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Innovations in Robotics and the Drive Toward Convenience

The use of robotics in business is far from new. Industrial robotics have been employed in manufacturing plants for decades. Likewise, Amazon was among the early adopters of these technologies in their warehousing systems. And even household robotics, including Roomba, have been around for some time. But the robotics of the future are far more advanced than these early models. As the emergence of the “Come-to-Me Economy” has shown us, convenience is king, and bold businesses are betting big on innovations in robotics to be a major driver of change. And this applies to nearly every possible sector.

Major innovations in robotics are occurring today because of a perfect storm of change. First, technological advances have paved the way for these innovations. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can be seen as notable catalysts. But likewise, the Internet-of-Things (IoT) offers tremendous potential for the field of robotics to explode. In addition, COVID-19 has served to push social trends toward safer practices and a come-to-me economy. The conveniences of robotics certainly align with these trends, further encouraging development. It is within this climate that many experts anticipate robotics will thrive.

“What we’re really focused on is this principle idea of amplifying, rather than replacing, human beings. And what it means to amplify a person, particularly as they’re aging—what we’re really trying to do is build a time machine.” – Gill Pratt, CEO, Toyota Research Institute (TRI)

A robot preparing some food in the kitchen
The conveniences of robotics are driving the innovations of robotics – and that’s not a bad thing.

Innovations in Robotics – Home Assistance

If there is anywhere the convenience of robotics is needed, it’s among older adults. With populations aging across the globe, and caregiver resources dwindling, a solution is needed. With this in mind, Toyota Research Institute (TRI) has invested over $1 billion in robotics and AI products. One of its latest displays involves a ceiling-based robotics system that is able to assist individuals with household tasks. Equipped with bubble gripper attachments, it can interpret how to handle any object. It is also capable of learning complex tasks through human demonstrations in VR systems. TRI anticipates this system can be designed into buildings’ infrastructure during construction. In doing so, the conveniences of robotics could be implemented for a variety of group homes and retirement centers of the future. By assisting older adults, the robotics system essentially allows users to function the same way they did years ago. Hence, TRI envisions their system as a type of robotics time machine.

“Additional new elements [in ROAR] … include an input zone that can receive manually loaded baskets and a safety shield that protects kitchen staff from hot fryers … Now we can really integrate not only with the POS system, but also all the delivery apps,” – Buck Jordan, President and Chairman of Miso Robotics

Innovations in Robotics – Restaurant and Culinary

Whether at home or in a restaurant, innovations in robotics are making a splash here as well. Both Samsung as well as Miso Robotics are designing ceiling-based robotics systems to help users cook. Miso Robotics now offers its robot, Flippy, for a price tag of $30,000. But it plans to evolve into a Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS) model where users can simply pay monthly fees. Flippy is capable of cooking 19 different meals, most of which fall in the fast-food variety. But it also has the potential for additional features. These include the incorporation of food delivery apps, inventory systems, operations tracking software. The utility of these robotics systems within restaurants and culinary kitchens is obvious. But such systems also offer homeowners conveniences of robotics as well. Not only might your meal be delivered right to you, but it might be prepared from your own kitchen. This could be a reality if innovations in robotics are able to make such conveniences affordable.

“Having perfected the product and applications, based on industrial trials over the past year, we’ve brought a batch of more complete and innovative applications to this year’s China International Industry Fair.” – Dr. Wang Shiquan, Co-founder and CEO of Flexiv

Innovations in Robotics – Health and Personal Services

Some of the most impressive advances in robotics have occurred in healthcare, specifically within the surgical suite. In fact, remote telehealth surgery has been one of the major conveniences of robotics offered in recent months. But let’s take things a bit further and into more mainstream health activities. Flexiv, experts in adaptive robotics and force control technology, has recently introduced its robot, Rizon. This highly precise, fast-paced robotics systems is not only capable of discriminate item placement. But it’s also capable of providing user a tissue massage. That’s right…a massage. A fusion of robotics and AI, Rizon offers some conveniences of robotics that are unexpected. In the future, we may not even need to leave our home for a top-notch massage at the end of a long day.

