Future

Pizza Makers To Patient Care: 5 Cool New Robots Conquering The World

Robotics has become standard in much of industrial production, but AI also means robots are able to accomplish more and more complicated tasks. Here are some living examples around the world.

Pizza Makers To Patient Care: 5 Cool New Robots Conquering The World

Pazzi's robot making a pizza by "hand" in Paris

pazzipizzas/Instagram
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

"The robots are coming..." has been an ominous science fiction trope dating back decades. Now, depending where you look, the robots have arrived. With the multiplication of artificial intelligence capabilities, there are real-life fears that robotics will make our jobs irrelevant. A recent report the International Federation of Robotics found that in China, a record 943,000 industrial robots are now operating in the country's factories.

But in fact, it goes well beyond the traditional assembly lines: advances in robotic technology are creating devices capable of accomplishing increasingly complicated tasks, serving as sous chefs, healthcare aids, and even entertainment. Here's a global look at the robots you may soon see staring back at you:

Making pizza, flipping burgers

The Pazzi robot-controlled kitchen

pazzipizzas/Instagram


Imagine a chef who could whip out 400 pizzas an hour. That's the recipe for Cala, a new Paris-area business with a robotic pizzaïolo. Cala, which launched on delivery apps and now has a physical restaurant, offers quick meals at an affordable price because robots require far less space to work and you can never have too many cooks in the kitchen.

"It also allows access to more commercial spaces, especially in places where it is impossible to open a traditional restaurant," Cala co-founder Ylan Richard tells French business daily Les Echos. Cala, which just raised 5.5 million euros, plans to have seven restaurants by the end of 2022.

Cala is one of about 10 of these food tech companies around the world innovating completely automated kitchens. Pazzi is another start-up in France that hopes to automate 100% of kitchen activities; it raised 10 million euros and opened a Paris restaurant this past summer. Pazzi's robot can make a pizza in less than five minutes.

In the U.S. many of these advances are hoping to soften the impact of the country's widespread worker shortage. Miso Robotics first engineered a burger-flipping robot and is now taking on frying chicken wings and fries with its Flippy 1 and 2, which is being implemented in the Buffalo Wild Wings and White Castle fast food chains.

Growing strawberries in California

Robots cultivate plants at the Iron Ox greenhouse

ironoxfarms/Insta


Iron Ox, a California startup, is using robots to more sustainability grow produce; its greenhouses use 90% less water than traditional farms and 90% less electricity than other indoor farms.

Grover, a self-driving robot, transports modules of plants (carrying approximately 80 gallons with 70 plants in each module) and another robot is used to lift them up. It's truly a fully "smart" greenhouse, using a hydroponics system for plants to be grown in water with sensors monitoring acidity and nitrogen levels. Overhead cameras take 3D pictures of the plants for scientists to use to measure crop production.

Currently, Iron Ox has cultivated strawberries and Thai basil and is now also growing cilantro, parsley and tomatoes. With funding from Bill Gates' Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the company is planning a 50,000-square-meter greenhouse in Texas that will have robots handling about 5,400 modules.

Patient care in Rwanda

Robots aid in COVID-19 medical care in Rwanda

Cyril Ndegeya/Xinhua/ZUMA


Akazuba, Ikizere and Ngabo are all employed at the Kanyinya COVID-19 treatment facility near Kigali, Rwanda's capital, but they face no risk of infection. Donated by the United Nations Development Program, these robots with human-like eyes monitor patients and take temperatures to limit the human staff's exposure to coronavirus.

As Reuters reports, these robots also cut down on bedside visits by using technology to assess the effectiveness of a medical team's decisions and relaying messages to doctors.

In Egypt, mechatronics engineer Mahmoud el-Koumi created Cira-03, a robot that can test people for COVID-19, africanews.com reports. el-Koumi self-funded the prototype, which uses remote control. Cira-03's human-like face was designed to put patients at ease and before being deployed, a specialized doctor trains the robot to improve its AI. In addition to performing PCR tests, Cira-03 can take blood samples and temperatures. Results are then displayed on a screen attached to the robot's chest. And, oh yes, Cira-03 also reminds patients to wear a face mask.

Pure entertainment in Japan

Japan's new giant robot is inspired by a popular anime series

Kento Nara/Future-Image/ZUMA


According to the International Federation of Robotics, sales of entertainment robots have been on the rise, increasing from 4.6 million units in 2019 to 5.1 million units in 2020. But these are no longer the basic animatronic puppets of the past.

