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Exoskeletons are About to Walk Ford’s Factory Floors

8 Srpen, 2018 - 19:16

HALF MAN, HALF MACHINE. Full-blown automation may be the future of manufacturing, but we’re not there yet. While some machines have taken over the more painstaking tasks on the factory floor, humans still play a vital role in the production line. But often, it isn’t easy work. Tasks typically require being on one’s feet, and some even involve making repetitive arm motions up to 4,600 times a day or one million times a year. Ouch.

At Ford though, this might all be changing. Exoskeleton use on Ford’s factory floors could soon shift into overdrive, according to Engadget.

ENTER THE EXOSKELETONS. In November 2017, EksoVest Exoskeletons, built by Ekso Bionics, were given to workers in two Ford factories. Now ,up to 75 exoskeletons will be distributed to employees at 15 factories across the world. The exoskeletons don’t have motors, or even batteries, but provide “passive assistance” in the form of arm support from five to 15 pounds. By giving more arm support the higher a person reaches, the device takes strain off of the arm muscles. If you’re not convinced it would make a difference, hold your hand above your head for a few minutes.

WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY. This is only the beginning for exoskeletons at Ford. “Today, it’s only the passive upper-arm support skeleton that helps with overhead work,” Marty Smets, Ford’s technical expert of human systems and virtual manufacturing, told Engadget.

Taking one step at a time could lead Ford to other avenues of exoskeleton use within its factories. By establishing systems for the use now, Ford is well positioned to adapt new devices as they become available. “We wanted to focus on one exoskeleton initially, then expand from there as the space grows,” Smet said.

Time will tell, but perhaps man and machine can co-exist peacefully after all.

READ MORE: Ford thinks exoskeletons are ready for prime time in its factories [Engadget]

More about exoskeletons at Ford: Ford Pilots a New Exoskeleton to Lessen Worker Fatigue

The post Exoskeletons are About to Walk Ford’s Factory Floors appeared first on Futurism.

Kategorie: Transhumanismus

The Pentagon Tells Soldiers To Stop Sharing Their Locations With Apps

8 Srpen, 2018 - 17:27

FITNESS, NO TRACKING. The Pentagon recently issued an order to all personnel working at sensitive military bases: for the love of god, stop logging your runs. In a memo acquired by The Associated Press, the Pentagon laid out new rules for how soldiers can use fitness trackers while deployed in a war zone or other high-risk areas. Namely, they need to keep the GPS off.

“These geolocation capabilities can expose personal information, locations, routines, and numbers of DOD personnel, and potentially create unintended security consequences and increased risk to the joint force and mission,” the memo said.

NOT-SO-BLURRED LINES. Back in January, Nathan Ruser, who writes for The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, noticed that the global heatmap activity on the fitness app Strava revealed the location of American military bases in Syria, where soldiers used the app on a regular basis.

Because soldiers relied on the app to track their progress as they trained and jogged the perimeter, the heatmap essentially provided a blueprint for the bases. It also gave anyone with a vague interest an idea of soldiers’ daily routines. It’s not hard to imagine that hostile forces could use that kind of information to their advantage. Oops.

The heatmap also revealed the activity of soldiers in other sensitive locations like Area 51 and the British Air Force base in the Falkland Islands.

NOT A BAN. The Pentagon did not ban fitness apps or wearable fitness trackers outright — military personnel can still use them, as long as they stop the apps from collecting location data or otherwise compromising the military’s operations. Fitbit spokeswoman told the AP that the company’s devices couldn’t track anyone who turned off location services. So it seems like there’s no reason to prevent soldiers from using them altogether.

READ MORE: Pentagon tells troops: Turn off fitness tracker GPS when you head to warzones [Ars Technica]

More about location tracking: Google Just Admitted to Tracking Your Location Even When You Have the Settings Disabled

The post The Pentagon Tells Soldiers To Stop Sharing Their Locations With Apps appeared first on Futurism.

Kategorie: Transhumanismus

Think You Could Do More if You Just Had an Extra Hand? You’re Probably Right.

1 Srpen, 2018 - 21:10

BEYOND HUMAN. Prosthetic limbs have come a long way in recent years. From primitive designs that were little more than useless placeholders for the real thing, we now have high-tech devices that wearers can control with their thoughts. These prostheses can help people with missing limbs feel “whole” again. But in a new study, researchers set out to see if such devices could make humans more than whole.

Specifically, a pair of researchers from the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute in Japan wanted to know if giving someone a supernumerary robotic limb (SRL), a mind-controlled robotic limb that worked alongside the person’s two biological ones, could give that person multitasking abilities beyond those of the average human.

They published their research in the journal Science Robotics on July 25.

TWO TASKS, THREE HANDS. For their study, the researchers asked 15 volunteers to sit in a chair with an SRL positioned as if it were a third arm coming from their own body. On the head of each volunteer, the researchers placed special cap that tracked the brain’s electrical activity. The cap transmitted that data to a computer that then translated it into movement in the SRL.

The result: all a volunteer had to do to control the SRL was think about an action.

Next, they asked the volunteers to complete two tasks. To accomplish one — balancing a ball on a board — they used their natural limbs. For the other (grasping and releasing a bottle), they used the SRL system. The researchers asked the volunteers to complete the tasks sometimes separately, sometimes simultaneously.

In 20 trials, the volunteers successfully completed both tasks using the three limbs about 75 percent of the time. In other words, they were able to complete two tasks simultaneously that would have been essentially impossible with just two limbs.

TRAINING THE BRAIN. When you think you’re “multitasking,” you aren’t actually paying attention to two things at once — your brain just switches rapidly between the two tasks. Past SRL systems required the user to concentrate on just the task at fake hand — this system is the first that could “read” a multitasking mind, sifting out the user’s intentions for the SRL. It can do this simply because it’s more advanced than previous versions.

The researchers even believe their system could essentially help humans become better at multitasking even when they don’t have a third limb helping out. “By operating this brain-machine interface, we have an idea that we may be able to train the brain itself,” researcher Shuichi Nishio told The Verge.

Future research will endeavor to figure out whether that’s true or not. If it is, we might be able to enhance our minds by temporarily enhancing our bodies.

READ MORE: This Mind-Controlled Robotic Limb Lets You Multitask With Three Arms [Singularity Hub]

More on prosthetics: New Thought-Controlled Prosthetics Restore the Sensation of Touch

The post Think You Could Do More if You Just Had an Extra Hand? You’re Probably Right. appeared first on Futurism.

Kategorie: Transhumanismus