“[Without new technology], we cannot change our society to be more inclusive. A smart suitcase is a great showcase [for] how AI and technology [can] change the lives of people with visual disabilities.” – Chieko Asakawa, Computer Scientist and Researcher, IBM

Innovations in Robotics – Travel and Hospitality

Of course, the conveniences of robotics extend outside the home as well. In some hotels, innovations in robotics have been used to assist guests with their luggage. And it will likely be soon that amenities within these destinations will include some robotics services. One interesting robotics application comes from IBM, Carnegie Mellon and researcher Chieko Asakawa. They have designed a piece of robotics luggage that can actually help you navigate to your destination. Equipped with sensors, cameras, and AI, the robotics suitcase is able to map the immediate environment. It then uses this information and your destination to direct you in the most efficient way. Specific vibrations within the handles of the luggage indicate the direction users are to travel. While this may seem like one the unnecessary conveniences of robotics, it’s not. As Asakawa points out, such innovations in robotics are essential for inclusive societies.

Robotics – A Response to Global Needs

Innovations in robotics have been driving change for some time. But the rate of change that is expected with these advances is substantial. Retailers are already employing in-store robotics for top-of-shelf inventory monitoring and restocking. This alone could save companies billions of dollars in lost sales in aggregate. Likewise, commercial cleaning robotics are being broadly implemented in the aftermath of the pandemic. But one of the largest drivers involves a social and cultural shift in expectations.

 

Looking for some inspiration in your goals? This week’s Notes From Ed has the answers! And don’t forget to check out PROJECT BOLD LIFE: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success.

Britain Is Reaching for the Stars – A Renewed Commitment to the Global Space Race

The global space race has been heating up for some time now. The U.S now has its own Space Force, and private-public partnerships are advancing space mission efforts. Recently, Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully sent two astronauts to the International Space System without a flaw. Likewise, numerous other countries are investing heavily in their own space programs. This naturally includes the European Space Agency and Russia, but it also involves other nations like India, China and Japan. Now, you can add a British space program to that list.

A number of recent developments have caused the United Kingdom to rethink its current space exploration efforts. With advances in satellite technologies and the highly anticipated Internet-of-Things (IoT), the UK doesn’t want to be left behind. This has been emphasized with the UK’s decision to leave the European Union as of late. Despite a degree of neglect for the British space program for a number of years, a renewed interest now exists. And it’s quite likely that Britain will soon be a respected competitor in the global space race.

“[Brexit has provided] a real stimulus to get us to think about what we actually need as a country in space.” – Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the U.K. Space Agency

Brexit – A Catalyst for the British Space Program

Britain’s decision to pull out of the European Union this summer was a major one. What Brexit will mean for both Britain and the EU remains to be seen. But one thing is now clear. Britain will not be participating in the European Space Agency’s Galileo system. The Galileo system is a planned constellation of satellites that will provide a variety of communication services. From observation tracking to Internet connectivity, Galileo will facilitate the IoT among other developments. If not part of this global space race pursuit, Britain could be left out in the cold.

A global view of Great Britain
The global space race has another contender – and this one likes fish and chips.

Understanding this, Brexit has been a major accelerator of the British space program. Though not extensive in terms of numbers, the UK has increased its space program budget by 10 percent. In addition, the UK government has backed specific British companies who have expertise in this area. OneWeb, which was on the brink of bankruptcy, was bailed out by the British space program. As a manufacturer of low-orbit, small satellite constellation networks, OneWeb offers the UK a potential advantage. Success in this area would immediately place them back in the global space race.

