|May 2005, Issue
NANOTECHNOLOGY, ECONOMY, ICT, WATER, PHILOSOPHY, URBAN DEVELOPMENT, EDUCATION,
MEDICINE, FOOD, MOBILITY, MUSIC, INTERNET, ENERGY, MEDIA, RELIGION, BIOTECH,
POLITICS, BRANDING, TECHNOLOGY, ENTERTAINMENT, KNOWLEDGE SOCIETY, TRADE,
ARCHITECTURE, LEARNING, SENIOR CITIZENS, DEMOCRACY, SCIENCE, CULTURE
World Robotics survey
World Robotics survey
investment in industrial robots up 19% in 2003
first half of 2004, orders for robots were up another 18% to the
highest level ever recorded
growth in the period 2004-2007 forecast at an average annual rate
of about 7%
600,000 household robots in use – several millions in the next
- Double digit
growth in the robot business
In 2003, the robot surged by 28%, by close to 25% in Japan and
by 4% in the European responsible for the UNECE/IFR publication.
The modest growth in should, however, be seen in the light of
the fact that with the exception European Union has had double-digit
market growth since 1994.
- What about
the trends in 2004 and the forecast for 2004-2007?
The UNECE/IFR quarterly survey on order intake of industrial robots,
which includes most of the world's largest companies, showed that
worldwide order intake increased by 18% in the first half of 2004,
compared with the same period in 2003. It was the highest order
intake of industrial robots ever recorded, worldwide and in all
regions, except in Europe where it was the second best half year
Worldwide sales are forecasted to increase from 81,800 units in
2003 to over 106,000 units by 2007, or an average of close to
7% per year.
- How many
robots are now working out there in industry? Worldwide
at least 800,000 units (possibly the real stock could be well
over one million units), of which 350,000 in Japan, close to 250,000
in the European Union and about 112,000 in North America. In Europe,
Germany is in the lead with 112,700 units, followed by Italy with
50,000, France with 26,000, Spain with 20,000 and the United Kingdom
- What is
the forecast for 2007?
A conservative forecast points about one million units worldwide,
of which 350,000 in Japan, 326,000 in the European Union and 145,000
in North America.
- Why invest in
In the last decade the performance of robots has increased enormously
while at the same time their prices have been plummeting. A robot
sold in 2003 would have cost about a fourth of what a robot with
the same performance would have cost in 1990. In the last few
years the price decrease of robots has, however, started to level
off. Profitability studies have shown that it is not unusual for
robots to have a pay-back period as short as 1-2 years.
- And not
In Germany, for instance, the prices of robots relative to labour
costs have fallen from 100 in 1990 to 35 in 2003 and to 15 when
taking into account the radically improved performance of robots.
In North America, the relative price dropped to 28 and to about
12 if quality improvements are taken into consideration. "Falling
or stable robot prices, increasing labour costs and continuously
improved technology are major driving forces which speak for continued
massive robot investment in industry", says Jan Karlsson. Even
in developing countries like Brazil, Mexico and China, robot investments
are starting to take off at an impressive rate. “As robots are
used both for increasing capacity and for rationalizing production,
robots investments are made also during periods of economic recession.
When the economy recovers, production can then to a large extent
be increased without necessarily hiring new labour”, concludes
- If robots
are so profitable why is there not an even stronger rush to invest?
Robots are not products to be acquired “over the counter”. In
order to reap the benefits of robots, potential user companies
must have sufficient in-house technological know-how as well as
a thorough comprehension of their production processes.
- How many robots
per employee in the manufacturing industry?
About 320 per 10,000 employees in Japan, 148 in Germany, 116 in
Italy, 99 in Sweden and between 80 and 50 in Finland, Spain, France,
United States, Austria, Benelux and Denmark (the figure for Japan
includes all types of robots while for all the other countries
only multipurpose industrial robots are included. The figures
are therefore not comparable). In the United Kingdom the density
amounted to about 40.
