I enjoy Halloween. I particularly enjoy passing out candy and treats to the children and being amused by their costumes. Some are very creative, and cute. A young girl no older than 3 years was dressed as a duck and instead of saying, “Trick or Treat” she just quacked. It was Hilarious!! So what does my Halloween experience this year have to do with manufacturing. Well, a young man came to my home dressed in a very elaborate and cleverly designed C-3PO costume. You know the clever robot in the Star Wars series that translated for R2D2.
I began to think about how robots in manufacturing are evolving and becoming more intuitive and cerebral, but an interesting phenomenon is also starting to evolve in the world of robotics. They’re becoming more emotional.
Say Hello to Mr. Baxter. Rethink Robotics has designed a friendly and compassionate robot with ‘common sense’. Baxter is a worker robot with a touchscreen face that’s as much about communicating its intent as giving humans something more to experience. It’s safe to work around, courteous and follows instructions very well. The ideal teenage son. Baxter also cost about $22,000. Less than a 1/3 of some college tuitions.
Can you envision yourself treating your fellow robot much like you treat your trusted Golden Retriever, Fido? Do you remember Rosie from the Jetsons and B9, the robot from the late 1960′s sitcom, Lost In Space (Boy am I dating myself)? These robots expressed emotions like love and fear, were treated like family and were trusted to help make critical decisions that effected the safety and well being of their owners.
Baxter is being touted as the catalyst to help restore US and European manufacturing prowess. Do you think Baxter robots will achieve this objective? I’m not sure, but I would like to know how President Obama and Mr. Romney plan to tax Mr. Baxter. I would hate for Baxter to become emotionally upset and stage a strike.
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By the way -- my Final Four choices got broken pretty early. And it was a pretty great season, yes? I picked the top 1 seeds from each group, so hey, I was wrong. But I had good rationale for my choices. As does the rest of our Cisco manufacturing team. Try us, ask away, engage us. You won’t be sorry.
So here we are, in the middle of March Madness. Lots of people that don’t normally follow college basketball, but still a great social environment and an opportunity to get together and pretend we know the teams we all picked in our brackets. Sometimes we pick based on “loyalty” and other times there are other reasons. We all have various “borders” we deal with every day.
So, bring onBorderless Networks. In the manufacturing area we still tend to think of a “border” between the factory and the business. After all, how can those people in the front office know what we need in the factory, right? Well, that separation gets smaller and smaller every day. Why? Because we’ve blurred the border. Sure, there are appropriate firewalls and security between the various layers. But every day we run into people that tell about needing data from the plant, from the machine, from the supplier, from the sales force, from the channel, from the customer. And sometimes we’re not in the office, we may be at home, at a different supplier, in an airport, at a concert or ball game with our kids.
The point becomes, there is data there and I am not there but I need to make a call and affect my plant productivity or answer a question from my CEO because there is a big opportunity or a major customer disappointment about to happen.