TechKNOW Tomorrow – The Japanese City of Robots

Image by GovInsider via GovInsider.

Robots have been the subject of science fiction media beginning in 1920 when a Czech play called Rossum’s Universal Robots was introduced to the public. In the play, robots rebel against their human creators, not recognizing that the work they perform has become irrelevant without humans. Since then, numerous TV shows, short stories, films, and books have been produced on a subject that was largely thought to be unachievable in reality.

We often see robots in a negative light in science fiction. Take Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, for instance. In the movie, HAL 9000, an advanced AI (artificial intelligence) computer, is sentient. HAL begins to malfunction, which leads the astronauts to choose to disable him. In an attempt to protect himself, HAL decides to kill off the other crew members.

Similarly, in The Terminator, an AI called Skynet (created by Cyberdyne Systems) becomes self-aware and recognizes that humanity is its greatest threat. Skynet chooses to kill all humans in order to preserve the AI network.

In both films, a common theme presents itself. The AI developed by humans becomes sentient and gains the will to live as if it were human. That said, this would likely never happen in reality, right? It’s called science fiction for a reason…

Cybernic City

In the city of Tsukuba just north of Tokyo, “a Japanese firm is planning a city of robots … with machines running medical, industrial and agricultural work“. Much of the research Japan is performing on robotics is now occurring within this area called ‘Cybernic City’.

Alarmingly, the name of the Japanese firm is Cyberdyne Inc. The firm has already done extensive research on robotics in Tsukuba, with prototypes of robotic limbs revealed to the public as early as 2005. Even better, Cyberdyne has developed a suit called the Hybrid Assistive Limb – HAL for short.

While the names chosen for the company and the robotic suit are clearly meant as tongue-in-cheek references to classic films, if your exposure to AI is limited to science fiction, this might sound troubling. The likelihood of AI sentience developing a determined will to live is quite minimal. This is especially true of the idea that humanity must be eliminated to ensure the survival of robotics.

What is HAL?

Cyberdyne’s version of HAL could be compared to early models of the terminators from Cameron’s films. In other words, cyborgs may be less of a science fiction concept than you might think. Much of the company’s work revolves around developing an exoskeleton that can be worn by the wearer to improve “physical function in welfare and medical fields, heavy work support in other workplaces, and supporting recovery activities at disaster sites“.

Video by Brooks Rehabilitation via YouTube.

HAL has already undergone extensive testing, and “has been proven to assist with lower-limb rehabilitation of people with progressive neuromuscular diseases” such as muscular dystrophy. While prototypes have existed since the early late ’90s, it wasn’t until 2015 that HAL “was recognized by the Japanese government as a medical device and was approved for insurance coverage“.

Many HAL devices have been used in local hospital environments to aid with patient recovery. The latest model is available in a lower body and a full body format depending on the needs of the patient. With other areas of testing completed (assisted spinal support for heavy lifting, for example), HAL demonstrates a potential future we shouldn’t be afraid of, one in which robots and humans can live harmoniously. If science fiction has taught us anything, it’s that robots will always require humans to continue with the progression of life.

. . .

At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.

tKt’s Digital Toolbox – Getting Your Organization Online

Image by Bobbi Vasher via Canva.

When COVID-19 spiralled out of control last year, no one was prepared for it. Since then, many organizations and businesses have been forced to transition to offering online services instead of in-person solutions… a change that threatened to leave many of us behind. If a business or organization is unable to operate digitally in some manner, it may be forced to eventually close its doors.

But adapting to rapid changes in technology is easier said than done. That’s one of the reasons we’ve created a new service called the Digital Toolbox. This eight-week training opportunity helps small businesses or organizations develop an action plan to make the massive jump online.

For those without the skills or digital tools required to build a digital presence, the Digital Toolbox could be exactly what your company or nonprofit organization needs to overcome this challenge.

Some of the things you can look forward to learning include e-mail marketing services, cloud storage services, web-based programs (e.g., Google Workspace), social media policy development, and how to use social media professionally. For more information, check out the graphics below!

Images by Bobbi Vasher via Canva.

Considering the needs of your company or organization, check to see if the Digital Toolbox will be useful to you. Please note that the Digital Toolbox is NOT meant to be a marketing strategy that helps grow your business through advertising or search engine optimization; if you’re interested in a local service like that, you may want to try Reflective Marketing or Newfound Marketing. Just make sure to do your research beforehand!