- In the car industry?
In Japan, Italy and Germany there is more than 1 robot per 10
- Are we seeing
any service robots in our homes?
At the end of 2003, about 610,000 autonomous vacuum cleaners and
lawn-mowing robots were in operation. In 2004- 2007, more than
4 million new units are forecasted to be added.
- How are
service robots for professional use doing?
Medical robots, underwater robots, surveillance robots, demolition
robots and many other types of robots for carrying out a multitude
of tasks are doing very well. A stock of some 21,000 units was
estimated at the end of 2003. In the period 2004-2007, another
54,000 units are projected to be added to the stock.
- In the long run
service robots will be everyday tools for mankind.
They will not only clean our floors, mow our lawns and guard our
homes but they will also assist old and handicapped people with
sophisticated interactive equipment, carry out surgery, inspect
pipes and sites that are hazardous to people, fight fire and bombs
and be used in many other applications described in the present
issue of World Robotics 2004. Huge military
investment in service robots will give spin-off effects both for
the market of professional service robots and for the market of
Vaughn A. Starnes, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department
of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of the
University of Southern California, took a seat at the instrument
control console of the da Vinci Surgical System on April 27, 2001,
he prepared to make history yet again – becoming the first cardiothoracic
surgeon in Southern California to perform heart surgery using
The da Vinci Surgical System consists of a surgeon's console,
a patient-side cart, a high performance vision system and proprietary
instruments from Intuitive Surgical, Inc.
Using the da Vinci Surgical System, the surgeon operates while
seated comfortably at a console viewing a 3-D image of the surgical
field. The surgeon's fingers grasp the instrument controls below
the display with wrists naturally positioned relative to his or
her eyes. The da Vinci Surgical System's technology seamlessly
translates the surgeon's movements into precise, real-time movements
of surgical instruments inside the patient.
by Fraunhofer AIS
For the first time the VolksBot
RT (Rough Terrain) was presented at the RoboCup German Open 2005.
VolksBot is a flexible and modular mobile robot construction kit,
designed to fit the needs in research and education as well as in
application-based rapid-prototyping. The component-based approach
offers a plug-in architecture in electronic hardware, software and
VolksBot is a modular construction kit for mobile robots designed
for applications in research, university and industry.
The modular concept of Volksbot enables the user to enormously reduce
his own development expenditures in the area of mobile robotics.
By recombining VolksBot components, variants of robots for different
application can be build with little effort.
Open interfaces in software, hardware and mechanics allow a faster
integration of own hardware modules, rapid prototyping of new applications
and testing of new procedures.
“Animal theme parks represent a new model for pet sales, and a serious
strategy that envisions the market a century from now.” Makoto Suematsu,
President of MK. Suematsu, Inc.
“Dog Forest” opened in 2003 in the idyllic setting of Izu-Kogen,
100 kilometers from Tokyo. Instead of being just another theme park,
Dog Forest also breeds and sells dogs. Before being turned over
to their owners, puppies receive their necessary vaccinations and
live with their mother for the first three months to allow their
health to stabilize.
“The reason that we located Dog Forest so far from Tokyo is that
we don’t want people buying these living creatures on a whim. I
don’t think that anyone willing to travel all the way to Izu is
going to be an impulse buyer."
by The Economist
Technology and society: Around the world, mobile phones seem to
have a spiritual or supernatural dimension that other forms of technology
THOSE who go into the priesthood are said to have a calling from
God. Now the purveyors of faith the world over are using mobile
phones to give believers a call in a more literal sense. Catholics
can sign up for daily inspirational text messages from the pope
simply by texting “Pope On” to a special number (53141 in Ireland,
for example). The Irish Jesuits offer a service called Sacred Space,
accessible via smartphone, which encourages users to spend ten minutes
reflecting on a specially chosen scripture for the day. In Taiwan,
limited-edition phones made by Okwap, a local handset-maker, offer
Matsu wallpaper and religious ringtones, along with a less tangible
feature - each one has been specially blessed at a temple to Matsu.
