Robotization

Berkeley's two-armed robot hints at a new future for warehouses

A video clip of two robot arms alternately picking items out of a bin.
Berkeley's two-armed robot, seen at 5x speed. Video: Adriel Olmos / UC Berkeley

Pick up a glass of water, then lift a fork: Without thinking, you chose the best way to grasp each object. Researchers at UC Berkeley have developed a robot that makes the same calculation, choosing on the fly whether to grab an object with pincers or lift it with a suction cup.

Why it matters: Reliable robot grabbers are the just-out-of-reach holy grail for e-commerce outfits like Amazon and Walmart, who still rely mainly on human hands for the job. Smart picker-uppers would clear a serious bottleneck in shipping and could change the nature of warehouses entirely.

Asian countries invest more in industrial robots than Europe, U.S.

Data: Information Technology & Innovation Foundation; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

A common way to measure the use of robots around the world shows that wealthy countries — like Korea, Singapore, Germany and the U.S. — are way ahead of the curve, while China flounders behind unlikely characters like Slovenia and the Czech Republic.

Why it matters: Taking wages into account changes the landscape dramatically. When comparing countries’ actual robot adoption to the quantity one would expect based on their wage levels, Asian countries far outstrip Europe and the U.S.

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