Robots will do many of the tasks humans don’t want, says researcher
EPHRAIM—Snow College students and faculty got a look at how robots might affect the American workforce during a presentation by an alumnus last week.
Accompanied by a technologically advanced robotic arm, Bryant Parker, who attended Snow, demonstrated basics of robotic engineering and programming at the Huntsman Library last Wednesday, March 1.
The presentation, titled “Robots and You” took the place of the weekly business seminar at Snow. It particularly attracted students in the science and engineering departments.
Parker attended Snow and graduated from the University of Utah. He is the founder of In Position Technologies, LLC, of Clearfield, Utah, a company specializing in “collaborative robots” built to work alongside humans.
The company designs its robots to do specific tasks required by customer companies. Many of the tasks involve repetitive motion. Jobs involving the tasks are prone to high employee turnover and injury.
“Robots are built to do the things that humans don’t want to do,” Parker said. “No one wants to screw on bottle caps all day….When we go out to companies, [most of] the time, they are interested in our product not because they are trying to replace someone, but because no one wants to do the job.”
Parker demonstrated the UR-5-6-Axis robot equipped with a 38-inch reach and lifting capacity of 11 pounds. He showed off the nearly endless variety of simple tasks it can perform with near-exact efficiency in every repetition. The robotic arm gripped, lifted, put down and followed mapped movements Parker made up on the spot by using his iPad.
Parker also showed the robot’s “machine vision” feature, which gives it the ability to sense and understand the dimensions of space around it. Parker successfully programmed the robot to pick up his cell phone from anywhere on a table and place it in predetermined location on the table.
It is no surprise that these advanced instruments are a pretty penny up front for buyers. In fact, the UR-5-6 costs about $35,000.
However, Parker said, the price is nearly equal to what a worker would get paid to do the same job for a year. Ideally, a business can pay off the robot in a year. After that, it gets the services of the robot essentially for free.
With the advent of phenomena such robotic automation, the need for engineers is greater than every, Parker said. “There are new programs being created in Utah’s universities because of that demand,” he said.
Parker attended Snow in 2011. One of his professors was Dr. Garth Sorensen, associate professor of engineering and computer science, who joked with his former student during the seminar.