[ExI] FRIDA- a new industrial robot

Kelly Anderson kellycoinguy at gmail.com
Wed Apr 20 06:59:04 UTC 2011

2011/4/13 John Grigg <possiblepaths2050 at gmail.com>:
> What do you think of this robotic system?  And where do you think it will be
> in ten years?
> http://www.engadget.com/2011/04/13/frida-concept-robot-will-solve-all-of-foxconns-problems-by-re/

I finally had time to look into this little fellow... it's a
prototype, but a very interesting one. For those who haven't seen it,
it has shoulders, two arms and is roughly the size of a human being
and is extremely articulate. It is not terribly fast, at least in the
videos I have seen.

The article indicated that they wanted to sell them to Foxconn, where
the Chinese put together iPods, iPads, cell phones, etc. in huge
Boeing sized rooms full of folks directly from the Chinese country
side. Wired had an article on Foxconn a couple of months back,
emphasizing the human cost of humans working in these environments.
Nevertheless, compared to trudging around in rice fields, these are
very good jobs that a lot of people compete for. We tend to forget
that here in America, and merely feel sorry for the people working in
these factories. This is unjust poppycock, as our grandparents did
similar work for Henry Ford. It's just time shifted.

The folks at ABB (who make FRIDA) apparently have a vision of these
guys sitting in between the former peasants at Foxconn, being
interchangeable when, for example, the work order changes and the
robot hasn't had time to be programmed, a person could step in until
the robot had been programmed for the new task. This is an interesting
proposal, robots side by side with former rice farmers. Unfortunately,
I don't think this model will initially be very successful for very
human reasons. I suspect that the humans will revert to Luddite
behavior that has always accompanied this kind of incursion on what
was formerly a humans only endeavor. I suspect that the nets around
Foxcon will end up full of more FRIDAS than suicidal workers, at least
for a while. Perhaps there is some part of the Chinese ethos that will
make this concern moot, but if they follow the textile workers of
England, I fear for the little automatons. With time it will work out
when the technology has been perfected.

The other problem is that at least with the prototype, the robot moves
much more slowly than the humans at Foxconn. I saw a video of a lady
assembling an electrical breaker that was just amazing on a TED video!
The little robot could not possibly keep up with her, at least as it
was shown. They will have to work a lot on total cost of ownership,
because programming the little beasties could be much more expensive
than just importing more former rice farmers... it will be interesting
to see how it all plays out over both the short and long term.


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