Manufacturing AUTOMATION

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From the editor: The future, the family pet and the Woz


May 20, 2015 – In March I attended my very first Automate show, and what a show it was! There were dozens of robot demos and various machine vision and safety set-ups. According to Jeff Burnstein, president of the Association for Advancing Automation (one of the event sponsors), this year’s tradeshow was 80 per cent larger in terms of floor space and attendance was up 50 per cent from 2013.

New to the hall this year was the Ontario booth, which housed a group of Canadian exhibitors. Featuring companies such as M&R Automation, Konnexio and Tech-Con Automation, the shared booth was a proud symbol that Canada is an active member of the global automation market.

At most conferences, the keynote addresses tend to draw the largest turnouts. Well, Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, did not disappoint as the final Automate keynote. His talk on What’s Next – The Future of Technology drew an overwhelming crowd, with dozens more standing along the back wall.

“When I was young, it seemed like there was almost no change at all. In the last few decades […] it’s like you can’t keep up with it. I think we’re changing much faster than ever before,” said Wozniak, also known as “the Woz.”

The way he sees it, the industry is building technology “to make it easy so we don’t have to do the thinking, it’s pre-done.” He noted that these machines “are taking care of us and that makes me think we want to be the family pet — the well taken care of dog. In 20 years, machines will be thinking faster and better than us.”

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You couldn’t even hear the faintest whisper after he said that.

Leaving the auditorium, I couldn’t help but look at the robots on the show floor differently — some were extremely agile, others followed intricate codes at turbo speed, and one even mimicked the sensitivity of a finger on a touchscreen. If you could add all these components together, you would end up with quite the “superhuman” robot. How much more advanced will these machines be at the next Automate?


This column previously appeared in the May 2015 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.


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