Japan has long been a robotics pioneer, particularly to address labor issues caused by its aging population. But it's not all work and no play. Last year, a new attraction was revealed: an almost 60-foot-high robot (about half of the height of the Statue of Liberty) inspired by Gundam, a science fiction anime series.

The robot, located just south of Tokyo at the Gundam Factory Yokohama, was built as part of the Gundam Global Challenge. This gentle giant, which weighs 25 tons and has more than 20 moving parts, can move its arms and legs, appearing to crouch and walk. Fans can come watch the robot, which is accompanied by a music and lights display, truly bringing the fictional world to life.

Robofly in Seattle

The RoboFly is powered by a laser beam

Mark Stone/University of Washington


Sometimes, the most impressive robotic technology is also the smallest, known as micro-robotics. As Tech Xplor points out, insect-sized robots have a range of applications, from helping in search and rescue operations to inspecting infrastructures to speeding up agricultural production. But their minuscule size also makes them difficult to manufacture.

University of Washington researchers have invented the RoboFly, a flapping-wing robot that can travel in the air as well as on the ground and on water surfaces. RoboFly weighs in at only 74 milligrams and has fewer components than similar insect-like robots, simplifying its fabrication. It's an example of biomimicry when animals and other organic processes inspire technology.

RoboFly is in fact an adaption of RoboBee X-Wing, which has four wings that flap 170 times per second. The RoboBee stands 6.5 centimeters high with a wingspan of 3.5 centimeters. Muscle-like plates control the wings, which are outfitted with six tiny solar cells; the wings begin to flap when exposed to light. Although because it required three times the intensity of natural sunlight, it didn't receive any real-world exposure.

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January 22-23

  • Navalny saga & Putin’s intentions
  • COVID’s toll on teenage girls
  • A 50-year-old book fee finally gets paid
  • … and much more!

🎲 BUT FIRST, A NEWS QUIZ!

What do you remember from the news this week?

1. Which two words did U.S. President Joe Biden use about possible scenarios in the Russia-Ukraine standoff that upset authorities in Kyiv?

2. What started to mysteriously appear on signs, statues and monuments across Adelaide, Australia?

3. What cult movie did U.S. rocker Meat Loaf, who died Friday at age 74, star in?

4. What news story have we summed up here in emoji form? 🇬🇧 👱 💬 💼 ❌ 🥳 🦠

[Answers at the bottom of this newsletter]

⬇️  STARTER

Toxic geopolitics: More than ever, we need more women world leaders

The world is watching the Russian-Ukrainian border. Russian President Vladimir Putin threatening an invasion finds an ally in Iran’s Ebrahim Raisi, united against their common enemy: the United States. Back in Washington, U.S. President Joe Biden — marking his first year in power with painfully low approval rates (higher only than Donald Trump’s) — sends his Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, to Kyiv to reassure President Volodymyr Zelensky who worries that France’s Emmanuel Macron might undermine Ukraine. And we haven’t even mentioned Xi Jinping!

It’s an endless theater of world leaders beating their respective chests — and they have exactly one thing in common: they’re all men. It’s by now a decades-old question, but worth asking again: What would happen if women, and not men, were running the world? Would there be less conflict, more prosperity? More humanity?

In 2018, the World Economic Forum released a study that showed that “only 4% of signatories to peace agreements between 1992 and 2011 were women, and only 9% of the negotiators.” The report shows that in several conflict zones in the world in recent decades, citing Liberia, Northern Ireland and Colombia, women have been instrumental in achieving peace.

In Colombia, where 20% of peace negotiators for the 2016 peace treaty were women, Ingrid Betancourt, herself a victim of the 50-year conflict, has announced her candidacy for the May presidential elections. Differently from previous bids, where she focused on fighting environmental abuses and corruption, Betancourt now is putting gender issues at the center of her political agenda. Bogota daily El Espectador questions whether the former hostage will be able to ride this important political wave, with feminist movements flexing their muscle around the region demanding more rights.

In Italy, next week’s elections for the head of state are monopolized by infamously misogynous former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is hoping to be elected for the seven-year, honorary function. There is no official candidacy, but Berlusconi’s name and that of current Prime Minister Mario Draghi are the two getting the most attention. Italian feminist writer and intellectual Dacia Maraini writes in La Stampa that, yes, the very fact of electing a female president will be progress for the country — and by the way, there are plenty of women qualifed for the job.

