From baristas to inspectors: Singapore’s robot workforce plugs labor gaps

From baristas to inspectors: Singapore’s robot workforce plugs labor gaps
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Robot barista "Ella", designed by Crown Digital, makes a coffee autonomously after receiving orders. (REUTERS/Travis Teo)
From baristas to inspectors: Singapore’s robot workforce plugs labor gaps
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A view of a kiosk of the robot barista "Ella" in Singapore. Designed by Crown Digital, the robot makes coffee autonomously after receiving orders. (REUTERS/Travis Teo)
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Updated 30 May 2022

From baristas to inspectors: Singapore’s robot workforce plugs labor gaps

From baristas to inspectors: Singapore’s robot workforce plugs labor gaps
  • Singapore has 605 robots installed per 10,000 employees in the manufacturing industry

SINGAPORE: After struggling to find staff during the pandemic, businesses in Singapore have increasingly turned to deploying robots to help carry out a range of tasks, from surveying construction sites to scanning library bookshelves.
The city-state relies on foreign workers, but their number fell by 235,700 between December 2019 and September 2021, according to the manpower ministry, which notes how COVID-19 curbs have sped up “the pace of technology adoption and automation” by companies.
At a Singapore construction site, a four-legged robot called “Spot,” built by US company Boston Dynamics, scans sections of mud and gravel to check on work progress, with data fed back to construction company Gammon’s control room.
Gammon’s general manager, Michael O’Connell, said using Spot required only one human employee instead of the two previously needed to do the job manually.
“Replacing the need for manpower on-site with autonomous solutions is gaining real traction,” said O’Connell, who believes industry labor shortages made worse by the pandemic are here to stay.
Meanwhile, Singapore’s National Library has introduced two shelf-reading robots that can scan labels on 100,000 books, or about 30 percent of its collection, per day.
“Staff need not read the call numbers one by one on the shelf, and this reduces the routine and labor-intensive aspects,” said Lee Yee Fuang, assistant director at the National Library Board.
Singapore has 605 robots installed per 10,000 employees in the manufacturing industry, the second-highest number globally, after South Korea’s 932, according to a 2021 report by the International Federation of Robotics.
Robots are also being used for customer-facing tasks, with more than 30 metro stations set to have robots making coffee for commuters.
Keith Tan, chief executive of Crown Digital, which created the barista robot, said it was helping solve the “biggest pain-point” in food and beverage — finding staff — while also creating well-paid positions to help automate the sector.
However, some people trying the service still yearned for human interaction.
“We always want to have some kind of human touch,” said commuter Ashish Kumar, while sipping on a robot-brewed drink. 


Review: Prequel - Photo & Video Editor

Photo/Supplied
Photo/Supplied
Updated 20 June 2022

Review: Prequel - Photo & Video Editor

Photo/Supplied
  • The homepage has all themes organized in folders for your choosing such as horoscope, autumn vibes, summer vibes, fairycore, cinematic and more

Prequel is my favorite photo-editing application because of its cool retro filters that are not available on any social media application.

I had so much fun taking my Instagram photos to the next level with edits that look like a vintage photoshoot.

It also has video effects, and it is available on both the App Store and Google Play.

Some of the most popular effects are VHS, Kidcore, Teal, Dust, Canvas, Grain, and Renaissance.

My personal favorite photo filter is Disco#1 for its vintage lens effect and sparkles.

I attended a concert recently, and used the VHS effect for a video that I took of the band, which added a lot of edge to the video.

The homepage has all themes organized in folders for your choosing such as horoscope, autumn vibes, summer vibes, fairycore, cinematic and more.

Prequel does not just serve vintage aesthetics, it also has modern effects that I personally like; I cartoonized a group photo and sent it to my friends who loved the result.

There are festive filters for occasions such as Christmas, Halloween and Easter.

The application has more than 500 filters and effects with color correction too, giving you the opportunity to customize and adjust the effects to your desire.

You can create 3D moving pictures easily as well.

Import and edit any of your videos with retro designs from the 1920s, 1960s, 1980s, 1090s and early 2000s.

You are allowed to speed up, slow down, trim and crop your videos to your preference.

Prequel also offers fun stickers and fonts for any texts you would like to add to your photos.

If you join Prequel Gold, you will have unlimited full access to all filters and effects, advanced editing tools and retouch toolkits.


