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Meet Jibo, Your Next Personal Assistant

19 Sep 2014

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Jibo-inline2A few years back, Apple made headlines when it introduced the world to Siri, the talking personal assistant who came standard with every iPhone 4S. Siri was an artificial intelligence program that could answer simple questions such as the temperature outside or help you make a phone call or send a message to other iPhone users.

Not to be outdone, Microsoft recently rolled out Cortana, a similar voice-controlled virtual assistant built into the new Windows smart phone that can do everything Siri can and much, much more.

While these devices are impressive, they are only the beginning.

Here’s Jibo!

Introducing Jibo, your future foot-high robotic friend and personal assistant. Jibo isn’t a disembodied voice that lives in your smart phone. He (or “it”?) is an interactive robot that bears a striking resemblance to the Eve, one of the robot characters featured in the movie “Wall-E”.

Like Siri and Cortana, Jibo will be able to answer your questions, remind you of important appointments and help you make dinner reservations. But Jibo also is able to recognize your face, make suggestions based on your previous preferences, and can tailor its responses directly to you, rather than giving generic, blanket responses the way his phone-based counterparts do.

But Jibo isn’t just a robot. He’s a social robot with whom you can hold a conversation. While he will answer your questions and search the web to make your life easier, he also can more around, turn his head to “look” at you when you are speaking to him, and even find you in a crowd of other people.

Soon to Be Available Everywhere

Currently, Jibo is still in the development state at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab’s Personal Robots Group. But plans are to have him available for sale by the 2015 holiday season at a cost of about $500.

Like a tablet, Jibo will be able to take pictures and videos. He also can research information on the web, can be used to read books or watch videos, or let you participate in teleconferencing. But he also has groundbreaking social applications, such as recognizing and greeting you when you get home, or reminding you about important information throughout your day. He will turn and look at you when you are speaking to him and even appear to be listening.

Workplace Applications

While Jibo will be initially marketed as a “family” robot for home use, there are many applications for materials handling that could make Jibo — or social robots like him — an integral part of the industrial workplace of the future.

Jibo features human and facial recognition programs, as well as a stereo camera that allows him to distinguish people from their background surroundings. It can recognize your face and identify who is is talking to. He eventually will be able to recognize your facial expressions so he can tell what kind of mood you are in and cater his interactions with your state of mind.

The purpose of this new type of social robot was to take the experience of Siri and Cortana one step further, according to Cynthia Breazeal, director of the lab where Jibo is being built.

“We need technology to transcend the world of information into a more humanized realm,” Breazeal told Wired magazine. “Something like this is a nice bridge between devices and tablets and robots that we imagine in science fiction.”

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A solar energy company based in the UK has introduced the first-ever lighting tower that uses the power the sun to illuminate a lighting tower that can be operated at zero cost indefinitely.

Developed over a period of three years, the new SMC Solar-2 lighting tower generates more power each day from its solar panels than it actually requires to produce a steady flow of light each night of operation. This excess power to requirement ration means that the tower can turn itself on every night for eight to ten hours via a photocell light sensor without any human intervention or assistance from an outside power or fuel source.

This type of breakthrough in solar technology could revolutionize the way highway lights or streetlights in residential areas are illuminated because it is environmentally friendly, produces no emission, costs nothing to operate and doesn’t produce any noise.

Phil Winnington, managing director of Morris Site Machinery, the company that developed the product, said this could be the breakthrough science has been waiting for.

“there is an increasing demand for technology which reduces carbon emissions and our solar lighting tower is a bespoke solution to meet this,” Winnington told the materials handling website HUB.

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A company in the UK has introduced a new tool for separating out very tiny, micron-sized particles quickly and efficiently. It’s called the Air Sizer 200 and it is  being manufactured for the first time by Endecotts, the London-based maker of test sieves and sieve shakers for laboraties and industry.

What makes the Air Sizer 200 unique is its ability to sieve extremely fine dry particles, including electrostatic powders. The key to sieving these microscopic-sized particles is the efficient dispersion and desagglomeration via air jet technology. Able to sieve cut powdered materials in just a few minutes, the machine also has the ability to regulate the level of vacuum suction and can provide a constant or timed operation to help achieve optimum performance.