There was also a woman politician making the news this week for actually getting elected: Maltese conservative politician Roberta Metsola, became the new European Parliament President after the death of Italy’s David Sassoli. And yet the election of the first female president of the EU’s legislature since Nicole Fontaine in 2001 has been widely criticized by female politicians — primarily for Metsola’s stance against abortion rights. "I think it is a terrible sign for women's rights everywhere in Europe," French left-wing member of the European Parliament Manon Aubry told Deutsche Welle.

The women who have risen to power in history (Margaret Thatcher, anyone?) don’t necessarily make the case that gender is the silver bullet to fix politics. Still, after watching all the toxic masculinity on the world stage this past week, we can rightfully demand fewer men.

Irene Caselli

🎭  5 CULTURE THINGS TO KNOW

• Record-breaking online concert of Mahler’s “Symphony of a Thousand”: More than 100 musicians from around the world will take part today in a performance of Mahler’s epic 8th symphony consisting of 1,200 elements, including a double chorus, children’s choir, a full orchestra and an organ. The event is a culmination of a year of work; all artists recorded their parts in isolation besides the children’s choir. Tickets can be purchased here.

Yearly Japanese festival will set a mountain on fire: Today, the grassy hillside of Mount Wakakusayama in Japan will go up in flames as fireworks go off in the background as part of celebrations for Wakakusa Yamayak. The origin of the festival isn’t totally clear, but might relate to border conflicts between the great temples in the region or to ward off wild boars.

• New insights into antiquities taken by the Nazis: Scholars are looking into how German forces during World War II looted artifacts such as on the Greek island of Crete. Nazi officials pillaged these valuables for their own personal gain, but many were also destroyed, which is why researchers around the world are hoping to gain greater insight into this often overlooked aspect of German occupation.

Exhibition of Beirut’s restored artwork: The Beirut Museum of Art has inaugurated the exhibition “Lift” featuring 17 paintings by Lebanese artists that had been damaged by the port explosion in 2020, and have since been restored as a result of a UNESCO initiative.

The world’s first vegan violin tunes up: Berries, pears and spring water are just some of the natural ingredients relied on for the construction of the instrument by English violin-maker Padraig O'Dubhlaoidh. Traditionally, animal parts like horsehair, hooves, horns and bones are used, especially to glue pieces together. The £8,000 instrument is sure to be music to some animal lover’s ears.

🇷🇺  NAVALNY SAGA & PUTIN’S INTENTIONS


One year ago anti-corruption lawyer and politician Alexei Navalny was detained in Russia, marking the effective end of domestic opposition to Russian president Vladimir Putin. In the time since, more than half of the former coordinators of Navalny's headquarters fled Russia. Even Navalny's name is forbidden: Putin never says his name, calling him "this citizen."

At the same time, Navalny’s imprisonment and the de facto end of the opposition have changed Russia. The fear of persecution, the lack of alternatives and the total censorship and propaganda have caused Putin's ratings consistently downward.

An aging leader with no successors, no enemies and dwindling popular support is finding it increasingly difficult to explain why he must continue to rule forever. In such a situation, there’s nothing quite like an external threat to fuel the raison d’être of the authoritarian regime. In Putin’s eyes, the perfect threat right now is NATO expansion, and the perfect enemy is its neighbor Ukraine and its attempts to join the military alliance. Whether Russia's president is ready to engage in a real war is the great unknown, but its aggressive and uncompromising foreign policy — like his disposing of Alexei Navalny — is the latest legitimization of his increasingly absolutist rule now into its third decade.

Read the full story: What The Alexei Navalny Saga Tells Us About Putin’s Intentions On Ukraine

🇨🇴  FROM HOSTAGE TO POTENTIAL HEAD OF STATE


Íngrid Betancourt spent more than six years as a prisoner of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) terror group in Colombia, an experience that is sure to play a role in her recently announced presidential campaign. Betancourt, who is 60, is running as part of the Verde Oxígeno and is the only woman in the Centro Esperanza Coalition (CCE), a centrist alliance.

Betancourt could be a boost for the coalition and embody its goals of transforming, overcoming polarization and, as its name indicates, giving hope to Colombia. In particular, the centrist candidate who in the past has been largely focused on anti-corruption and environmental protection, has said she will make women’s rights a cornerstone of her campaign.

Read the full story: Ingrid Betancourt, A Hostage Heroine Reinvented As Feminist For President

♀️ 😔  YOUNG WOMEN FACE THE BRUNT OF THE COVID-19 MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS


A growing number of studies around the world show that COVID-19 and lockdown restrictions have prompted a disproportionate increase in mental health illness among teen girls. These include rising suicide rates among adolescent females in the United States, Germany and Spain and a higher prevalence of anxiety and eating disorders in Israel. But why are women being disproportionately impacted?

