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MWC: Cloud AI robot arrives

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CloudMinds Technology, a developer and operator of cloud AI and robotic solutions, announced the launch of a cloud AI based service robot, the XR-1, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, last week.

The XR-1 Robot – The First Generation of Compliant Service Robots Powered by Cloud AI

Developed by CloudMinds, the XR-1 is a highly intelligent service-oriented humanoid robot, representing a new level of technology development and commercialization in the area of intelligent robotics.

The XR-1 is powered by two new technologies: intelligent robot joints – Smart Compliant Actuators (SCAs), and a cloud brain – Human Augmented Robotic Intelligence with Extreme Reality (HARIX), a cloud platform that organically integrates AI capabilities such as vision processing, natural language processing, robotic motion control, vision-guided grasping and manipulation. By leveraging these new technologies, the XR-1 provides a significant leap towards the realization of truly intelligent assistants for humans.

The advantage of a “cloud robot” like XR-1 is that, by placing its AI brain in the cloud, it can utilize powerful AI engines, collective learning capabilities, and scalability, to achieve a high level of intelligence while still providing low cost and low battery consumption for the robot body. The CloudMinds’ cloud AI robotic operation platform has been deployed globally.

As part of CloudMinds’ robotic demonstrations, in Hall 7 Booth 7A60, the XR-1 robot delivered beverages and coffee to guests with its flexible arms built with compliant joints. A “compliant” joint is a joint that can detect resistance force and stop its actions until the resistance is gone. During the interaction with guests at the show, the XR-1 used a multimodal sensing subsystem to understand its surroundings and tasks. The smart joints  (SCAs) sensed resistant force applied by humans and other objects, and operated smoothly in a compliant manner. The XR-1’s 3D vision sensing system combined with HARIX platform’s 3D object recognition and other algorithms supports closed-loop visual feedback. These technologies enable the XR-1 to perform tasks accurately, smoothly and safely in an environment in which machines and humans coexist.

The XR-1’s ability was further demonstrated in a needle-threading demonstration where it precisely guided a thread through the small hole of a needle, repeatedly and effortlessly. The act was accomplished by controlling 14 SCAs collectively, a very difficult precision level for compliant actuators to achieve.

Completing its AI capability package, the XR-1 is equipped with a powerful cloud-based natural language processing system. It can accurately understand human users’ intents and take actions accordingly. It can also carry on meaningful and life-like conversations, even injecting humor at times.

Of course, the XR-1 is not “all work and no play.” Intermixed with other demonstrations, the XR-1 danced to a number of songs ranging from soft melodies to heart-pumping rhythms, with human-like grace, agility and smoothness. The dance routines were learned from human dancers. The beautiful routines combined with XR-1’s slender body and long arms mesmerized the audience. 

SCA – The Cornerstone of Volume Production of Compliant Robots

To achieve compliant, flexible and smooth movements similar to humans’, a robot needs high quality compliant joints. Until now, technologies that support such movement have remained in research labs rather than in commercial deployment, and have come at very high cost. To overcome that barrier, CloudMinds developed the intelligent and compliant actuator – SCA.

Each SCA has several embedded chips and multimodal sensors, supporting intelligent control algorithms and communication functions, to make the robot motion compliant, smooth, precise, and safe. This allows the robot to achieve human-like motion, or even better in some cases. The design also supports a variety of sizes to fit different robotic joints. Thanks to its highly integrated and compact design, and good support for applications, SCA has achieved a good balance of high performance and low cost. CloudMinds is ready to start mass production of the SCA, providing partners with much-needed components, features, and significant cost savings, elevating the entire service robotic industry.

“Based on a set of advanced technologies, CloudMinds will develop a number of intelligent compliant service robots, from wheeled to two-legged. Leveraging the 5G network’s high bandwidth and low latency, our cloud AI platform will rapidly grow its intelligence as well as its deployment size. We will usher in a new era of service oriented robotics.” – said Bill Huang, CEO and founder of CloudMinds.

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Millennials turning 40: NOW will you stop targeting them?