“The small-satellite approach now means we are not going to spend our entire national budget on our space program.” – Martin Sweeting, Founder and Executive Chairman, Surrey Satellite Technology

Technological Advances Offer Opportunity

In terms of the global space race, one thing is definitely working in Britain’s favor. Satellite technologies continue to advance making it easier for anyone to compete. Today’s satellites are about the size of a shoebox and cost less than $1 million in price. This has not only allowed efforts like those of the British space program to be catch up to other space systems. But it has also made networks of satellites, called constellations, feasible. These constellations are what allows the IoT to come to life. And this is an essential element in the pursuit of self-driving cars, innovative robotics, and other advances.

Smaller and cheaper satellites reduce the barriers of entry for the British space program into the global space race. But at the same time, these satellites do not last as long and must be continually replaced. This means that Britain must develop its own structures to launch these satellites into orbit. No longer a partner in the European Space Agency’s or NASA’s space programs, Britain must look elsewhere. This has been yet another strong incentive for investing in its own British space program.

“Smaller rockets like this, which could be launched from sites here in Britain, could be the key to unlocking that market. The UK has a strategic aim to secure 10% of the worldwide space industry by 2030.” – Patrick Harkness, James Watt School of Engineering, University of Glasgow

Relying on Local Talent

In its efforts to development its own satellite launch structures, the British space program has some ideas. The first is to develop a series of small spaceports, which were previously airports. The UK has already begun construction of such a spaceport near Cornwall, whose major tenant will be Virgin Orbit. Virgin’s Cosmic Girl, a modified 747, plans to launch small satellites into low orbit in a much more efficient way. Not only will it take off and land similar to a normal plane, but it will also do so inexpensively. Each aircraft can carry up to 700 pounds of payload and cost less than $12 million per trip. This is much less than standard rocket missions.

This is not the only new development in satellite launches for the British space program. The Defense and Security Accelerator, DASA, in Britain is developing a solid propellant fuel tube rocket for this purpose. The fuel tube would be completely vaporized and used, tank and all, before the rocket ever reaches orbit. The only thing left by the time it left the earth’s stratosphere would be the actual payload. Known as hybrid autophage rockets, this would allow smaller transport missions carrying only a few satellites. Similarly, this would reduce costs dramatically while also improving launch frequency.

The Global Space Race Is Heating Up

Elon Musk has already had success with multiple space missions with SpaceX. In the near future, Musk plans to make his StarLink constellation system a reality. Likewise, Jeff Bezos is hard at work with his Blue Horizons project. And many other similar pursuits are occurring through the European Space Agency and other national space programs. Without question, the British space program has some catching up to do. But advances in technology have offers opportunities to do just that. It has already made impressive progress already. Thus, it’s quite probable the British space program will be a major player in the space economy of the future.

 

Looking for some inspiration in your goals? This week’s Notes From Ed has the answers! And don’t forget to check out PROJECT BOLD LIFE: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success.

The Cancer Breathalyzer – A Revolutionary Idea for Cancer Screening

Tremendous advances have occurred in medicine over the last few decades. The human genome has been defined and precision medicine is on the rise. Technological innovations have also been catalyzed by the recent pandemic. But despite these advances, cancer remains a challenging condition with millions of deaths globally each year. In many cases, cancers are diagnosed late in their course making therapies less effective. And cancer screening methods remain limited in their abilities. But a breath test for cancer could change all of that.

Recent scientific research is beginning to show some promising results when it comes to a breath test for cancer. In many cases, existing cancer screening tests are cumbersome, at times invasive, and often expensive. On top of that, many have low detection rates that make them less feasible. A cancer breathalyzer, however, could offer an easy-to-us cancer screening method that could be performed broadly and often. The potential this has in revolutionizing cancer management is tremendous.

How Does a Breath Test for Cancer Work?

A breath test for cancer is an intriguing concept. The formal term for this process is called exposomics. This process involves measuring various volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are released from the lungs. These particles can not only reveal much about our metabolism, diet, and medications, but can also provide information about our microbiome. In addition, the same compounds can change early in a malignancy. Thus, a cancer breathalyzer has been contemplated as a form of cancer screening test.