There’s a range of reasons. In India, for example, young women had increased difficulty accessing education resources when schools went online and shared a disproportionate burden of household tasks as opposed to their male peers. Around the world, social media also played a significant role; without access to in-person socialization and hobbies, young people spent more time online, often comparing themselves to others, impacting feelings of self-worth. The situation is particularly dire given the challenges of accessing mental health support resources during the pandemic.

Read the full story: Why The COVID-19 Mental Health Crisis Is Hitting Teenage Girls The Hardest

💡  BRIGHT IDEA


Norwegian mobility company Podbike has announced that Frikar, its four-wheeled enclosed electric bike, will soon hit bike lanes on home turf. The futuristic-looking vehicle does require the user to pedal, which powers a generator and drive-by-wire system that keep the Frikar running — with a speed limited to 25 km/h.

#️⃣ TRENDING

“Mãe De Bolsonaro” is the top query on Twitter in Brazil, after news that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s mother Olinda Bonturi Bolsonaro had died at age 94.

😄📚 SMILE OF THE WEEK

Photo of the new President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola

New President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola

Philipp Von Ditfurth/ZUMA


London’s legendary bookshop Waterstones Gower Street tweeted a photo of a letter from an anonymous user confessing to having forgotten to pay for their books some 48 years ago. Owing approximately £100 ($136), adjusted for inflation, they had sent through £120 ($163) to make up for their tardiness. Touched by the kind gesture, the bookshop reciprocated by donating the money to the largest children’s reading charity in the United Kingdom.

👉   OTHERWISE ...

Dottoré! is a weekly column on Worldcrunch.com by Mariateresa Fichele, a psychiatrist and writer based in Naples, Italy. Read more about the series here.

Bucket of tears

I’ve been thinking and thinking about a patient of mine since yesterday. His name is Giovanni.

Psychiatrists, you might not know, are quite often asked the same unanswerable question: "Why does one become insane?”

When I was younger, I searched and searched for an answer, losing myself in scientific explanations about synapses, neurons and neurotransmitters.

By the end of my studies, I’d realized that the only thing that was clear was that I’d been clutching at straws to justify my work and give it a semblance of scientific dignity. In the years since, I’ve forced myself, in defiance of the authority of my position, to reply with a laconic but honest: "Sorry, but I don't know."

So when Giovanni asked me that same question, he was not happy at all with my answer. “Dottoré, how’s it possible that you don't understand why I became crazy?”

When he tried to ask me again one day, I tried a different response:

"Giová, do you cry?"

"No. Why?"

"Imagine that the tears that you don't shed, that you force yourself not to shed, because that's what you've been taught to do, all end up inside your heart. The heart is an organ that pumps blood, which brings nourishment and oxygen to the whole body. But over time those diverted tears accumulate to the point that the heart begins to pump them instead of your blood. Slowly your body becomes sick, but the part that suffers the most is your brain. Because tears don't contain oxygen and nourishment, just sadness."

I expected a reaction to this fanciful explanation, but instead Giovanni kept quiet and eventually left.

The next time I saw him, he said: "Dottoré, I've thought about it. I know you told me about the tears to make me feel better, but maybe you’re right. Because sometimes I feel that I have a lake, more than a heart. But it takes a very powerful pump to pump out all that water, and my heart alone cannot do it. And now that you've explained to me how I became crazy, can you also tell me if I'll ever get better?"

"Do you want another story or do you want the truth?”

"This time, I’d rather have the truth!”

"The answer is always the same then. I'm sorry, Giová, but I don't know this either. But I can tell you one thing for sure. I'll help you slowly, slowly with just a bucket. Because the truth is, not even I have that pump."

⏩  LOOKING AHEAD

• Italy's parliament will convene Monday to begin the process of voting for a new president to succeed Sergio Mattarella for a seven-year term.

• Qualification games for the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be held from Jan. 27 to Feb. 2 for South, North and Central America as well as Asia. Argentina’s national team will not be able to rely on superstar Lionel Messi, still recovering from COVID-19.

• Next Thursday will mark 100 years since Nellie Bly died. The American journalist is known for her record-breaking 72-day trip around the world in 1889, inspired by Jules Vernes’ book Around the World in Eighty Days


Keep reading... Show less
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