And Muslims around the world can use the F7100 handset, launched
last July by LG of South Korea, both to remind them of prayer times
(the phone has an alarm system that works in 500 cities) and to
find the direction of Mecca using the handset's built-in “Mecca
Event: Wednesday, June 1
future of Robotics
Wednesday, June1, 2005
reception: 18:30-19:30, conference: 19:30-22:15
location: PricewaterhouseCoopers, Prins Bernhardplein 200, Amsterdam
[next to Amstelstation], free parking.
Léon Rosenkrantz: AIBO as an intelligent robot
Bart de Boer: Robotics for AI and AI for Robotics
Christoph Bartneck: Social Robots
Towards a Literacy for the Digital Age
Towards a Literacy for the Digital Age
by Milverton Wallace
The kid enters the coffee shop
and is greeted excitedly by her friends. They jostle to exchange
high fives, knuckle greetings and finger snaps with her.
What is the cause of their admiration? Her Rocaway jeans? Her
high tan Jimmy Choo boots? Her Armani sun-glasses? Her Karl Lagerfeld
jacket? Nah! It is the gleaming silver object dangling from a
pair of white wires plugged into her ears.
It is an iPod, the must-have digital gadget of today's young people.
With this tiny digital audio player Apple stole Napster's thunder
and replaced the CD player as the cutting-edge portable music
player of choice.
But if you think this is just another device for playing pre-recorded
music, think again. Within two years of the iPod's debut, developers
had created software to allow anyone to produce audio content
-- words and music -- for it and other portable digital players.
This technology, known as podcasting, turns consumers into producers,
and every wannabe DJ and talk-show host into broadcasters. It
is a distribution channel that plugs directly into the hippest,
hottest communication network on the planet.
In advanced industrial countries, and increasingly in less-developed
regions, social life is being digitised. Cheap camera phones and
videocams allow everyday activities to be recorded and stored
on personal computers or online services; more and more conversations
are conducted via email, IM and SMS; private thoughts, opinions
and reflections on public affairs or private passions are instantly
posted on weblogs. Because they are in digital form, all these
different types of record -- moving images, photographs, sounds
and texts -- can be stored on computers. And the Internet makes
it possible for all of this to be shared with family, friends
Welcome to the agora of the 21st century, a space where a diverse
array of digital modes of communication intersect in cyberspace
-- email, instant messaging, text messaging, multimedia messaging,
weblogging, audioblogging, moblogging, mobcasting, podcasting.
Like it or not, this is the new cultural landscape for learning,
entertainment, and communicating with each other. And it is being
constructed without consultation with, or permission from, regulatory
authorities or self-appointed gatekeepers.
All well and good, but what is the point of all this digital g-soup
when school-leavers cannot spell and do sums, or believe Winston
Churchill was an insurance salesman? Relax. This is not the end
of literacy, just a groping towards a new kind of literacy, which
is capable of fulfilling the knowledge acquisition, informational
and cultural needs of the digital age.
are the competencies that should be included in any model of literacy
for the digital age?
First, you should get used to interacting with screen-based devices
for sending, receiving and viewing digital information because
this is the way one interacts with the interface -- the collection
of words, icons, buttons, menus, and other symbols -- connecting
the user to the database which stores the data and the network
which transmits it. To interact with your computers, mobile phones,
PDAs, media players etc requires that you have the knowledge to
understand these symbols and the tactile skills to manipulate
them to achieve a desired purpose e.g., open a document, save
a file, view a picture, play a song, send a message.
Second, you must be able to create a document, store it and retrieve
it at a later date. By "document" is meant any information element
or object in digital form -- words, pictures, sounds, still and
Third, you need to acquire some knowledge of the theory and practice
of hypermedia , (Nielsen 1995) because it is in this space
that information is communicated on the screens of computers and
digital media devices. A paper document allows only text and two-dimensional
images, while radio and television have been completely linear
media. The hypermedia document, now the standard form in which
information is displayed and communicated, is changing all that.
