For our first story this month, we're heading to outer space! The International Space Station has a new robot onboard called CIMON-2, standing for "Crew Interactive Mobile CompaniON." It's described as a "flying brain" specifically designed to help out (and encourage) the astronauts of the International Space Station. CIMON got coverage in Digital Trends, TechCrunch, CNN, and Futurism.
It's hard not to think of another robot with a friendly name for a space mission when you see this story, isn't it? However, it seems as though CIMON won't be as nefarious as HAL; in fact, one of the intriguing uses CIMON may have is serving as a friendly companion for astronauts on longer and longer space missions (we'll think of TARS and CASE from Interstellar here). Would you be comfortable with one of these robot buddies on a long journey - or would you get a little wary of it?
There's a massive development in the field of "soft robotics." Actually, it's quite a small one - a "soft robot" called the DEANsect that can zip around and survive getting whacked by a flyswatter. This big (or tiny) creation earned coverage in TechCrunch, Metro, and Futurism. These types of micro-robots have been a staple of science fiction for years; now, it seems as though they're reaching the mainstream.
What sort of functions could you see these miniature flying machines doing? Would you be comfortable with these "flies" buzzing around? Most importantly, have we figured out the newest angle for a remake of "The Fly"?
Robots and weed! Wait, it's not what you think. Quite the opposite, actually. A British start-up has developed a line of robots (named Tom, Dick, and Harry) that serve as farmer's assistants. These robots monitor, feed, and seed crops, along with doing the critical weeding that helps keep a farm going. "Tom" monitors the farm, "Dick" does the weeding, and "Harry" does the punching and planting. This story got coverage in ZDNet, Digital Trends, and the Genetic Literacy Project.
Robotics have worked their way into a lot of fields over the years, but this is one of the most intriguing - and consequential - ones we can remember. We've talked a lot about how robots are reclaiming traditional manual labor jobs; what's more classic than working the fields of your farm? Will there come a time when farmers don't ever get their hands dirty? It's an interesting thing to think about.
The world of driverless delivery is coming to America's most profitable retailer. Walmart announced a pilot "autonomous vehicle delivery" program with Nuro vehicles in early December, with the first deliveries rolling out to customers in Houston. This new program got coverage in Digital Trends, Engadget, TheVerge, and TechCrunch. Again, we see another example of robotics removing humans from the equation. How long will it be before these autonomous vehicles make even more jobs obsolete?
How about some quick hits from around the industry?
Of course, that's only just a fraction of all the robotics news out there - but these are intriguing stories. One fascinating theme we picked up this week? How about the importance of robots to humans in jobs, both traditional (farming, delivery) and brand-new (traveling into outer space)? It shows just how wide-spanning robotics' impact is on our lives, from the ancient to the modern. It really will be all-encompassing.
One more thing, readers - if you have anything that we should add-in for the next edition, let us know! What caught your attention in the robotics world throughout December? Comment below, and we might feature it in our next issue!