Will FRIDA Take Your Job? (Video)
Swiss technology giant ABB has just announced the prototype of one of the coolest little industrial robots ever to be created. And while you can't help but marvel at the genius of the design, you also can't help but wonder what it will do to the human manufacturing work force.
The robot is called FRIDA, which stands for Friendly Robot for Industrial Dual-arm Assembly. That sounds innocent enough -- no doubt on purpose. She's designed along the lines of a human upper body with the arms of a small person, although she is headless -- who needs a head when you're being programmed by someone else? In fact, her ability to easily be reprogrammed puts her head and shoulders above previous industrial robots.
She has many other advantages. Although she is still in prototype stage, designers say she'll be considerably less expensive than her giant predecessors. Also, unlike most industrial assembly robots, she can be clamped to a work bench, and even has a handle so she's easily portable. Her creators say she's been designed to work alongside humans, not to replace them. And, also unlike most other robots, FRIDA won't hurt you if you get in her way -- she's programmed to freeze if she comes into potentially dangerous contact with anything human-like, and is made of softer, gentler material than traditional cold, hard, heavy metal.
So what can FRIDA do that humans can't? She has seven-axis arms that can move in ways even the double-jointed never dreamed of, and she can spin her joints, which is helpful when she's screwing things in. She's also considerably stronger than a human, and can safely use her arms as tools -- drills, hammers, screwdrivers, etc. In addition, she can work 24/7, and doesn't need lunch, bathroom breaks or health insurance.
Now is she starting to scare you? Don't worry too much. It hasn't yet been announced where or when FRIDA will be ready to report to work. There are no robot production lines turning her out in mass quantities yet. Designers say she'll be particularly useful for working with products that use chemicals that are toxic to humans. She'll do the dirty work so you don't have to. When you watch the video, you'll be amazed by the genius of her design. Maybe she's not so scary after all.
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