The Air  Sizer 200 is perfect for fine particles, usable for dry material with 20 µm upwards. It can be used for 203 mm and 200 mm premium air-jet sieves and has an adjustable nozzle speed of between 5 and 55 revolutions per minute. Pre-filter units and vacuum cleaners are available as accessories.

The unit is maintenance free and voltage independent.

 

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Students from the Institute for Advanced Architecture, in Barcelona, Spain, are developing a new type of building that can grow larger or smaller based on external stimuli such as heat, humidity and light.

The project, called Translated Geometries, uses a composite material known as Shape Memory Polymers (SMPs) that can deform and return to its original state when activated by these environmental cues. A prototype building developed by the team grows larger as the temperature rises then shrinks to original size when the temperature falls.

SMPs can be used to create joints that can be fitted between such materials as plywood. When heat is added the joint can then expand, causing the building to grow up to four times its original footprint.

How It Works

Exposing SMP to heat above 140 degrees F creates a flexibility in the material that allows it to undergo geometric deformations. The mateiral then cools into its new rigid form. When more heat is applied, the material returns to its original memory state.

The building created by the students was inspired by the Japanese art of origami. As heat is applied to the SMP, the structure begins to twitch then unfolds the way a flower will open up, according to one of the students, Ramin Shambayati.

“You can reused the same material intelligence embedded in the building to help with different scenarios or needs,” Shimbayati told Wired magazine.

What these types of buildings could be used for is something that is still being considered. So how could this principle be applied to practical architecture?

“That depends on what you consider architecture,” Shambayati said. “Maybe your apartment buildings won’t be transitioning quite yet, but something like pavilion? I don’t think that’s too far fetched.”

Many Possible Applications

Other possibilities for these types of 21st Century building materials include remote structures such as oil drilling rigs or research facilities in the Arctic or Antarctic. Or even extra-terrestrial structures such as on the Moon or for use in space travel. Shape-shifting structures may even have applications in green energy production.

Still, there are a lot of bugs that need to be worked out before this technology can actually be used in a real building. One of the biggest concerns is the amount of stress all that turning and twisting would put on the materials that compose the structure.

“Someone came up with the term ‘material empathy’,” Shambayati said. “They said they felt bad for the material and all the stress we were giving it.”

The other students working on the Translated Geometries project are Ece Tankal and Efilena Baseta.

The concept of using temperature or other outside influences to change the shape of a structure is not new. In fact, a similar shape-shifting structure made of foam and wax is being developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But that application is for robotics, not structures that will be occupied by people.

 

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The Ontario government announced that for the next six weeks inspectors from its Ministry of Labor will be conducting surprise visits of factories, warehouses and other industrial businesses to check for safety violations.

The safety blitz is designed to improve safety in workplaces across the province., according to Kevin Flynn, Ontario’s labor minister.

“Blitzes such as this one ensure that we continue to do what we can to prevent injuries and deaths so men and women get home safely to their families each and every night,” Flynn said in a prepared statement.

The inspectors will be enforcing Canada’s Occupational Health and Safety Act. In particular, they will be looking to make sure forklifts and other lifting devices are properly rated for their loads, that workers are provided safe access to work areas, and that workers are performing tasks safety in order to prevent falls.

They will also be ensuring that materials handling equipment is being properly maintained and is being used correctly, and that equipment, products and supplies are being stored safely. Other things inspectors will be reviewing are business’s training and supervision programs, and whether a well-functioning internal responsibility system is in place.

The inspections will begin Sept. 15 and will continue through Oct. 26.

 

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The recently-expanded Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America plant in Houston, Texas, is now at full capacity, building new forklifts under the Mitsubishi, Cat and Jungheinrich brand names, company officials announced recently. The facility recently underwent a complete overhaul that expanded its capacity by 40%.

Since the expansion was completed last November, production has ramped back up to full speed, according to Jay Gusler, vice president of operations for MCFA.