It’s one of the most overused terms in youth marketing, and probably the most inaccurate, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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One of the most irritating buzzwords embraced by marketers in recent years is the term “millennial”. Most are clueless about its true meaning, and use it as a supposedly cool synonym for “young adults”. The flaw in this targeting – and the word “flaw” here is like calling the Grand Canyon a trench – is that it utterly ignores the meaning of the term. “Millennials” are formally defined as anyone born from 1980 to 2000, meaning they have typically come of age after the dawn of the millennium, or during the 21st century.

Think about that for a moment. Next year, the millennial will be formally defined as anyone aged from 20 to 40. So here you have an entire advertising, marketing and public relations industry hanging onto a cool definition, while in effect arguing that 40-year-olds are youths who want the same thing as newly-minted university graduates or job entrants.

When the communications industry discovers just how embarrassing its glib use of the term really is, it will no doubt pivot – millennial-speak for “changing your business model when it proves to be a disaster, but you still appear to be cool” – to the next big thing in generational theory.

That next big thing is currently Generation Z, or people born after the turn of the century. It’s very convenient to lump them all together and claim they have a different set of values and expectations to those who went before. Allegedly, they are engaged in a quest for experience, compared to millennials – the 19-year-olds and 39-olds alike – supposedly all on a quest for relevance.

In reality, all are part of Generation #, latching onto the latest hashtag trend that sweeps social media, desperate to go viral if they are producers of social content, desperate to have caught onto the trend before their peers.

The irony is that marketers’ quest for cutting edge target markets is, in reality, a hangover from the days when there was no such thing as generational theory, and marketing was all about clearly defined target markets. In the era of big data and mass personalization, that idea seems rather quaint.

Indeed, according to Grant Lapping, managing director of DataCore Media, it no longer matters who brands think their target market is.

“The reason for this is simple: with the technology and data digital marketers have access to today, we no longer need to limit our potential target audience to a set of personas or segments derived through customer research. While this type of customer segmentation was – and remains – important for engagements across traditional above-the-line engagements in mass media, digital marketing gives us the tools we need to target customers on a far more granular and personalised level.

“Where customer research gives us an indication of who the audience is, data can tell us exactly what they want and how they may behave.”

Netflix, he points out, is an example of a company that is changing its industry by avoiding audience segmentation, once the holy grail of entertainment.

In other words, it understands that 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds are very different – but so is everyone in between.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Robots coming to IFA

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Robotics is no longer about mechanical humanoids, but rather becoming an interface between man and machine. That is a key message being delivered at next month’s IFA consumer electronics expo in Berlin. An entire hall will be devoted to IFA Next, which will not only offer a look into the future, but also show what form it will take.

The concepts are as varied as the exhibitors themselves. However, there are similarities in the various products, some more human than others, in the fascinating ways in which they establish a link between fun, learning and programming. In many cases, they are aimed at children and young people.

The following will be among the exhibitors making Hall 26 a must-visit:

Leju Robotics (Stand 115) from China is featuring what we all imagine a robot to be. The bipedal Aelos 1s can walk, dance and play football. And in carrying out all these actions it responds to spoken commands. But it also challenges young researchers to apply their creativity in programming it and teaching it new actions. And conversely, it also imparts scholastic knowledge.

Cubroid (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Korea starts off by promoting an independent approach to the way it deals with tasks. Multi-functional cubes, glowing as they play music, or equipped with a tiny rotating motor, join together like Lego pieces. Configuration and programming are thus combined, providing a basic idea of what constitutes artificial intelligence.

Spain is represented by Ebotics (Stand 218). This company is presenting an entire portfolio of building components, including the “Mint” educational program. The modular system explains about modern construction, programming and the entire field of robotics.

Elematec Corporation (Stand 208) from Japan is presenting the two-armed SCARA, which is not intended to deal with any tasks, but in particular to assist people with their work.

Everybot (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Japan approaches the concept of robotics by introducing an autonomous floor-cleaning machine, similar to a robot vacuum cleaner.

And Segway (Stand 222) is using a number of products to explain the modern approach to battery-powered locomotion.

IFA will take place at the Berlin Exhibition Grounds (ExpoCenter City) from 6 to 11 September 2019. For more information, visit www.ifa-berlin.com

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