EXPLORA! AND BREEZY ONE

Explora! and Breezy One

The Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum is a fun and exciting place for hands-on learning. People born and raised in Albuquerque have probably spent a fair share of their childhoods here, and returning as an adult may bring back some nostalgic feelings of running around and playing with everything without a parent constantly scolding you for touching things. However, as a newcomer, I was super surprised by all the exhibits and just how interactive it was. A highlight for me was definitely the giant elevator with a piano in it.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the museum to shut down last year. It has finally reopened, and, like many other places, Explora has implemented new sanitation practices so that everyone who enters the building can stay safe. One change they made was bringing our Breezy One robot in for the routine disinfection of the entire space. Breezy renders viruses ineffective and kills bacteria, allowing Explora’s employees to have peace of mind every day that they come into work. Plus, adding a robot to a science museum just makes sense! Hopefully the children won’t assume it’s just another cool display that they can play with.

Adult Night is Back!

Many exciting programs and events are coming back now that it is safe enough to do so. With some relaxed restrictions and new additions like Breezy One, Explora has brought back Adult Night, an event for people ages 18 and older to spend a couple hours exploring the museum (without kids). Everyone is encouraged to let their inner-child run free and play in the sand, blow bubbles, and press as many buttons as possible. On Friday, August 27th, Explora hosted its first Adult Night since the pandemic started, and wanted to make sure all visitors understood why it was safe to come. Breezy One did a demonstration (using water, not disinfectant!) and captured everyone’s attention. Below you can see a short clip of the event.

 

Many people asked questions about the robot and took pictures with it. Simply telling everyone that a building has been disinfected isn’t really enough; people like to see visual proof. Plus, there is nothing exciting about manual fogging – but a fogging robot? Now you’ve got people’s attention. And they won’t only remember the way it did figure-eights around the room. They’ll remember that businesses like Explora are safe for them.

Building up Our Community

New Mexico as a state isn’t really on many people’s radars. As someone who originally only came here for college, I never expected to stay. When most Americans think about cities with a lot of opportunities, their minds probably go straight to places like New York City and Los Angeles, not Albuquerque. They think of crowded, loud places with giant skyscrapers; they think of the hundreds of movies we’ve all seen set in these two cities. On the other hand, the main images that outsiders have of New Mexico have to do with nature and our diverse landscapes, and that is thanks to the great work of New Mexico True.

Because of this, I see a lot of value in building bonds between businesses. New Mexico is a very beautiful place to visit, but it can also be a great place to live and work, and I think showcasing that is important. Partnerships such as this one between Build With Robots and Explora are not made just to benefit our own public images. Distinguishing New Mexico and Albuquerque as a beautiful and opportunity-filled place is important to me, and will help to elevate the place that I now call home.

ROBOTS AND THE FUTURE OF JOBS

Albuquerque, NM: What do you think of when you hear the word “robot”? Some think of Roombas or self-driving cars, others think of computers or R2-D2. Robots do many things: automating fast food, construction, manufacturing, and, more recently, disinfecting.

Just because a job is manual does not mean it will be automated by robots. It is more likely that an industry uses robots because they need them. In 2018, Deloitte estimated a potential shortage of 2.4 million manufacturing workers in the next decade. Among the reasons for the workforce shortages were:

  1. shifting skill sets due to the introduction of advanced technologies
  2. misperceptions of manufacturing jobs
  3. and retirement of baby boomers

The way of work is changing, and some countries have adapted quicker than others. China, for example, has adopted almost as many robots as the rest of the world combined over the last 10 years. With a looming skills gap in technology and a workforce shortage, an opportunity to educate and innovate presents itself. But first, we have to show people that robots can and should be the solution.

Resisting Robots

The resistance to robots is not new; PEW research found that only a third of Americans (33%) believe automation would create new, better-paying jobs for humans.

For the most part, Americans consider this scenario [replacing all jobs] to be plausible, express more worry than enthusiasm about the prospect of machines performing many human jobs, and anticipate more negative than positive outcomes” (PEW, 2017).

The common belief with robotic automation is that a human job will be replaced. And that was, in fact, the initial thought when Breezy OneTM entered Albuquerque’s International Sunport.

Breezy OneTM is the first autonomous disinfecting robot built to offer efficient, hands-free, and safe sanitization specifically designed for large-scale facilities. The unionized janitors at the Sunport felt threatened, seeing Breezy as a way to cut back on janitorial staffing when travel halted due to COVID-19. However, this was not the case. The Sunport’s custodial staff became the champions of Breezy, ultimately seeing the autonomous robot as a tool to add to their daily routines.

“People think of us like we’re just janitors; it’s good to have someone care about our safety”.

 

Is a Robot Going to Take My Job?

The short answer is: maybe. However, many factors affect this, and most roboticists are not trying to replace people.

In time, practically any job can be taken by robots. A painter, a teacher, and an electrician all have extremely different jobs.

  • Painting is a repetitive motion and is something that can be automated quite easily.
  • Teachers’ jobs are made easier every day with online programs, videos, and more – one day they may not be needed at all.
  • Electricians have a complicated job, but with enough programming, even that can be automated, making fewer mistakes than humans would.

However, someone has to be there to choose what paint goes into the robot; someone has to be there to observe it and keep it functional. Students need personal support that a robot will not be able to provide. Last, complex jobs like wiring a home will require copious amounts of programming. While everyone’s jobs could be in danger, they really aren’t. There will always be reasons that people are needed. Nobody’s job is truly in danger because most robots made today are designed to assist people, not replace them.

