARTiGO A600, you’ll find an 800MHz VIA Cortex-A9 SoC, an onboard Micro SD card slot, 4GB eMMC Flash memory, and 1GB DDR3 SDRAM.

“Smart automation control systems will play a pivotal role in boosting manufacturing productivity and enabling the development of innovative new product customization and personalization services,” said Richard Brown, Vice-President of International Marketing, VIA Technologies, Inc. “By delivering extensive I/O connectivity in a highly-affordable low-power solution, the VIA ARTiGO A600 lowers the barriers to entry for enterprises planning to transform their operations by implementing the next generation of intelligent distributed manufacturing systems.”

Features:

  • Ultra-compact fanless smart automation control system
  • High-performance 800MHz VIA Cortex-A9 SoC
  • Four 3-pole Phoenix RS-485 ports with full 3.75KV isolation
  • Optional Wi-Fi support
  • Customized Linux BSP services

Japan’s Robot Hotel Has Velociraptor Receptionist

Why open a hotel staffed almost exclusively by robots, with a Velociraptor behind the reception desk? Because Japan, of course. Henn na, or Weird Hotel in English, uses automated systems and human-like automatons – plus one dinosaur-shaped one – to fulfil the needs of its guests. The Velociraptor, donned with the same uniformed hat as the other “staff members”, tells new guests, “If you want to check in, push one.”

The hotel’s owner, Hideo Sawada, insists that the robotic workers are more than just a gimmick, and that the endeavour is an effort to reduce costs and increase efficiency. “I wanted to highlight innovation,” Sawada said, during the hotel’s opening on Wednesday. “I also wanted to do something about hotel prices going up.”

A night’s stay at the Weird Hotel costs a very reasonable 9,000 yen ($80), which is about three times less than the average Japanese hotel.

Despite mechanoids taking over the majority of tasks usually assigned to humans, there are still some jobs that a robot can’t do. “They still can’t make beds,” Sawada laments.

Sawada has plans to turn Henn na into a franchise; a second Japanese hotel, followed by a global expansion. In the meantime, he is keen to test different languages, such as Mandarin and Korean on the first hotel’s foreign visitors.

Thank you The Guardian for providing us with this information.

Ultimate Showdown: Industrial Robot vs Sword Master

Robots have become the lifeblood of many industries, their speed, accuracy and constant workflow outmatches their human rivals. Though taken away from the production line, could they match instinct, technique, could you take a bot to a sword fight?

The Yaskawa Bushido Project aims to answers this question pinning a Motoman-MH24 industrial robot against a Laijyutsu Master. The Motoman-MH24 is a 286kg high-speed industrial robot made by Yaskawa Electric Corporation.

The Yaskawa Bushido Project’s a short video clip showcasing a friendly competition between master and pupil. Japanese Master Swordsman and five-time world recorder holder Master Isao Machii teaches the Motoman various Laijyutsu forms, his technique’s analysed via 3D motion capture and replicated by the Motoman, their synchronous movements are a sight to behold.

Master and pupil start off with a cut in 4 directions, the first technique’s a diagonal cut which both execute stunningly, the second technique’s a rising cut, Master Machii’s technique’s flawless whereas the Motoman’s overkill, the third technique’s a horizontal cut this one’s stunning, love the slow mo, the final technique’s the thousand cuts, this one’s demanding though Master Machii pulled it off, completing the thousand cuts in style.

A brilliant display of martial prowess and mechanical engineering Yaskawa deserves a round of applause and best wishes for the upcoming 100th anniversary, this was by far the best thing I saw all week, a good ending to a good day.

Thank you phys.org for providing us with this information.

Bill Gates Warns That the World Isn’t Prepared For the Impact of Automisation

We are approaching the age of automation, a time in which machines, robots, and software will dominate the labour market. But, unlike the industrial age, which brought with it a plethora of jobs, automation will render many human workers obsolete, and we’re not ready to deal with this consequence, according to Microsoft impresario Bill Gates.

Speaking at economic think tank The American Enterprise Institute on Thursday, Gates said, “Software substitution, whether it’s for drivers or waiters or nurses […] it’s progressing […]  Technology over time will reduce demand for jobs, particularly at the lower end of skill set […] 20 years from now, labor demand for lots of skill sets will be substantially lower. I don’t think people have that in their mental model.”

In terms of solutions, Gates posits that tax codes could be changed to encourage companies to employ people over machines, even suggesting scrapping income and payroll taxes entirely.

Source: Business Insider

Robot Serves Customers in Chinese Restaurant

The BBC reports on the news that robots have taken up the positions of the waiters at a restaurant in China. The robots are presumably designed to replace human waiters and use optical sensors alongside rechargeable batteries to get around.

The restaurant owner says that he’ll save money in the long run, despite their $10,000 cost. He also told the BBC that they provide entertainment for guests to his restaurant, something else the machines have over us humans apparently. The bots have been the subject of great interest in China, surprising since they are set to become something of a norm. The video included bellow is from one of many of these restaurants, that particular one opened in August.