China launches three astronauts to space station

China launches three astronauts to space station
Updated 05 June 2022

China launches three astronauts to space station

China launches three astronauts to space station
  • Shenzhou-14 mission commander Chen Dong and his team will work on the space station for 6 months
  • They will be returning to Earth in December with the arrival of the Shenzhou-15 crew

BEIJING: China launched a spacecraft on Sunday carrying three astronauts to the Chinese space station, due to be completed by the end of the year, as construction entered a pivotal stage.
A Long March-2F rocket transporting the Shenzhou-14, or “Divine Vessel” in Chinese, blasted off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 10:44 a.m. (0244 GMT), a live broadcast by state television showed.
Construction of the space station began last year with the launch of the first and largest of its three modules — Tianhe — the living quarters of visiting astronauts. The modules Wentian and Mengtian are to be launched in July and October, respectively, docking with Tianhe to form a T-shaped structure.
Shenzhou-14 mission commander Chen Dong, 43, and team mates Liu Yang, 43, and Cai Xuzhe, 46, all from China’s second cohort of astronauts, will live and work on the space station for six months before returning to Earth in December with the arrival of the Shenzhou-15 crew.
Former air force pilot Chen with Liu, who became China’s first female astronaut in space a decade ago, and space mission debutant Cai, will oversee the rendezvous, docking and integration of Wentian and Mengtian with the core module.
They will also install equipment inside and outside the space station and carry out a range of scientific research.
“The Shenzhou-14 mission is a pivotal battle in the construction stage of China’s space station,” Chen told a news conference in Jiuquan on Saturday. “The task will be tougher, there will be more problems and the challenges will be greater.”
The space station is designed for a lifespan of at least a decade. (Reporting by Ryan Woo; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and William Mallard)


DIDI’s debut graduate exhibition displays innovative MENA minds

DIDI’s debut graduate exhibition displays innovative MENA minds
Updated 01 June 2022

DIDI’s debut graduate exhibition displays innovative MENA minds

DIDI’s debut graduate exhibition displays innovative MENA minds

DUBAI: The Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation (DIDI) launched its first graduate exhibition as its first intake of undergrad students from 2018 head into the world with their bachelor’s of design this summer. From fashion targeting children with tactile sensory disorders to virtual reality goggles that offer stressed users a meditative digital escape, the projects on show are nothing less than impressive.

The institute, which is found in the Dubai Design district in a 100,000-sq-ft facility, was launched in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Parsons School of Design. 

The school’s curriculum was conceived by MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning, offering design-focused courses and others in fashion, multimedia, strategy, management and art. 

Ahead of the class of 2022’s graduation ceremony, the institute’s exhibition is being held in Building 7 at Design District 3 until June 5, showcasing next-level projects by 32 senior students.

The institute’s exhibition is being held in Building 7 at Design District 3. Supplied

“We are immensely proud of the caliber of our students and the thought-provoking works that are on public view,” said Mohammad Abdullah, president of DIDI, adding: “As the first intake of students to join our program and now the first to graduate, we have seen them undertake a remarkable and enlightening journey over the last four years to develop a heightened design and innovation driven mindset.”

Abdullah said: “The demand for bright, courageous, innovative, and empathetic minds has never been stronger, as we head to the fifth industrial revolution and see the working relationship between increasingly smart technologies and humans evolve yet further. Our students represent that future-focused cadre of thinkers, innovators and disruptors who will define the world of tomorrow and make an impact.”

From a fashion collection designed for children with tactile sensory disorders to an application which aims to support early to mid-stage dementia patients with reminiscence therapy using artificial intelligence and augmented reality, there is no shortage of mindblowing creations.

The school’s curriculum was conceived by MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning. Supplied

Jeddah-born design student Abdulaziz Zamil Alzamil, 22, is one of the two Saudi students graduating from DIDI this year. For his senior project, “The Application of Universal Laws Into the Design Process,” he dreamed up his very own methodology to better understand the relationship between universal law and design.

“The universal law is believed to be a set of principles that govern our universe mostly found in ancient books and teachings as well as philosophies. There are many books that portrayed their own principles. During my research, I looked at the different books and picked one in order to translate their principles into a design language that can positively impact design practices,” said Alzamil, who added that his project took nine months to complete.