“The recent expansion gives  MCFA the ability to build all five classes of product on our Houston campus, which is unique in North America,” Gusler said. “MCFA’s ability to produce all forklift classes in one facility allows us to more efficiently support the increasing demands of our North American dealer network as well as our growing export business. With this addition, we also created 100 new manufacturing jobs for the local Houston economy.”

The plant now has the capacity to build both internal combustion and electrically-powerfed forklifts. One to-16 ton IC vehicles are built in the IC portion of the campus while a new electric building produces warehouse products such as Jungheinrich electric end rider pallet trucks and pantograph reach trucks.

The expansion added 60,000 square feet to the facility, which can now build 10,000 additional units per year. It features state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques, such as the flex manufacturing system, which optimizes parts flow and increases production efficiency. The plant also has a high-tech, end-of-the-line testing system for mast performance and truck stability.

 

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Here’s a special sneak preview of some of the stories you can expect to see this week on the Bahrns blog:

  • A group of architecture students have discovered a new construction technology that allows buildings to actually expand and contract in size and shape in response to external factors such as heat, light and humidity.
  • You’ve probably heard of Siri, the virtual personal assistant who lives in your iPhone. Now meet Jibo, the social robot who wants to be your personal assistant in your home or office.
  • Did you know there’s a Packaging Hall of Fame? Well, there is and six industry leaders were recently inducted into it.

Plus, a lighting tower that runs on its own forever and for free, an all-out safety blitz by Canadian workplace inspectors, and a new tool for sifting out microscopic particles. All this and much, much more can be found this week on the Bahrns blog … so stay tuned!

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How to Select the Right Corrugated Box for Your Shipping NeedsBaseball has Cooperstown. Football has Canton. Hockey has Toronto.

But where in the world is the Hall of Fame for the packaging industry?

It might be in Reston, Virginia, home of the headquarters for the packaging trade association PMMI, which recently announced its six newest inductees into the Packaging Hall of Fame:

  • Mel Bahr, MGS Machine
  • James Downham, PAC
  • Joseph Hotchkiss, Michigan State University
  • Toru Ichikawa, Hosokawa Yoko Co., Ltd.
  • Bern McPheely, Hartness International, Inc.
  • Boh Tsai, Amerasia Technologies, Inc.

Each of the inductees were nominated by their peers and are being recognized for their significant contribution to the packaging industry, according to Maria Ferrante, PMMI’s vice president for education and workforce development.

The Leading Minds in Packaging Today

“These packaging professionals have contributed to the packaging community as an advisor, industry pioneer, visionary, educator, leader in packaging technology and an inventor,” Ferrante said in a PMMI news release. “Their contributions have led the industry to where it is today.”

The latest class of Hall of Famers will be honored during the PACK EXPO International packaging trade show, to be held Nov. 2 through 5 in Chicago. A reception and ceremony is scheduled for  Nov. 4 at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place Hotel, which is attached to the convention center where the trade show will be held.

Event to Benefit Scholarships

Tickets for the reception are $75, but sponsors can purchase tables for $1,500 to $3,000 apiece, with the proceeds benefiting the PMMI Foundation to support packaging and processing education, with selected students receiving scholarships in two- or four-year packaging programs.

“We’re inviting the entire PACK EXPO community to celebrate with us at the Packaging Hall of Fame reception,” Ferrante said. “As we honor our inductees, we will fund scholarships for students in our industry.”

The trade association has been selecting members to its Hall of Fame since 1971. Potential inductees are nominated by their peer and Hall of Famers are selected by a Packaging Hall of Fame Commission that is composed of both former inductees and industry movers and shakers.

Two Trade Shows at the Same Time, Place

PACK EXPO will be held concurrently with the first-ever Pharma Expo, , which is being presented jointly with the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE). Both events will take place at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

“Packaging and processing solutions providers know that PACK EXPO is the show their customers attend, and our space sales to date prove it,” says Jim Pittas, PMMI”s vice president for trade shows. “To date, we have more than 1,000 exhibiting companies and over 950,000 net square feet of exhibit space — this is 5 percent greater than this point in the 2012 show cycle. We fully expect to exceed our initial projections of 1.1 million net square feet and 2,200 exhibiting companies. PACK EXPO International will bring the most influential players in packaging and processing technologies to Chicago next year.”

