Tagalong robots follow…and learn

Follower robots have been tapped for senseless pursuits like carrying a single bottle of water, but robots can also carry tools in a warehouse or just-picked fruit from an orchard to a packing station. Artificially intelligent machines trained to follow people or other machines can transform how we think about everyday objects, like carry-on luggage or a set of golf clubs. Now the makers of follower robots want to coordinate movement around the modern workplace.

To train a Burro robot, you simply press a Follow button and start walking; at the end of the path, you press the button again. Using up to 20 cameras, computer vision, and GPS, Burro follows you and memorizes the route. It can then ferry goods unassisted and communicate the path to other Burro robots.

A Burro weighs up to 500 pounds and can carry as much as 1,000 pounds. Table grape growers are using Burros to ferry fruit from laborers in vineyards to people packing the goods in clamshells before loading them onto trucks for transport to grocery stores…

Burro CEO Charlie Andersen says the robots have logged nearly 50,000 hours in the past five years in blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, and grape fields, as well as at plant nurseries.

Questions and answers programmed into one robot communicate instantly to the whole workforce. Informing decisions, guidance and distribution skills. They don’t need a cigarette break, either.

New IPCC Climate Report is a guide to action – Time to choose our future!

It has been eight years since the last major report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), though it has produced smaller reports since then. But today, the first piece of the 6th Assessment Report is out. Most of it should not surprise you—the basics of climate science have been known for decades. And the general outlines were already obvious: almost all of the warming is due to human activities, and, without immediate action, we’re poised to blow past 1.5º C of warming.

Still, each report is a little more useful than the last, and we’re going to go over what has changed in terms of the science and what has changed in how that information is being shared with the public.

Today’s release is the Working Group I section of the report. It’s massive — a product of 751 scientists that references over 14,000 studies and data sources…Using the average of the last decade, the report notes that surface temperatures have warmed about 1.09°C (1.96°F) since the late 1800s. The new summary statement about humanity’s contribution to that warming says, “The likely range of total human-caused global surface temperature increase from 1850–1900 to 2010–2019 is 0.8°C to 1.3°C, with a best estimate of 1.07°C.” That is, humans are responsible for approximately all of it.

Putting this into historical context, the report concludes that the present state of the climate goes beyond anything the Earth has seen in quite some time: “In 2019, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were higher than at any time in at least 2 million years[…] Global surface temperature has increased faster since 1970 than in any other 50-year period over at least the last 2,000 years.”

Finally, projections of various future greenhouse gas concentrations highlight the futures we can yet choose between. It is still physically possible to limit warming to 1.5° C or 2° C, given the will to act. It is likewise still possible to cross 4° C or 5° C by 2100, given a sufficiently blatant disregard for current and future life on our planet.

So, what’s the heritage we leave for future generations. People who can afford the best, newest and (probably) most expensive will do OK. The rest of your family in the coming era will be cursed by our inaction…or grateful if we get off our rusty dustys and do something useful to halt and eventually reverse the trend. Scientists are actively pursuing guidelines. A number of educated politicians and activists are trying to provide leadership.

And the rest, a predictable lot, will wallow in the ethos of doing nothing or aiding the Know-Nothings of this century.

Learn more in kindergarten, earn more when you grow up


Click on the photo – for a video

There isn’t a lot of research that links early childhood test scores to earnings as an adult. But new research reveals a surprising finding: Students who learn more in kindergarten earn more as adults. They are also more successful overall.

Harvard University economist John Friedman says he and a group of colleagues found that students who progress during their kindergarten year from attaining an average score on the Stanford Achievement Test to attaining a score in the 60th percentile can expect to make about $1,000 more a year at age 27 than students whose scores remain average.

Taking into account all variation across kindergarten classes, including class size, individuals who learn more–as measured by an above-average score on the Stanford Achievement Test–and are in smaller classes earn about $2,000 more per year at age 27.

Moreover, students who learn more in kindergarten are more likely to go to college than students with similar backgrounds. Those who learn more in kindergarten are also less likely to become single parents, more likely to own a home by age 28 and more likely to save for retirement earlier in their work lives…

This new study, funded by the National Science Foundation’s Division of Social and Economic Sciences, examined adult outcomes of nearly 12,000 students who took part in the original study and who are now 30 years old. It allowed the research team to go beyond what children learned during their year in the STAR project to see how their kindergarten learning experiences affected their lives.

Well, rock on, kids!

The sort of outcome I’ve expected ever since the days of the original HeadStart Programs. No wonder reactionary politicians have tried their best to squash such programs – especially among minority children.

The last thing they want is better educated voters, people with improved status in their communities – and thinking about changing the politics of the world around them.

German computer geeks learn to flirt – hopefully

Even the most quirky of computer nerds can learn to flirt with finesse thanks to a new “flirting course” being offered to budding IT engineers at Potsdam University south of Berlin.

The 440 students enrolled in the master’s degree course will learn how to write flirtatious text messages and emails, impress people at parties and cope with rejection…

The course, which starts next Monday, is part of the social skills section of the IT course and is designed to ease entry into the world of work. Students also learn body language, public-speaking, stress management and presentation skills.

There’s something especially droll about technology whizbangs who find themselves incapable of communicating with human beings.