By allowing interaction with non-linear, multi-dimensional documents
to take place, it has radically altered the practice of reading
sapiens: Evolution of a New Species
by Peter Menzel (Photographer), Faith
If you believe the children are our future, you're only half right.
Photographer Peter Menzel and journalist Faith D'Aluisio traveled
around the world interviewing researchers who want to jump-start
our evolution by designing and building electrical and mechanical
extensions of ourselves - robots. Their book, Robo Sapiens,
takes its title from the notion that our species might somehow merge
with our creations, either literally or symbiotically. The photography
is brilliant, showing the endearing and creepy sides of the robots
and roboticists and feeling like stills from unmade science-fiction
films. D'Aluisio's interviews are insightful and often very funny,
as when she calls MIT superstar Rodney Brooks on his statement that
we ought not "overanthropomorphize" people. Brooks is an interesting
study. Having shaken up the robotics and artificial-intelligence
fields with his elimination of high-level intelligence and dedication
to tiny, insectoid, built-from-the-ground-up robots, he now works
on large, human-mimicking machines. But hundreds of other researchers,
in Japan, Europe, and the United States, are working on various
aspects of machine behavior, from the eerily lifelike robotic faces
of Fumio Hara and Alvaro Villa to the monkeylike movement of Brachiator
III; each of them casts a bit of light on the future of their field
in their short interviews. Though it's clear that we shouldn't hold
our breath waiting for a robot butler, Robo Sapiens suggests
that much cooler - and stranger - events are coming soon. - Rob
The hidden desires of tomorrows markets
David Bosshart, Karin Frick and Stefan Kaiser, GDI
The GDI, a leading Swiss Think Tank, has been observing and analysing
new developments and trends in retail, society and consumption
for more than 40 years.
Why radical trends?
Major developments are preceded by speculations that slowly become
part of our everyday awareness and take on a semblance of reality.
The stories that circulate about the technology, economy, society
and people of tomorrow act as ‚memes‘ that take root and spread
in human consciousness. Memes are ideas and secret desires that
propagate in society like a kind of ‚cultural gene‘ that direct
the imagination of researchers, developers, investors, politicians
and consumers. In this connection, mass media and, in particular,
films accelerate and amplify these trends by anchoring expectations
of the future in our collective sub-consciousness.
No longer is anything impossible – everything
is already there
The future frequently arrives faster than expected. In 1996, one
of the world‘s most renowned biologists, Lee Silver of Princeton
University, wrote that it is „impossible“ to clone mammals via
cell-nucleus transfer – not simply difficult but impossible. As
fate would have it, his book had not even reached the bookshops
before scientists of the Roslin Institute in Scotland announced
that they had succeeded in cloning ‚Dolly‘ the sheep. Only eight
years later, in the spring of 2004, South Korean researchers obtained
stem cells from a clone embryo for the first time. This experiment
will change the world radically and shows clearly how even experts
tend to underestimate future possibilities. Anyone in this situation
who does not use his or her sense of possibility to reconnoitre
the impossible is not a genuine realist.
Initially, the future is the realm of visionaries. They extend
our intellectual horizon by staking out new areas of mental exploration.
In many cases, major developments are preceded by speculations
that slowly become part of our everyday awareness and take on
a semblance of reality. For example,
many of the technologies of the future created by George Orwell
when he wrote ‚1984‘ in 1949 have long since passed into ‚normal‘
aspects of modern life. Biometric passports, spy satellites,
intelligent security cameras, complete e-mail monitoring, hypertrophic
databases with private data represent a set of tools that is no
less perfect than the facilities available to Orwell‘s ‚Big Brother‘.
