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Deep Space Exploration – Defining Industries of Tomorrow

For more than ten years now, human beings have occupied the International Space Station. Likewise, a handful of dreamers have promised commercial space travel and routine space missions for consumers soon. However, are these just dreams or yet-to-be developed realities? Deep space offers a number of advantages in many areas when compared to Earth. Moreover, based on recent events, space exploration efforts are showing promise. The question is who will reach their space missions first and what will deep space look like in the future?

Deep Space Industry – Taking Off Gravity’s Handcuffs

Billionaires like Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos are pouring investments into space exploration — and for a good reason. Deep space solves many challenges that hinder various industries on Earth.

For example, microfiber cables can be made much faster and without defects in deep space because gravity no longer exists. LED chemicals mix much more uniformly in space. Also, human stem cells can grow into perfectly shaped hearts without structural supports in deep space. For many businesses, gravity poses problems. For this reason, select firms are excited about the possibilities that space exploration offers.

The Larger Promise of Space Exploration

Recent interviews with Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos notes that he envisions a trillion people living and working in deep space in time. While this may be many generations away, the opportunities for industries to excel in space are more apparent and immediate.

  • Energy Production

    Energy represents the largest sector on Earth totaling $8.4 trillion in expenditures globally. Growing human energy consumption suggests that space exploration is the only way to avoid serious energy constraints in the future. The advantage of deep space for energy production is mainly two-fold. Solar power is much more readily available (without atmospheres in the way). Likewise, chemical energy production from oxygen, hydrogen, and methane shows great promise for rocket fuel propellants. Some foresee self-reliant energy systems in deep space that will provide support for ongoing space missions.

  • Resource Mining

    From moons to asteroids, deep space also offers the opportunity to tap into new sources of resources. While space missions will focus on water resources initially, space exploration of metals and other non-metal minerals will eventually be important. Though this sounds far-fetched, the absence of gravity could make mining in deep space easier than on Earth.

    Luxembourg has invested $227 million in space missions to explore planetary resources. With sustainable water and metals, in-space human existence and construction become feasible.

  • Manufacturing

    Existing space missions and research at the International Space Station support some manufacturing operations currently. Imagine if such operations were scattered throughout deep space. Many manufacturing plants on Earth are already autonomous using robotics systems. If base materials could jumpstart such activities in deep space, resources from mining and energy production could create a self-sustaining system. Without the hindrance of gravity, many manufacturing operations would be more efficient and more productive as well. Many private space missions today have this vision in mind.

Space Exploration and Deep Space Travel

Many of us dream of the possibility of traveling in deep space. Though still not yet a reality, several space missions conducted by private industry are making real progress towards this goal. Not only have costs come down for space exploration, but recent gains in safety and performance offer a reason for excitement. Here are some of the likely industry leaders in future space missions.

Deep space exploration by spacex, virgin galactic and blue origin
Are humans beyond exploration and finally manufacturing in deep space? How far are we into the future?
  • Virgin Galactic

    Virgin Galactic recently launched a rocket-powered space exploration mission that reached speeds of nearly 2.5 times the speed of sound! More importantly, the vessel reached a height of 170,800 feet in 42 seconds. The height is the edge of deep space and provides weightlessness. It is technically the mesosphere. Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic’s CEO, continues to promise commercial space exploration travel to private passengers in the near future. Estimations for the price of Virgin Galactic’s space missions hover around $250,000.

  • Space-X

    While space exploration and transportation are also important to Space-X, Elon Musk is taking a different approach. The Falcon Heavy rocket has 27 powerful rocket engines and can carry a load of over 140,000 pounds into deep space. This would be notably helpful in jumpstarting manufacturing and mining operations in space. Space-X also plans to offer passenger space missions, and it is also heavily invested in energy systems. Its most recent launch, which was considered a great success, was in February of this year.

  • Blue Origin

    Founded by Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, this space exploration company has conducted several recently successful rocket launches this year. Its New Shepherd Rocket reached a height of nearly 400,000 feet with ongoing testing to come. So far, the New Shepherd has been unmanned expect for “Mannequin Skywalker.” Bezos plans to use the rocket for passenger and light commercial space missions into suborbital space. However, he also is investing heavily into deep space energy systems and reusable rockets.

