back to article Get a GRIP! Robolution ain't happening until TOUCH is cracked

Predictions are rife about the millions of repetitive, administrative and operative roles set to be decimated by automation over the coming years. Robots could undoubtedly make a positive contribution to the UK's pitiful levels of productivity and make up for the dearth of people willing to take on the many tedious roles most …

  1. Gordon Pryra
    Terminator

    I for one

    welcome our firm (but not too hard) gripped overlords

    (Edit- was going to use the Paris icon, but explaining it would take this post from joke to a ... different place, fast)

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: I for one

      Well yes, someone somewhere will find a way of using tactile robots for sexual gratification. Rule 34.

      On a similar '(wo)man-handling' note, the care of the elderly could also benefit from tactile robots.

      1. DropBear Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: I for one

        "In other news, Amazon recently admitted to a large scale compromise of its automated packaging facility systems - reports say the first signs of the hack were packaging robots suddenly starting to ogle and trying to grope any attractive female co-workers passing by..."

        1. John H Woods Silver badge

          Re: I for one

          Wasn't that Uber?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    Yup

    Wolowitz found that out the hard way...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    These robots better be paying tax and NI to pay for the benefits of all these low skilled workers that are going to be replaced...

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge

      Not sure if that was intended as a joke but hey, I'll bite.

      Sure, I expect the non-sentient robots that aren't being paid will happily hand over a portion of their earnings as tax. I see no problems with that statement whatsoever.

      1. Calleb III

        Joke's on us, as sure as hell their human/corporate overlords aren't going to pay much tax themselves

  4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    someone somewhere will have to pay the tax

    that will fund you know...

    The Dole

    The NHS

    The Military

    and

    My Pension (for what little it is worth)

    The likes of Walmart, Amazon and the rest will pile into this because it reduces the non recurring costs (i.e. Human Staff) and their profits all in one go. Naturally, the profits won't be real profits. They will be squirrelled away in some tax-haven via some 'double Irish' form of licensing.

    Then the country goes bankrupt because there is no money for the Government to pay for even a damp tissue to wipe away their false tears.

    We are doomed I tell ye doomed.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: someone somewhere will have to pay the tax

      >We are doomed I tell ye doomed.

      Pull yourself together man! And make sure your pitchfork is at hand :)

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: someone somewhere will have to pay the tax

        Too right! Smash the looms!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: someone somewhere will have to pay the tax

      Not really.

      You can call them "robots" if you want, but at least for the moment, they're just automated machines. And machines of various types have been replacing manual labour for centuries.

      Claims like this have been made since the Luddites first started throwing spanners in the works of cotton mills.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: someone somewhere will have to pay the tax

        Claims like this have been made since the Luddites first started throwing spanners in the works of cotton mills.

        Indeed. But if we automate a load of the manual labouring jobs, what exactly will those people do? In previous rounds of automation there were plenty of other demands for manual labour; I'm not so convinced that's the case if we can make technology that will replace warehouse packers, fork lift drivers, truck and van drivers etc.

        I can't see that we'd train many techies from those currently performing manual jobs, and even if we could there's not going to be an equivalent number of jobs created in coding, app design and the like.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: someone somewhere will have to pay the tax

          @Ledswinger

          Exactly the comments that have been made whenever automation has been added to factories etc, and yet...

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: someone somewhere will have to pay the tax

          "I'm not so convinced that's the case if we can make technology that will replace warehouse packers, fork lift drivers, truck and van drivers etc."

          Converting ports to containers put 100's of 1000's of manual dock workers out of work. It's still a hell of a wrench and definitely not nice for those involved, but it's survivable.

  5. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Interesting

    My fingertips are continually self-repairing, replenishing their surface from the inside outwards. (My fingertips will also adapt, becoming harder over days if regularly play a guitar or build a brick wall - becoming less sensitive in the process. )

    How to implement this continual repair in a robot hand? I don't know, but perhaps a regular service will include spraying a polymer layer on the robot's finger tips. Sensors in the fingertips will analyse the thickness of polymer that has been deposited in real-time, providing feedback to the spaying robot.