As the case with, Chris Ziomek, CEO of Build with Robots, who has worked in robotics for over 20 years and built Breezy OneTM to support workers, not displace them.

“We’re not trying to replace workers; we’re trying to support them by giving them a better tool and keeping them safer.” – Chris Ziomek, CEO at Build With Robots.

Chris Ziomek, CEO of Build with Robots, has worked in robotics for over 20 years and built Breezy OneTM to support workers, not displace them.

“We’re not trying to replace workers; we’re trying to support them by giving them a better tool and keeping them safer.” – Chris Ziomek, CEO at Build With Robots.

What Are We Doing?

Build with Robots was founded around a team that adapts, learns, and fights together to improve the lives of our team, our customers, our partners, and our community. If we do that right, we become a force for good. We do this by:

  • Offering paid internships to youth in our community,
  • Paying for courses for our workers to attend local universities and community colleges,
  • Paying for professional development,
  • Volunteering and teaching courses in the community, and
  • Donating scholarships to students.

When we look to the future, robotics and automation will be there, but so will the people we support and believe in.

*Come back next time to find out how robots in schools can bridge our gap in skills.

These Fog-spraying Robots Kill the Coronavirus

Read Full Article Here – by Nate Berg with Fast Company

Every night, after the last plane has landed at the Albuquerque airport, and all the passengers have left the terminal, a robot rolls out of a closet and begins filling the room with fog. Following a predetermined map of the space and rolling at the pace of a quick walk, the robot zips through the empty terminal, puffing a disinfectant powerful enough to kill anthrax. After covering about 100,000 square feet over the course of an hour and a half, the robot returns to its closet.

This robot is a powerful and somewhat sci-fi new tool in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and the virus that caused it. And it’s coming to clean the high-touch surfaces of airport terminals, offices, and warehouses, eliminating 99.9999% of bacteria and viruses.

Named Breezy One, the roving disinfection robot was created through a partnership between Fetch Robotics, a warehousing and logistics robotics company based in San Jose, California, and Build With Robotics, an Albuquerque-based industrial robotics company. Using Fetch’s autonomous and programmable robot as a base with a fog-sprayer add-on developed by Build With Robotics, Breezy One uses an EPA-registered disinfectant originally developed by Sandia National Laboratories for the decontamination of chemical and biological agents. The robots are available for between $6,000 and $9,000 a month.

 

[Photo: courtesy Fetch Robotics]

Breezy One is far from the only disinfecting robot on the market, though most of the others now available rely on using ultraviolet light to disinfect, eliminating 99.9 percent of bacteria and viruses. The fog-based approach is meant for more intensive disinfection of places with shared surfaces and high-contact equipment.

After a human guides it through a space with a joystick control, the robot creates an internal map of its setting and automatically charts the most efficient path to fog the entire space. Human operators need only to disengage the robot from its charging base, start the fogging cycle, and get out of the way. Rooms are safe to reenter about two hours after disinfection.

A disinfecting robot was a pivot for Fetch Robotics, according to CEO Melonee Wise. One of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies in 2018 and 2019, Fetch focuses primarily on robots that autonomously move pallets around warehouses. But when the pandemic kicked in, her customers found themselves short-staffed and unable to operate safely. “We had customers who were just like ‘I’ll do anything. Can you tell us about any solution you have to clean or disinfect our environment so we can get people back to work?’” Wise says. She realized the company’s technology could be easily adapted to help.

 

[Photo: courtesy Fetch Robotics]

Fetch teamed up with Build With Robotics and came up with the fog-spewing Breezy One. Development took just a few months, and the robot was disinfecting spaces like the Albuquerque airport terminal by this summer. “Our robot was already a platform. It’s relatively easy for our customers to attach accessories to it to build new robots for different markets,” Wise says.

Breezy One was just the start. Fetch partnered with another robotics company to create a less intensive disinfecting robot that uses ultraviolet light to clean the surfaces in rooms and offices, eliminating 99.9 percent of bacteria and viruses. “The robots go right into a conference room after a meeting and disinfect the entire room in about 15 minutes,” Wise says.

She says orders for the two robots have been in the hundreds, and there’s been interest from a variety of businesses and venues. “It’s everything from casinos to public schools to airports to shared work spaces or co-work spaces to warehouses and manufacturing facilities,” she says. “We’re seeing the whole spectrum.”

Though these kinds of heavily trafficked places can benefit from disinfection, most of the transmission of COVID-19 happens from person to person contact through the air. Cleaner surfaces in public places and work spaces can help, but it’s only  part of the solution. The more effective preventative measures—keeping safe distance and wearing masks—require no added robots.

Toyota AI Ventures

Toyota AI Ventures is Investing in Robot Startups

Toyota AI Ventures, in partnership with the Toyota Research Institute (TRI), is looking for entrepreneurs to solve problems in the areas of artificial intelligence, automated driving, and robotics. This “Call for Innovation” is designed to spur innovation in robotics, specifically mobile manipulation technologies for assistive robots that help people in and around the home. Despite advances in robotics and industrial automation, Toyota sees a gap. Toyota is looking to invest up to $2M to get assistive robots that can work around and with people in the home. Their goal is to assist startups to develop hardware and software technologies that make robots safer, more useful, and more affordable. Applications are open now through October 31, 2018. Qualified startups will be evaluated for possible funding by Toyota AI Ventures.