Another thing to keep in mind is that the Digital Toolbox is FREE for small businesses and organizations, though space is limited. Submitting an application will be required for consideration, and only a handful of cohorts will be selected. That said, we plan to offer this training opportunity regularly, so if you don’t initially get accepted, don’t be afraid to reapply.

After submitting an application, it’s just a matter of time before we launch the Digital Toolbox with an introductory session to help identify your needs. We’ll work with you to plan out the remaining weeks. Every session will feature a class up to two hours in length, and handouts such as extra resources and slides will be provided. We can offer extensions or flexibility throughout based on your needs, and can provide ongoing support even after it’s over.

If any of this sounds beneficial to your business/organization, consider applying for the Digital Toolbox today. We hope to see you soon!

. . .

At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.

TechKNOW Tomorrow – 4 New Technologies in 2021

Image by Umberto via Unsplash.

Most of us would say that 2020 was an incredibly difficult year thanks in part due to COVID-19. Between the amount of jobs lost, business closures, lack of disposable income for leisure, travel restrictions, social isolation, and the death toll, 2020 has been the most mentally taxing year we’ve experienced in a long time.

With all of that said, 2021 seems to be a year of slow recovery. Vaccine rollouts, for instance, should reduce most of the barriers created by COVID-19 and allow us a little breathing room during the second half of 2021.

This year is also gearing up to be a great one in terms of some new technology that’s about to hit the public market. Besides the tens of thousands of satellites SpaceX intends to launch to provide internet access to rural communities, here are four more innovations that we may see hit retail soon!

1) Key-X

Imagine a smart keyboard that is accessible by anyone with limited motor skills from disorders such as cerebral palsy. The Key-X was created for this purpose. With only eleven large buttons, it allows the user to easily type every possible character that one can type on a regular keyboard. It’s even capable of precise mouse movements on the screen and multiple types of clicking.

Image by Key2Enable via IndieGoGo.

Even better, it’s great for gamers with physical disabilities as it can combine keys to perform multiple functions. Additionally, for those with severe limitations, an accessory called a-blinX allows this keyboard to be used exclusively by blinking. Admittedly, the price of the Key-X is a bit outrageous, though this is reflected by the current lack of supply. This will likely change if the Key-X becomes more widely available.

2) EyeRide

Coming from France is an innovative little tool that makes driving much safer. The EyeRide HUD was initially designed to give hands-free access to digital tools on motorcycles, though it’s expanded to now be inclusive to cars, too!

Image by EyeLights via EyeLights.

With the EyeRide HUD, information like your GPS route, incoming calls, and music selection appear in your peripheral vision rather than on a dashboard that you have to look away for. With vocal commands or a tiny remote, you can activate any of these services without actually taking your eyes off the road.

At the moment, it’s certainly expensive for what it is, but for a device that could potentially save your life, how can you really put a price on that?

3) Water Walker & Spa

This next innovation was created in Japan and is extremely limited in terms of product availability. In short, it has to be ordered from their website from one of their distributors! Based on the name, you can probably guess what this is. Acting as both a treadmill and a relaxing spa, you can perform a workout and then immediately bathe/shower afterwards.

The Water Walker & Spa is designed to provide an experience akin to walking or running while adding less stress to the body. Those with injuries can receive the same benefits without the pain flare-ups. Aerobic exercise has come a long way from outdoor running, and it will be interesting to see if this idea takes off throughout North America over the next couple of years.

While this $90,000 machine is much too expensive for the average consumer, we could potentially see a few of them at local gyms over time.

4) Solar Roadways

The last technology here is arguably the most innovative and useful in a world irreversibly damaged by climate change. Compared to asphalt and concrete, the price of Solar Roadways will likely be much higher in terms of initial investment. However, the payoff will ultimately cut costs in the long run. After four lengthy testing periods over the last decade, Solar Roadways are almost ready to be sold commercially.

Image by Scott Brusaw via YouTube.

Replacing our current roads, this new technology can generate electricity for external use by absorbing rays from the sun. LED lights powered by the sun replace lines and signage that must regularly be updated. Snow and ice melt on their own without the need for clearance. These roads are also “impervious to potholes” and, most importantly, the solar energy stored doesn’t produce greenhouse gases or air/water pollution.

. . .

At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.