Obviously, even the most depressing visions of the future have
the power to stimulate innovations and inspire investors.
Memes power collective perception
The best way to predict the future is to invent it because
the visions of the future created by research laboratories, think
tanks, science-fiction authors and other visionaries not only
form a matrix for the social perception of tomorrow‘s world but
also open up the associated opportunities. The stories that circulate
about the technology, economy, society and people of tomorrow
act as ‚memes‘ that take root and spread in human consciousness.
Memes are thoughts and ideas that propagate
in society like a kind of ‚cultural gene‘. Their discoverer,
Richard Dawkins, defined them as a „unit of cultural transmission“
(Dawkins 1978), while Pulitzer prize-winner Douglas Hoftstadter
coined the term ‚ideosphere‘ for the environment in which memes
propagate, interact, adapt and develop (Hoftstadter 1985). The
futures that come to prominence are chosen on the level of collective
cultural imagination. Memes vie for people‘s attention and time,
as well as a place in their memory, in much the same way as radio,
television or newspapers. They work their way ‚egoistically‘ into
the material world and use it for their own purposes.
Thus, the future belongs to those who
tell the best stories about the future – and science fiction is
the name of the game. For example, in the IT sector
where CEOs of leading companies love presenting themselves as
visionaries of a technically improved future. They point the way
to an electronic land of milk and honey with intelligent refrigerators,
thinking shoes, autonomous cars and online physicians. They advertise
with futuristic design studies for the household appliances of
tomorrow and carry us off into the future in the grand Hollywood
manner. The IT sector knows how to tell stories of the ‚digital
age‘ so that people see them as reality. Although the collapse
of the New Economy and abortive strategic developments have put
a damper on the exaggerated expectations of high-tech promises,
these events have had little impact on the generally high level
of acceptance for new technologies. The better stories keep alive
the belief in an information technology that will ensure an easier
life in tomorrow‘s world.
In comparison to the IT sector, representatives of the biotechnology
sphere are more restrained in their predictions for the future.
Their campaigns are designed to educate and breakdown fears on
the basis of scientific facts. The argumentation is more rational
and appeals less to the emotions. By contrast, the opponents of
biotechnology employ pictures and stories that have a lasting
impact. Thus, a modified picture or a new word can suffice to
turn an abstract DNA model into a feeling that triggers social
nightmares and awakens fears: it is hardly
possible to associate positive ideas with images of a future dominated
by ‚Frankenstein food‘, ‚terminator genes‘, ‚monster tomatoes‘
and ‚super weeds‘. Against this background, MIT economist
Lester Thurow compares the widespread angst created by the notion
of genetically- modified plants with the ancient fear of sea monsters
that stopped us from discovering America for centuries despite
the existence of the maritime technology required (Thurow 2003).
Today, the fear of biotech monsters is preventing the exploration
of this highly promising field of economic activity and the consequences
for Europe are likely to be serious: the USA, not to mention many
other less regulated nations, are heading for the unknown land
of biotechnology alone and, after conquering it, will have a lead
of fifty years over the ‚old world‘. Besides the cultural differences,
Thurow‘s example underscores the significance of promising stories
to which a technology can harness itself. Thus, without effective
memes, the benefits of the previously acclaimed ‚biotech revolution‘
will bypass Europe in the foreseeable future.
Stories steer the imagination for new markets
In this connection, the effectiveness of such stories depends
not on how true, probable or accurate they are. Stories about
the future are not predictions in the generally accepted sense
but intellectual experiments that aim to open up new possibilities
and future markets. They explore what could become reality and,
by directing the imagination of researchers, developers, investors,
companies and politicians, give them the optimism needed to create
new markets. After all, anyone who doesn‘t believe in the future
is hardly likely to take entrepreneurial risks. Thus,
memes are both stimulating and infectious ideas that spread within
society like a virus.