    The alternative might be for the fingertips to periodically excrete a polymer that is quickly (UV?)-cured, though off the top of my head this approach might risk blocked 'pores'.

    1. Simon Harris Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Interesting

      "the spaying robot."

      Now, that's one too keep well away from.

      1. Mark York 3 Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: Interesting

        The Ice Pirates......

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KcTCRSZBUU May not be SFW

        Icon because of the blades.....

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. DougS Silver badge

    There is plenty of low hanging fruit

    That isn't actually fruit, for robots to pick up where a sense of touch doesn't matter. It doesn't matter for a box, or for something with a known size/shape (like a fast food burger, for instance)

    That will encompass the replacement of a LOT of jobs before the robot overlords' cold dead hands come to take your job that currently needs warm live hands.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There is plenty of low hanging fruit

      They may just hijack criminals bodies for x years and hack into the nervous system. May be cheaper.

      1. Anonymous Blowhard

        Re: There is plenty of low hanging fruit

        "They may just hijack criminals bodies for x years and hack into the nervous system. May be cheaper."

        Frederick Pohl beat you to in in "We Purchased People".

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Go

    "flexible rubber materials and pressurised air for passively adapting grasps "

    Looks like the amateur at Shadow Robotics was right all along. Theirs used rubber balloons in stocking bags as pneumatic muscles. Limited maximum strength but very high strength/weight ratio, so they did a complete set of muscles, like a real human forearm (somewhere around 60 actual muscles in there).

    IIRC the SoA in conventional manipulators is one that can pick up a cherry from a mound of cherries and put them on top of a cake.

    Used 2 soft(ish) rubber belts and probably a fair bit of fine tuning on the materials selection for the belts.

  8. pstiles

    the Lego test

    Once the robot can pull apart two tightly stacked two-by-two Lego flats without effort or braking either piece I'll be happy to say that they are Up To Scratch, until then, meh.

    Oooh - and picking up a needle from the floor! once robots can do that I won't be needed at home at all!

    1. annodomini2

      Re: the Lego test

      2nd point, magnet on a robot arm.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Establishing that fruit is ripe will need more than just touch and sight - possibly some heat and vapour chemical analysis. Some mangoes never feel soft - and rot from the stone outwards.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    WHY?

    "Robots could undoubtedly make a positive contribution to the UK's pitiful levels of productivity and make up for the dearth of people willing to take on the many tedious roles most likely to be affected."

    Or you could simply cut the dole and reduce taxes on working Brits.

    Robots are crap because software is crap, and always will be. The sooner your polititards realize that, the better off your country will be.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: WHY?

      ""Robots could undoubtedly make a positive contribution to the UK's pitiful levels of productivity and make up for the dearth of people willing to take on the many tedious roles most likely to be affected."

      There's a story on the BBC, quoting the TUC saying how hard working people are, even when they're ill. Sadly for TUC, the same BBC article points out that time lost to sickness is 1.7% in private sector, yet 2.9% in public sector. Probably not the message the TUC was trying to convey, though.

      Interestingly, same article reports higher absences from smokers. You'd think, what with all those little breaks during the day .. :-)

  11. Richard Scratcher
    Terminator

    It's not just touch

    Robots will also have to learn about the moving and handling aspects of objects too, e.g. "you mustn't pick 'em up by their ears".

  12. Daggerchild Silver badge
    Alien

    Foolish mortals!

    Tentacles is where it's at! (diminishing bundles of crosshelicaly arranged cables with stressgauge strands - would need neural network learning to work out how to grok sensor feedback/calibrate control)

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Foolish mortals!

      You're right. The human hand is an amazing tool, but for a robot, it may well be better to have multiple interchangeable "hands" for different jobs, including tentacles. You just have to look at automated production lines to see the many and varied ways already in use for handling all sorts of tasks Something like a human hand but heat/cold/acid resistant and the option for the "bones" to change from rigid to flexible to make it even more adaptable might be nice.

  13. url

    No one said:

    Robots to take over Hand Jobs?

    really?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Suction

    I would have thought that suction would provide a good way of picking up and moving irregularly shaped objects, it seems ott to build a hand to do the job.

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