The student came up with a unique design methodology, which he translated into a set of educational cards to aid him in the creation of two furniture pieces.

The two sets of cards, one for designers working on a completely new project and the second for designers working on an existing project, come enclosed in a black box and ask helpful questions that aim to streamline the design process. Along with the set of cards is a pack of sticky notes to attach to the back of each card after the designer narrows down their answers.

“It’s important for us as designers to refine our thoughts and set our intentions and goals for each project,” said the student. “As creators, whatever we’re going to produce is going to have certain effects on the environment or to the user. So it’s important to ask ourselves what causes or effects we want our product or service to have before we create something.”

Alzamil and his professor plan to publish the methodology and create a business model out of his strategy.

Other standout projects include “MindPlay” designed by Sana Mohamed, which is described as a product-service system for remotely monitoring and treating children diagnosed with ADHD by utilizing Brain-Computer Interface and eye-tracking technology to help the child to self-regulate their abnormal brain activity signals, improving attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity symptoms.

Also showcasing his work is Emirati student Nayef K. Al-Bastaki, who programmed his own virtual world in the metaverse accessible by VR goggles that serves as an idyllic and meditative digital escape for those seeking a sense of calm.

There was also a handful of projects that showed a myriad of perspectives on where fashion could go next. Supplied

In addition to the programs, applications, tools and prototypes trying to address pressing global issues, there was also a handful of projects that showed a myriad of perspectives on where fashion could go next, from a charitable NFT fashion collection to a sustainable clothing brand made from upcycled materials and second-hand garments designed to reduce fast fashion’s environmental impact.

“Label Unknown” by Lebanese student Tamara Samir Naoura hopes to eliminate the labeling imposed on people by allowing the wearer to decide what they want to write on their clothing tag.

“I wanted to create a brand that is inclusive and that everyone can resonate with,” explained the graduate student.

Additionally, all garments are customized to the user’s body rendering standardized sizing obsolete.

“The process began from observing how people feel like they can’t express their identity due to social expectations, and ‘Label Unknown’ aims to encourage people to deviate from that.”

Nouara added: “The outcome was heartwarming, especially seeing people wearing the garments and observing their reactions. The most important thing for me as a designer was to capture people’s confidence through my garments and that will be my main driving point for all the future collections.”

Hani Asfour, the institute’s dean, said: “This graduate exhibition is testimony to the hard work of our students and represents DIDI’s rich DNA for design-driven innovation. All the student projects seamlessly integrate design, technology and strategy, combining visuality with digitization and business methodologies.”

He added: “DIDI is fully aligned with the UAE’s recent educational reforms. We seek to further empower our youth as creative, independent thinkers and makers, and we are proud to be a part of this transformation as we prepare the next generation of changemakers.

“Our vision at DIDI is simple: to prepare students for a world where today’s jobs may not exist in the future.” But if the graduate exhibition is any indication, our future is in good hands.


From baristas to inspectors: Singapore’s robot workforce plugs labor gaps

From baristas to inspectors: Singapore’s robot workforce plugs labor gaps
Updated 30 May 2022

From baristas to inspectors: Singapore’s robot workforce plugs labor gaps

From baristas to inspectors: Singapore’s robot workforce plugs labor gaps

SINGAPORE: After struggling to find staff during the pandemic, businesses in Singapore have increasingly turned to deploying robots to help carry out a range of tasks, from surveying construction sites to scanning library bookshelves.
The city-state relies on foreign workers, but their number fell by 235,700 between December 2019 and September 2021, according to the manpower ministry, which notes how COVID-19 curbs have sped up “the pace of technology adoption and automation” by companies.
At a Singapore construction site, a four-legged robot called “Spot,” built by US company Boston Dynamics, scans sections of mud and gravel to check on work progress, with data fed back to construction company Gammon’s control room.
Gammon’s general manager, Michael O’Connell, said using Spot required only one human employee instead of the two previously needed to do the job manually.
“Replacing the need for manpower on-site with autonomous solutions is gaining real traction,” said O’Connell, who believes industry labor shortages made worse by the pandemic are here to stay.
Meanwhile, Singapore’s National Library has introduced two shelf-reading robots that can scan labels on 100,000 books, or about 30 percent of its collection, per day.
“Staff need not read the call numbers one by one on the shelf, and this reduces the routine and labor-intensive aspects,” said Lee Yee Fuang, assistant director at the National Library Board.
Singapore has 605 robots installed per 10,000 employees in the manufacturing industry, the second-highest number globally, after South Korea’s 932, according to a 2021 report by the International Federation of Robotics.
Robots are also being used for customer-facing tasks, with more than 30 metro stations set to have robots making coffee for commuters.
Keith Tan, chief executive of Crown Digital, which created the barista robot, said it was helping solve the “biggest pain-point” in food and beverage — finding staff — while also creating well-paid positions to help automate the sector.
However, some people trying the service still yearned for human interaction.
“We always want to have some kind of human touch,” said commuter Ashish Kumar, while sipping on a robot-brewed drink. 


