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Katie King reports on an innovative robot conductor in Italy and looks at how AI is slowly entering the workplace

Italy, a country steeped in ancient tradition, has taken a stride forward in the twenty-first century race towards automation, becoming the first country to showcase a robot-conducted orchestra.  The robot, called YuMi, is described as a "collaborative" robot, designed to perform alongside humans and complement the workforce, has already solved the Rubik’s Cube and can thread a needle.  YuMi performed at the ‘First International Festival of Robotics’ on 12th September 2017, alongside Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra.

YuMi’s performance was developed by capturing the movements of conducting maestro, Andrea Colombini with a process known as lead-through programming, which means the robot’s arms were guided to follow the conductor’s motions meticulously.  Those movements were then recorded and further fine-tuned with software, reproducing gesture nuances at a level that was previously unthinkable, and is an incredible step forward, given the rigidity of gestures by previous robots.

YuMi was first introduced to the market in April 2015, and its makers ABB envisioned it being used for automation where people and robots can work side-by-side on the same tasks.  ABB do acknowledge that although YuMi demonstrates remarkable capabilities, it’s still unlikely the robot would ever take over for actual human conductors, because of the artistry and technique needed in the profession. 

An automated temperature suited to you

YuMi is one robot, recognised on a global scale for the tasks it has performed, but what impact does the rapid development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) have a little closer to home and in our places of work?

Well, I’m sure that you can think back to a time in the not so distant past where air conditioning units were controlled by a wall mounted unit and/or a remote control, and its highly likely that is still the case for you, but now even temperature control devices are thinking for themselves.

Technology is now thinking for itself in ways we never thought possible.  Mitsubishi Electric has recently developed the 3D i-See Sensor, which are in-built within the latest air conditioning units. The sensor continuously analyses the temperature profile of a room to detect hot and cold spots and is able to detect not only if a space is occupied, but also how many people are present.

Fitted with an intelligent 8-element sensor, which scans the entire room and divides it into 752 3D zones, the sensor measures the temperature in each section to detect the exact position of its occupants based on their heat signatures.  The perfect amount of heating or cooling can then be customised based on preference.  

The 3D i-See Sensor is one of the most advanced sensor in the market, and a leap forward from the familiar remote control or wall mounted units we all know of.

Katie King Founder of Zoodikers

Automatic energy saving 

I’m sure you’ve walked into a room and turned the heating up or cooling down to the temperature you want, and then after a period of time walked out without resetting the room to its original temperature.  Well, worry not, the 3D i-See Sensor is also an intuitive occupancy sensor, that after a set period of absence, will switch to energy saving mode, raising or lowering the set temperature by 2°C as required, which can lead to energy savings of up to 10%. 

OK, so maybe it’s a far cry from conducting an orchestra, but the 3D i-See Sensor is one of the most advanced sensor in the market, and a leap forward from the familiar remote control or wall mounted units we all know of.

The development of YuMi has taken us to the pinnacle position of AI at this time, but where will future developments take us, and what impact will they have on our home and working lives? 

Will all of the daily tasks we love, or perhaps loathe, be conducted by Artificial Intelligence? 

Will we wake up in AI managed homes, drive to work in AI driven cars and work in an environment where we work in collaboration with AI? 

Experts are divided on this, though most seem to say definitely YES, some say MAYBE, and some are not so sure.

Whatever way the future of AI takes us, the one thing to be certain about is that it will have an impact on our lives. 


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