In addition to the thousands of exhibitors, PACK EXPO International and Pharma EXPO are expected to attract more than 50,000 attendees, including 5,000 international visitors from 130 countries.

“We work closely with the U.S. Commercial Service to bring international buying delegations to PACK EXPO through its International Buying Program,”Pittas said. “It’s a great program, and PACK EXPO is the only U.S.-based packaging and processing show they actively promote around the world.”

 

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reducing shipping costs can increase profitsThanks to the growing popularity of online retailing and direct-to-customer shipments, practically everybody is always looking for a faster, cheaper and more efficient way to ship parcels.

And with online retailers such as Amazon announcing plans to provide delivery within 30 minutes of customers ordering products from their website, the race to increase delivery efficiency is more competitive than ever.

New Technologically-Advanced Scales

To save time and money, many e-Commerce retailers are turning to in-motion electronic conveyor scales. These devices automatically read a package’s identification code while at the same time measuring its dimensions and weight. This data is then used to instantly determine the most cost-effective way to ship the package.

Mark Hudzinski, territory manager for Avery Weight-Tronix — a company that makes these devices — said the sophisticated parcel management software improves efficiency and ultimately saves money by helping retailers automatically identify their best shipping option.

“Choices might include UPS, FedEx, DHL International, US Postal  Service or common carrier,” Hudzinski told Modern Materials Handling. “All of this has to happen within milliseconds because production is all about throughput and how fast shipments can be sent out the door.”

High-Speed Data Collection

How fast can in-motion electronic conveyor scales collect the critical information it needs to determine how to process a particular package? Lightning fast, according to Ron Adams, Avery Weigh-Tronix’s sales manager.

“The latest in-line, in-motion conveyor scales can collect a parcel’s weight at speeds as fast as 100 milliseconds,” Adams said. “They can weigh up to 200 parcels per minute.”

But how do they work? 

Devices Contain Two Major Components

Essentially, an in-line, in-motion scale is comprised of two parts. The first is a scale that is used to measure the weight of the package. Each scale must be certified according to the National Type Evaluation Program to ensure that an industrial device provides an accurate measurement for any item to be sold by weight, making it legal for trade.

The second part is an indicator that displays and transmits the information to a computer, which can be located either on-site or remotely. Different types of indicators provide different types of connectivity, according to Adams.

“We now offer five different ways to connect to our devices: Ethernet, USB, RS232 serial ports, Bluetooth wireless, and analog.”

Providing Network Visibility

Providing different connectivity modes allows the scales’ indicators to communicate the collected data to the computer regardless of how advanced the technology is being used. So it can provide connectivity if the company is using bar code readers, printers, or local and global data management networks to process the information.

Ethernet remains the most popular because it supports network visibility for managers at all levels of any organization, according to Hudzinski.

“The data is critical for record keeping, to maximize cost efficiencies, and to give management a detailed overview of shipping productivity from any location,” he said.

 

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Two striking drivers were reportedly detained by police in Hong Kong and many more were arrested after a group of striking truck rivers stormed the local police station to demand the release of their colleagues last month.

Picketing drivers at Ningbo’s Beilun Container Port reportedly smashed the windshields of trucks trying cross the picket line to enter the port and even laid tire-puncturing spikes at major entrances to prevent any traffic from going in and coming out, according to reports in the China Labor Bulletin.

Truck drivers — dissatisfied with haulage rates they could earn at the port — launched a protest that brought the world’s sixth largest container port to a standstill.

According to a website maintained by the industry watchdog group BDP International, the strike has impacted normal terminal operations, preventing loaded containers from being delivered to the terminal and import shipments being carried out delivered to customers.

The unrest began when truck owners unhappy with pay set up a picket line at the gate of the port, apparently unaware that the Ningbo Transportation Association had already planned to raise the trucking rate by 12 percent and announce it on Aug. 22.

 

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