Hurry Up and Wait – The Arrival of the Self Driving Car

It’s like waiting for that promotion. Your superiors tell you’re next in line, but you have no idea when that will be. That’s the way it is with a self-driving car. There has been so much hype over the driverless car that many thought a self-driving car would already be a reality. But so far, we are still waiting. Though we cannot yet predict precisely when an autonomous car will hit the streets, guesstimates are getting better. The era of the driverless car looks to be right around the corner.

Looking at the Past to Predict the Future – The History of the Self Driving Car

Hurry Up and Wait – The Arrival of the Self Driving Car Infographic

Autonomous Cars Infographic

The evolution of the self-driving car has a longer history than you might expect. In fact, Francis Houdina introduced the first radio-controlled, driverless car that roamed the streets of Manhattan in 1925. However, this was a far cry from today’s autonomous cars. The modern era of the self-driving car began in 2000 when Toyota introduced its Prius with intelligent parking assist. Since then, things have accelerated. Over the next decade, several automakers began investing in autonomous car features. The real breakthrough came in 2009 when Google launched Waymo, the world’s first driverless car.

Between then and now, all the major automakers have gotten into the self-driving car game. Mercedes now offers an S-Class model with self-steering, lane detection, and accident avoidance. The Tesla Autopilot has lane centering, adaptive cruise control, and autonomous lane changing abilities.

Advances in chip technology have made the self-driving car a reality. Likewise, Lidar sensors, the roof device that supports many autonomous cars, has fallen dramatically in cost. From Uber to General Motors, car companies suggest autonomous cars will be cruising our roadways any day…but when?

Roadblocks Ahead – Delays for the Autonomous Car

Like many technological advances, companies tout revolutionary change long before it actually happens. This is undoubtedly true for the driverless car. Indeed, automakers have tremendously enhanced the abilities of autonomous cars. However, an actual self-driving car faces many challenges before it can overtake our current system of transportation.

  • Safety and Performance Factors – The self-driving car is designed to function based on routine road structures and situations. But what happens when something non-routine occurs — like a child running into the road? What happens if weather interferes with the sensors on autonomous cars? What if sensors interpret a puddle for a pothole? Though autonomous cars have advanced, there should be a resolution to these inherent safety issues before the self-driving car becomes a reality.
  • Regulatory Factors – While more than half the states are introducing legislation over autonomous cars, laws vary tremendously. Likewise, federal regulations are still evolving in relation to driverless car technology. Most are allowing public testing of self-driving car technologies, but actual integration into existing transportation structures is lacking. This will certainly take some time to work out the details.
  • Costs and Pricing – While a self-driving car eliminates the most expensive aspect (the human driver), driverless car technologies remain somewhat pricey. The cost of sensors, computer chips, and artificial intelligence systems are declining. However, for autonomous cars to be affordable to the masses, the price tag will need to drop a bit more.
self-driving cars on the road with autonomous cars
Experts say self-driving cars are rolling in slowly but surely.
  • Determining Liability – What happens when two autonomous cars collide? Who’s responsible when a self-driving car strikes another object or even a pedestrian? Is it the owner, the rider, the remote-control operator, or the manufacturer? Before you routinely see a driverless car on the road, you need to address these issues.
  • Security Protections – Advancements in computer-based technologies allow self-driving car capacities to be a real possibility. However, at the same time, these also create the potential for hacking and security breaches. From information theft to terrorism, security concerns also pose obstacles to the rapid adoption of autonomous cars.
  • Social Resistance – Self-driving vehicles sound amazing and incredibly convenient…and they likely will be. But then there is something about having your hands on the wheel and your foot on the pedal. Though change will occur, society may take its time in adopting autonomous cars into its everyday travel.

Best-Guess Predictions for the Self-Driving Car

Several market reports have estimated when we may actually enjoy a driverless car transporting us to and from our destinations. Making rough predictions is possible if we put this information together. First, Level 4 self-driving cars (highly autonomous cars) will likely be seen in mobility service fleets around 2021. This will include robo-taxis, AV shuttles, and AV pod transports. However, privately owned self-driving cars, and Level 5 fully autonomous vehicles won’t be commonplace until almost 2030. The real growth in driverless car transportation will not take place until the subsequent decade. Thus, while the self-driving car is an inevitable reality, it won’t impact your everyday life anytime soon. The technology is rapidly approaching, but we will still need some time for reality to catch up.

