Field Notes on the Automation Trap (25 May 2016)
These are my personal notes on happenings, news, signals related to my research on automation and alternative means on economic development. See The Automation Trap.
“60,000 workers culled from just one factory as China’s struggling electronics hub turns to artificial intelligence”
Via SCMP (22 May 2016):
Thirty-five Taiwanese companies, including Apple’s supplier Foxconn, spent a total of 4 billion yuan (HK$4.74 billion) on artificial intelligence last year, according to the Kunshan government’s publicity department.
“The Foxconn factory has reduced its employee strength from 110,000 to 50,000, thanks to the introduction of robots. It has tasted success in reduction of labour costs,” said the department’s head Xu Yulian.
China is the biggest marketing for robotics, partly driven as a way to combat increasing wages and increasing competition from other countries with lower wages. Curious how this will play out as over 100 million Chinese people work in factories.
Foxconn has ~1 million workers total, so this is a reduction of 6% of the workforce.
“We rode in the self-driving cab that will hit Singapore streets in 2019”
Via Recode.net (17 May 2016)
NuTonomy’s taxis are already being test on the streets of Singapore:
NuTonomy, an autonomous tech spinoff from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has plans to deploy “thousands” of fully self-driving taxis all over Singapore by 2019, according to company COO Doug Parker.
Already, the company has started to test its vehicle in a one-block radius in Singapore’s business district, called 1 North. With the blessing of the government, nuTonomy and other autonomous tech companies will be able to expand to a nearly four-mile radius as early as this summer.
“Wendy’s Serves Up Kiosk as Wages Rise, Hits Fast Food Group”
Via Investor’s Business Daily (11 May 2016):
Wendy’s (WEN) said that self-service ordering kiosks will be made available across its 6,000-plus restaurants in the second half of the year as minimum wage hikes and a tight labor market push up wages.
It is likely Wendy’s has a strong incentive to test kiosks regardless of the state of wages. Secondly, previous rollouts failed as customer preferred human interaction. However, the cooking process – as per the nature of fast food – has always been relentlessly automated as much as possible.
“Pizza Hut Adding Pepper Robots to Restaurants in Asia”
Via PC Magazine (24 May 2016)
MasterCard has inked a deal with Pizza Hut to bring Pepper to restaurants across Asia by the end of 2016. The move is intended to push MasterCard’s MasterPass digital wallet, which Pizza Hut patrons can use by either tapping the Pepper icon within the wallet or by scanning a QR code on Pepper’s display, while connected to Wi-Fi. Pepper can also provide recommendations and offers.
This seems more of a marketing stunt than an actual rollout of robots at Pizza Hut. However, this could be a test of how customers (people, that is) interact with robots at restaurants and may pave the way to robots being a more common fixture at restaurants.