Ideas of this kind need not be positive to be effective. The negative
utopias and catastrophe scenarios that have always dominated the
world of science fiction help us conquer our collective fears
of the new and unknown. They warn against erroneous developments
and unfounded, exaggerated expectations, and invite us to change
course or resist undesirable developments. Thus, the gloomy prognoses
made by the Club of Rome in ‚The Limits to Growth‘ at the beginning
of the seventies triggered a sustained debate about the environment
throughout the world and prevented – for the time being at least
– the catastrophes predicted. Last but not least, memes, especially
the gloomy ones, are increasingly the driving force behind new,
future-oriented markets. The more people feel their personal safety
and health is threatened, the more they are prepared to invest
in prevention and security.
Mass culture programmes our expectations
Nowadays, collective expectations are dictated to a great
extent by mass culture and, in particular, films. Via the media,
images are concentrated into extremely influential and frequently
repeated stories that reflect our hopes and fears with regard
to the future, that stimulate our imaginations and influence our
investment and consumption decisions. Accordingly, mainstream
cinema is an excellent tool for analysing memes: at an early stage,
the cinema presents new technologies and prognoses that are still
at the laboratory stage. At the same time, it accelerates and
amplifies these development trends by anchoring expectations of
the future in our collective sub-consciousness. In this respect,
the pattern is always the same: we unconsciously
accept what we have been shown on the screen as real and existent
– regardless of whether it was positive, negative, a gadget, a
natural event or a form of social reality – as being possible.
Consumer expectations are programmed in this way.
Many everyday expressions, such as „I‘ll beam the file over to
you“, referring to immediate transport via the internet, also
have their roots in film fantasies – in this case, the most radical
vision of mobility, beaming as used in ‚Star Trek‘ – as do the
trends to gate communities, strong or weak roles for women depending
on social needs and the political yearning
of Californian voters for a ‚Terminator‘ whose core area of competence
holds out the promise of a more orderly society. In
this connection, our problem solutions are not oriented towards
the new but towards models and stories that we are already familiar
Accordingly, cinema memes function in the same way as myths. And,
in common with secularised myths, they can also be programmed.
A recent example of this is ‚ The Day After Tomorrow‘ (Roland
Emmerich, USA 2004), a climate-catastrophe film against the policy
of the Bush administration, the scenes of which aim, „to leave
a lasting impression on the audience“ (Emmerich).
It is the very exaggeration of such images and stories that
creates a matrix of what might be possible and gives it a toehold
in a culture. A good example of this is the pessimistic
visions of society that permeate practically all science-fiction
films made in the eighties and nineties: long before the sociologist
Ulrich Beck produced an academic foundation for making a gloomy
prediction about the future of Europe with his formula for the
‚Brazilianisation‘ of society, those concerned had already seen
specific parts of his argument in the cinema and on television.
A guide to the secret fantasies of the
This Radical Trends Guide provides an insight into the dreams,
hopes and fears of the leading modern prophets. It reviews the
most radical ideas from science and fiction for solutions to problems
real and imagined, and explores the theoretical destinations of
the most important trends that influence the dynamism of business
and society today. What are the most extreme developments that
the main intellectual forces from the various disciplines can
imagine? Where are their imaginations taking them and which new
markets will this ignite? And what comes thereafter? What other
or opposing develop¬ments are conceivable? Which
stories have the greatest power of attraction, the most sex appeal,
the most powerful influence on our collective sub-consciousness?
Our aim is to create a set of tools that will prevent us underestimating
the future so much. In each chapter, the ‚Radical trends‘ section
presents the various fantasies and stories created to solve problems
in that particular sector. Parallel to this, samples taken from
the research and development pipeline show how far or near we
are from the radical trends (margins). Examples from the culture
of the masses then indicate how widespread they have become and
help interpret our collective dreams (‚Science fiction and memes‘
section). Beaming as meme on MTV: recent Beastie Boys video ‚The
Day After Tomorow‘ (2004)
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future of Philosophy
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