While this concept has been around for 50 years, technology in medicine has finally caught up with the idea. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are being used to identify breath patterns of specific VOCs that link to specific cancers. If enough cancer patients can be studied, and results are favorable, researchers believe this could be a great cancer screening tool. In fact, there are several studies that have begun exploring a specific breath test for cancer.

“With these strong results, we hope to trial the method in primary care settings, such as GP clinics, to further develop its use in early-stage screening for HNSCC in the community.” –  Dr. Nuwan Dharmawardana, PhD. Research, University of Adelaide

Head and Neck Cancer Screening

Australian researchers have recently reported important results involving early cancer detection of head and neck cancers. Their study involved 181 patients with some having early head and neck cancers. Using a breath test for cancer that measured VOCs, the results showed good accuracy in identifying those with cancer. Specifically, it detected 85 percent of those with cancer. And of those it detected, it had an 85 percent accuracy rate. While these numbers are not tremendous, such an easy breathalyzer test could screen large populations. If a positive breath test for cancer resulted, then more precise screening could be performed.

Some dude blowing into some sort of weird medical device
A breath test for cancer would mean far easier cancer screening – and lots of lives saved!

Colorectal Cancer Screening

Another study has investigated a cancer breathalyzer to detect colorectal cancer. In this study, over 500 patients were enrolled and tested using an Aenose device, which is manufactured by The eNose Company. Two-thirds of the patients were used to train the cancer screening process of the device. The other third was actually tested. Compared to concurrent colonoscopy findings, the breath test for cancer has a 95 percent chance of detecting advanced cases of colon cancer. Its ability to detect non-aggressive forms was 79 percent. Once again, this is promising data given that such a test could be administered to large populations within minimal costs.

“At present the only way to diagnose esophageal cancer or stomach cancer is with endoscopy. This method is expensive, invasive and has some risk of complications. A breath test could be used as a non-invasive, first-line test to reduce the number of unnecessary endoscopies.” –  Dr. Sheraz Markar, NIHR Clinical Trials Fellow, Imperial College

Stomach and Esophageal Cancer Screening

Another study involving a breath test for cancer took place among 4 London hospitals recently. The study examined 335 patients, with some having stomach or esophageal cancer and others being cancer free. The results of the cancer screening showed that the test had an 85 percent accuracy rate. Given the mortality rate with both of these cancers are high, an effective cancer breathalyzer test would be welcomed. Similar studies have also shown promise for the detection of less serious esophageal disorders like Barrett’s esophagitis. This suggests breath tests may offer potential fore screening other conditions besides cancer.

Prostate Cancer Screening

One of the more difficult tasks in cancer screening has been distinguishing between prostate cancer and an enlarged prostate (BPH). Blood tests, such as PSA testing, are no longer encouraged except in certain high-risk groups. Interestingly, however, a breath test for cancer involving the prostate gland is being tested. The study collected patients with both prostate cancer and BPH for the research. The cancer breathalyzer test was able to detect accurately 78 percent of the prostate cancer cases. It also identified 67 percent of the BPH patients accurately. Further research is being planned in this area as well.

How Good Is Good Enough?

As is evident from the ongoing research trials, many of the results appear quite promising. Even at an accuracy rate in the 80th percentile, their potential as a cancer screening tools in noteworthy. The number of lives such a breath test for cancer would save would be in the hundreds of thousands globally. Likewise, earlier detection would save a sizable amount in cancer diagnostics and treatments. Understandably, there is great excitement for new cancer detection tests to become available.

At this point, however, a larger number of patients need to be studied to ensure these will be effective cancer screening instruments. Certainly, the cost and ease-of-use is attractive. But a test with a high false positive rate could actually drive up healthcare expenditures. Therefore, additional studies will need to confirm these initial promising results. If larger-scale studies show similar findings, a number of breath tests for cancer may soon be on the market.

 

Looking for some inspiration in your goals? This week’s Notes From Ed has the answers! And don’t forget to check out PROJECT BOLD LIFE: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success.