Things to Know This Week: AI Debaters, 1M Warehouse ‘Bots, and the Cheetos Chicken Sandwich

Source: Adobe Stock

February 04, 2019      

In case you’re recovering from your Super Bowl party last night, I’ll try to speak quietly when discussing things that you should be aware of this week in the world of robotics and automation. As always, we’re taking a look at some recent trends, reports, news items and other areas of interest that enter my brain.

1. Report: 1M warehouse robots by 2022

A new report by research firm Tractica predicts that worldwide shipments of warehousing and logistics robots will grow rapidly over the next 5 years – from 194,000 in 2018 to 938,000 (almost 1 million) by 2022. In 2021, the rate will slow as major market players will have adopted robotic systems by then, Tractica said.

iStock supply-chain robots report stock image

Credit: iStock

“The demand for robots and the supply of advanced robotic solutions for the optimization of logistic processes, combined with labor shortages, have created a tipping point that could lead to widespread adoption of robots in warehouses and logistics operations to assist and displace human workers,” Tractica said.

Worldwide revenue for this category of robotics will increase from $8.3 billion in 2018 to $30.8 billion in 2022, with lots of opportunities for established participants and emerging players, the company said.

If you’re in the warehousing or logistics space and you haven’t thought yet about a mobile robot deployment, it’s likely that you’re way behind your competitors – many of the mobile robot companies we speak with are past the point of pilot programs with a lot of their customers, and are moving towards partnerships and deployments.

2. Want to watch an AI debate live?

It may not be as exciting as the Super Bowl, or even as much fun as watching a computer defeat humans in Jeopardy!, but IBM is sponsoring another demonstration about the advances in AI next week. On Monday, Feb. 11, between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. PST, the Project Debater Live event will pit a former world champion debater against the company’s Project Debater AI.

robotic public speaker this week article

Source: Adobe Stock

A spokesman for IBM Research said that “neither the AI nor the opponent will train on the topic of the debate in advance, so it is truly up for debate when it comes to who will persuade you.”

The event will stream live at IBM’s Think 2019 website – the company is also gearing up for its big Think event, to be held Feb. 12-15, in San Francisco. In addition to the debate, IBM scientists will explain details on the work that went into creating the system. The event will be moderated by John Donvan, a four-time Emmy winner and host of the Intelligence Squared U.S. debate series.

I’m pretty sure that the debate will A) be better than any presidential debate; and B) will not have the AI and debater going, “I’m right!”; “No, you’re not!”; “Yes I am!”, which is a step up from the debates I have with my children.

3. New algorithm lets AI master Atari video games faster than DeepMind

If debating isn’t your cup of tea, how about Atari video games? Oh, wait, AI is better at that now. A report on the Science Daily website said a new breed of algorithms has mastered Atari video games 10 times faster than state-of-the-art AI with a new approach to problem solving.

Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, set up computers to autonomously play the video game Montezuma’s Revenge, which Google’s DeepMind AI “notoriously failed to learn a path to the first key” due to the game’s complexity. The report said that the new algorithms was able to learn from its mistakes, and identified sub-goals 10 times faster than Google DeepMind to finish the game.

Well, at least there’s Pong. Oh, wait…

4. More evidence that self-driving cars will add traffic woes

While we’ve heard a lot of talk about the benefits of self-driving cars (and the ridesharing services that will likely deploy them first), what’s not being mentioned is the impact of traffic on metropolitan areas.

While some think that traffic will be reduced because people will use self-driving cars instead of driving their own cars and looking for a parking space, others think traffic will increase because those self-driving cars won’t park anywhere.

Another report in Science Daily argues the latter – saying that self-driving cars will get around the issue of having to pay for pricey parking by cruising around, creating more havoc in the process. Transportation Adam Millard-Ball, an associate professor of environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, analyzed the issue in “The Autonomous Vehicle Parking Problem.

Millard-Ball said one solution is congestion pricing, which would charge fees for using roads in cities. Already seen in London, Singapore, and Stockholm, congestion pricing could charge by miles driven, or assign different fees to specific streets, he said.

5. This week’s non-robot story to talk about with co-workers

KFC testing a Cheetos Chicken Sandwich complete with ‘special Cheetos sauce’

Sadly, you have to live in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia in order to try it. But here’s hoping it goes national!

6. Catching up on last week’s robotics news

In case you missed any of our numerous stories, here are our favorite articles from last week. As always, give these a read so I can increase my page view counts!

Peace, love and Cheetos!