Asus creates the first 'affordable' household robot
The Taiwanese electronics company has unveiled Zenbo, which is being marketed as an 'affordable' household robot. The device is voice-activated and will be able to control any pieces of smart tech in the home.
Asus has been able to cut costs versus other companies' robots as it lacks arms and other humanoid features. Zenbo will cost around $599/£409.
Colin Bull, Principal Consultant of Manufacturing and Product Development at SQS, has commented on the potential risks inherent with AI technology:
"The launch of the Zenbo, a personal digital assistant in robot form by Asus this week is the latest attempt to introduce artificially intelligent (AI) robots into our homes. As smarter technology, from surveillance cameras to kitchen appliances, infiltrates our humble abodes it is placing an increasingly higher importance upon the need for quality assurance throughout the manufacturing process. Whilst testing all hardware is important, guaranteeing the software that controls the AI enabled hardware is also tested is imperative. In order to safeguard the products that hit the market, manufacturers must properly test the software behind the AI components or potentially face legal ramifications should something not function as desired.
"By outsourcing the testing process to specialist software quality and testing houses, manufacturers can ensure the smooth running of their processes and be safe in the knowledge that they have done all they can to minimise the threat of a Skynet catastrophe."
It is unclear when Zenbo will available on the market; it has been demonstrated in Taiwan, but remains a work in progress.
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IMF: Variants Can Still Hurt Manufacturing Recovery
After a year of on-and-off manufacturing in the US, UK, and the eurozone, demand for goods surged early last week. Factories set growth records in April and May, suppliers started to recover, and US crude hit its highest price point since pre-COVID. As vaccination efforts immunise much of the US and UK populations, manufacturers are now able to fully ramp up their supply chains. In fact, GDP growth could approach double-digits by 2022.
Now, the ISM productivity measure has surpassed the 50-point mark that separates industry expansion from contraction. Since U.S. president Biden passed his US$1.9tn stimulus package and the UK purchasing managers index (PMI) increased to 65.6, both sides of the Atlantic are facing a much-welcomed manufacturing recovery.
Lingering Concerns Over COVID
Even as Spain, France, Italy, and Germany race to catch up, and mining companies pushed the FTSE 100 index of list shares to a monthly high of 7,129, some say that UK and US markets still suffer from a lack of confidence in raw material supplies. Yes, the Dow Jones has made up its 19,173-point crash of March 2020, and MSCI’s global stock index is at an all-time high.
Yet manufacturers around the world realise that these wins will be short-lived until pandemic supply chain bottlenecks are solved. If we keep the status quo, consumers will pay the price. In April, inflation in Germany reached 2.4%, and across the EU’s 19 member countries, overall prices have increased at an unusual pace. Some ask: Is this true recovery?
IMF: Current Boom Could Falter
Even as Elon Musk tweeted about chip shortages forcing Tesla to raise its prices, UK mining demand skyrocketed; housing markets lifted; and the pound sterling gained value. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), however, cautioned that manufacturing recovery won’t last long if COVID mutates into forms our vaccinations can’t touch. Kristalina Georgieva, Washington’s IMF director, noted that fewer than 1% of African citizens have been vaccinated: “Worldwide access to vaccines offers the best hope for stopping the coronavirus pandemic, saving lives, and securing a broad-based economic recovery”.
Across the globe, manufacturing companies are keeping a watchful eye on new developments in the spread of COVID. Though US FDA officials don’t think we’ll have to “start at square one” with new vaccines, the March 2021 World Economic Outlook states that “high uncertainty” surrounds the projected 6% global growth. Continued manufacturing success will in large part depend on “the path of the pandemic, the effectiveness of policy support, and the evolution of financial conditions”.
Mathias Cormann, secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) concurred—without global immunisation, the estimated economic boom expected by 2025 could go kaput. “We need to...pursue an all-out effort to reach the entire world population”, Australia’s finance minister added. US$50bn to end COVID across the world, they imply, is a small investment to restart our economies.