Sure, computer algorithms are taking over tech and science and medicine … but the creatives are still safe, right? Not exactly.
A new program from software developer Autodesk, recently commercialized from an R&D project called Dreamcatcher, can use A.I. techniques to assist human designers as they go about their creative tasks. Already in use by companies including Airbus, Under Armour, and Stanley Black & Decker, the software is an example of the burgeoning field of generative design. A designer inputs requirements, limitations, and other qualities into the program — even the total cost of materials. The software then produces hundreds or even thousands of options. As the human designer winnows the choices, the software susses out preferences and helps iterate even better options. Airplane manufacturer Airbus used the software to redesign an interior partition in the A320 and came up with a design that was 66 pounds, or 45 percent, lighter than the previous setup.
Melding Humans and Robots
Robots have been on the assembly line doing all kinds of manufacturing for decades. Lately, a new feature is being added to the automated work machines: humans. Dubbed “cobots,” short for collaborative robots, the new setups range from robotic helpers that can hand the correct part to a human worker to an almost Ironman like robotic exoskeleton suit that a person wears to gain added strength and A.I. software guidance.
BMW has a cobot nicknamed Miss Charlotte that is helping assemble doors at its Spartanburg, S.C., plant. Mercedes-Benz is turning to cobot technology to help personalize each car that the luxury-automaker assembles in some of its most expensive categories. Replacing larger automated systems, humans with more nimble cobot helpers can be quicker at choosing from among the huge variety of parts needed to customize S-Class sedans, for example. MIT professor Julie Shaw is working on software algorithms developed with machine learning that will teach cobots how and when to communicate by reading signals from the humans around them. Some researchers have even looked at connecting cobots to human brainwave readouts. Mind-reading assistive robots? Now that’s collaboration.
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