‘When Exactly Can We Expect the Arrival of Self-Driving Cars?’ Cartoon

cartoon of a robot in the driver's seat of a self-driving car with two human passengers
The progress in self-driving cars tech development is proving to be slower than anticipated as there are apparent roadblocks, causing delays, in its way.

Spyce Restaurant’s Kitchen Robot: Could Automation be the Next Fast Food Frontier?

The turning and whirring woks of Spyce Restaurant’s fully automated kitchen tell us one thing – fast food is getting automated. Spyce is primed to take it to the next level – their vision is to make tasty and nutritious meals accessible to everyone. Through Spyce, founders Kale Rogers, Michael Farid, Brady Knight and Luke Schlueter, bring wholesome meals for as low as $7.50, served in 5 minutes or less. At the rate they are going, the future with kitchen robot chef looks promising.

The Game Plan

Spyce has definitely upped the ante – the world’s first automated restaurant elevated the fast food game using technology and culinary excellence. Here is an overview of how they are changing the game using a kitchen robot chef:

  • Technology

As robotics students, the founders combined the need for efficient food preparation and obsession with robotics. Spyce’s kitchen uses seven woks that simultaneously tumble and cook ingredients using induction technology. The system closely monitors the temperature of the woks to keep the flavor and nutritional content of ingredients intact. Additionally, the mechanism cleans and sanitizes the woks after each made-to-order meals. The kitchen robot also monitors water temperature and refrigeration to ensure that the products meet the sanitation requirements.

  • Cost

The Spyce Boys – a name the founders fondly call themselves – learned that fast-food is a low margin business. Labor and overhead costs get around 60% to 70% of the expenses. Using automation, the Spyce kitchen is equivalent to a refrigerator, a dishwasher, a stovetop and a chef. Combining all of these segments of food preparation significantly reduced the cost.

Additionally, the restaurant uses apps and touchscreen devices to take customers’ orders. The process further optimizes labor costs. Lastly, the system is also compact and space-saving.

  • Quality

The fast-food industry has very little room to wiggle when it comes to labor and overhead costs. This forced the food industry segment to make innovations in decreasing the cost of ingredients to maximize profitability. Consequently, this compromised the quality of the food. Spyce kitchen believes that ingredients should be sourced where it makes most sense. This ensures that the kitchen robot uses only the best and freshest ingredients. The founders have also brought in Michelin-starred Chef Daniel Boulud and ace Executive Chef Sam Benson. Together, this A-Team creates a wide array of meal choices.

The Spyce Boys and their Quest for Better Food

Kale Rogers, Michael Farid, Brady Knight and Luke Schlueter are just four hungry college students who are trying their best to survive on a tight student budget. This means that they had to subsist on take-out lunches and fast food meals. Being water polo athletes, this does not meet their nutritional needs and appetites.

Tired of spending $10 on bland take-out food, the founders created their prototype of the kitchen robot at the basement of their fraternity building. In 2016, the team won the $10,000 “Eat it!” Lemelson-MIT undergraduate prize. By this time, the Spyce Boys know that they are doing something right.

While robotics is at the heart of Spyce’s operation, this new player also aims to streamline the way business is done in the food industry. Basically, their model aims to install and deploy Spyce kitchen robots in various locations, restock and service sites every 24 hours, and sell meals for revenue. With this business model, the team aims to reach food deserts and other areas where people have little access to tasty and wholesome food.

What’s next for Spyce and It’s Kitchen Robot Chef?

The Spyce Restaurant started serving sumptuous and healthy meals to the public May 3rd of 2018 in Downtown Crossing, Boston, Massachusetts.

While people are still wrestling with the idea of robots cooking dinner for them, the founders are already on the lookout for more locations to deploy kitchen robots. The team is currently in talks with universities in the Boston area.

The list includes Northeastern University, Boston University, and Bentley University. Ultimately, these partnerships with universities aim to answer the need for remote location stores that can serve good food, fast and any time for their students.

As Kale Rogers, COO and one of the co-founders of Spyce puts it, “Challenge how the world works. Invent your future.” Consumers are clamoring for healthier food choices. The Spyce founders responded to the call.