NFTs losing luster as cryptocurrencies crash

NFTs losing luster as cryptocurrencies crash
Updated 23 May 2022

NFTs losing luster as cryptocurrencies crash

NFTs losing luster as cryptocurrencies crash
  • Fraud a major reason cited for the downturn, with amounts lost to scams described as "eye-watering"
  • At least 80 percent of NFTs on leading exchanges OpenSea and LooksRare found to be fake

PARIS: A slew of celebrity endorsements helped inflate a multi-billion dollar bubble around digital tokens over the past year, but cryptocurrencies are crashing and some fear NFTs could be next.
NFTs are tokens linked to digital images, “collectable” items, avatars in games or property and objects in the burgeoning virtual world of the metaverse.
The likes of Paris Hilton, Gwyneth Paltrow and Serena Williams have boasted about owning NFTs and many under-30s have been enticed to gamble for the chance of making a quick profit.
But the whole sector is suffering a rout at the moment with all the major cryptocurrencies slumping in value, and the signs for NFTs are mixed at best.
The number of NFTs traded in the first quarter of this year slumped by almost 50 percent compared to the previous quarter, according to analysis firm Non-Fungible.
They reckoned the market was digesting the vast amount of NFTs created last year, with the resale market just getting off the ground.
Monitoring firm CryptoSlam reported a dramatic tail-off in May, with just $31 million spent on art and collectibles in the week to May 15, the lowest figure all year.
A symbol of the struggle is the forlorn attempt to re-sell an NFT of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet.
Dorsey managed to sell the NFT for almost $3 million last year but the new owner cannot find anyone willing to pay more than $20,000.

Molly White, a prominent critic of the crypto sphere, told AFP there were many possible reasons for the downturn.
“It could be a general decrease in hype, it could be fear of scams after so many high-profile ones, or it could be people tightening their belts,” she said.
The reputation of the industry has been hammered for much of the year.
The main exchange, OpenSea, admitted in January that more than 80 percent of the NFTs created with its free tool were fraudulent — many of them copies of other NFTs or famous artworks reproduced without permission.
“There’s a bit of everything on OpenSea,” said Olivier Lerner, co-author of the book “NFT Mine d’Or” (NFT Gold Mine).
“It’s a huge site and it’s not curated, so you really have no idea what you’re buying.”
LooksRare, an NFT exchange that overtook OpenSea for volume of sales this year, got into similar problems as its rival.
As many as 95 percent of the transactions on its platform were found to be fake, according to CryptoSlam.
Users were selling NFTs to themselves because LooksRare was offering tokens with every transaction — no matter what you were buying.
And the amounts lost to scams this year have been eye-watering.
The owners of Axie Infinity, a game played by millions in the Philippines and elsewhere and a key driver of the NFT market, managed to lose more than $500 million in a single swindle.

“As soon as you have a new technology, you immediately have fraudsters circling,” lawyer Eric Barbry told AFP.
He pointed out that the NFT market had no dedicated regulation so law enforcement agencies are left to cobble together a response using existing frameworks.
Molly White said strong regulation could help eliminate the extreme speculation but that could, in turn, rob NFTs of their major appeal — that they can bring quick profits.
“I think less hype would be a good thing — in its current form, NFT trading is enormously risky and probably unwise for the average person,” she said.
NFTs are often likened to the traditional art market because they have no inherent utility and their prices fluctuated wildly depending on trends and hype.
But Olivier Lerner suggested a different comparison.
“It’s like the lottery,” he said of those seeking big profits from NFTs. “You play, but you never win.”