As the BBC report points out, there is one big advantage to this – no embarrassing stares from waiters who haven’t received a tip.

Source: BBC News

McDonald’s to Introduce Touchscreen Ordering in the US

By the end of 2015, McDonald’s hopes to introduce ‘Create Your Own Taste’ touchscreen ordering kiosks in 2,000 of its US restaurants. The touchscreen interface allows customers to customise their order; want a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, no onion, and Big Mac sauce? It’s yours, at the touch of a button, and without having to deal with a bitter server, resentful at the extra work you’ve foisted on them. The ‘Create Your Taste’ system features another bonus: once ordered, your food is brought directly to your table by a McDonald’s server.

McDonald’s hope to attract back the younger demographic that has slowly abandoned the restaurant over the last few years, the logic being, according to Bob Nibeel, a McDonald’s franchise owner, “most millennials would rather deal with a computer, iPad, iPhone than actually have interaction with another human being.”

Source: Engadget

One Third of UK Jobs to Become Automated

In this post-industrial age, the world’s labour market has shifted from machinery making the jobs of people easier and more efficient to automated technology – computerised systems and robotics – that remove the need for people entirely. Professional service firm Deloitte predict that one third of all jobs in the United Kingdom could become automated within twenty years.

Deloitte’s research was carried out in conjunction with Carl Benedikt Frey, of the Oxford Martin School, and Michael A Osborne, of the Department of Engineering Science, at the University of Oxford. Frey and Osborne’s earlier study, back in 2013, estimated that close to 50% of US jobs are at risk of automation.

The study noted a disturbing link between low-paid jobs and high risk of automation, suggesting that poor destined to suffer the most from the rise of technology. The amount of UK jobs deemed low or no risk is 40%, rising to 51% in the London area. Frey calls cities such as London, “incubators for new ideas and products,” saying that, “With the right policies, London can be at the front-line in developing the next generation of digital technologies.”

Source: Techcrunch

Amazon Announces ‘Echo’ Virtual Assistant & Speaker With Awkward Video

Amazon has announced the ‘Amazon Echo‘ virtual assistant device in an attempt to get into the home automation market.

The black tube-like device is designed to sit in a room and be used like the many other virtual assistant systems we see in smartphones and tablets, such as Apple’s Siri, Google Voice and Microsoft’s Cortana. The tube contains a microphone to listen to you and speaker to talk back to you. The system responds to the name ‘Alexa’ and can deliver you news, weather, travel, inane facts or even jokes.

The device sells for $199 for anyone and everyone and $99 for Amazon Prime subscribers. It is on sale, but on an invitation only basis at the moment. It could be said that this device is Amazon’s attempt to get into the emerging home automation market, as the device could very well be told to switch off your lights and turn on your heating in the near future. Amazon has gradually been introducing a number of devices in recent years, most recently it’s terribly unsuccessful Fire Phone, with the hope of coming into profit (something the company has never achieved).

Most of the discussion surrounding this new device has been centred on the seemingly awkward video used to introduce it.

How do his kids understand what the cloud is?

Source: Mashable

Total Stranger Takes Control Of Smart House Due To Huge Security Flaw

 

Having home automation systems can be cool, you’ve likely got the basics in place already to have such a system, a smart phone, tablet computer, PC, smart TV, games consoles and such can all be automated or control each other in one way or another. There is a $1.5 billion market out there for home automation and while turning over your TV with your phone is how it can all begin, the idea is to go a lot further, controlling your heating, lighting, garage doors, curtains and more by hooking them all up to a computer using relatively simple devices.

The big issue here of course isn’t when all this stuff works perfectly, it’s when someone realises that they can hack into the systems that automate your house and start turning it into a purchase you quickly regret, turning all your devices on and off, locking and unlocking entry points, setting your heating systems to silly numbers, putting Justin Beiber on at full volume and other such horrors.

Bryan Hatley is a tech enthusiast, he’s not a hacker, he doesn’t have extensive knowledge of computer security, or any security systems for that matter, he doesn’t have a degree in computer sciences, he’s just a guy who knows how to Google a few things, but he managed to hack someones house with relative ease.

He searched online for “smart homes” and found something very stupid indeed, these houses were being run by a system called Insteon and their automation system ran from a web page, a page where the home user could log in and change the settings of their house, but the pages were also showing up in search results, meaning ANYONE could access them and change your houses settings… oh dear, poor effort on the automation company or what!

The security flaw is now fixed but it does highlight how there can be major flaws in the systems many of us may take for granted. Fortunately for the user that was “hacked”, although I use that term lightly as Bryan was able to just stumble into the website and have some fun with it, but his intentions were not malicious and Bryan called the home owner to warn them about what had happened… likely after he has done turning his automated living room into a disco.

Thank you Newsclaimer for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Newsclaimer.