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Car Factories Turn Robots And Humans Into Co-Workers

Robots are working alongside humans on car production lines, taking what Technology Review calls "a huge step toward revolutionizing the role of robots" at car factories. Previously, robots had been seen as being too unsafe to place them shoulder-to-arm-joint with humans on the assembly line.

It's nothing new to put robots on the assembly line, as the tech website notes. As far back as the 1960s, the huge Unimate arm was put to work in a GM car factory. But new systems in two factories are seen as being safe and reliable enough to work next to humans, without guards or other barriers between them.

The robot arms are made by Denmark's Universal Robots. In Germany, the company's robots are working next to humans, helping to produce engines for Volkswagens at a facility in Salzgitter.

Universal Robots says that the "robotic arm is able to collaborate directly with people without any guards. It thus contributes significantly towards optimizing healthy working processes."

In the United States, BMW's factory in Spartanburg, S.C., employs more than 7,000 people, according to the carmaker, making an average of about 1,000 vehicles each day. It also employs Universal Robots to help make car doors.

BMW says the plan isn't to replace people on the assembly line, but instead to help them work at an older age.

"Our workers are getting older," BMW's head of innovation, Stefan Bartscher, tells Technology Review. "The retirement age in Germany just rose from 65 to 67, and I'm pretty sure when I retire it'll be 72 or something. We actually need something to compensate and keep our workforce healthy, and keep them in labor for a long time. We want to get the robots to support the humans."

Technology Review says that "BMW is testing even more sophisticated final assembly robots that are mobile and capable of collaborating directly with human colleagues."

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NPR

At 81, Disney's First African-American Animator Is Still In The Studio

First hired in the 1950s, Floyd Norman is still drawing. "Creative people don't hang it up," he says. "We don't walk away, we don't want to sit in a lawn chair. ... We want to continue to work. "
NPR

America's Real Mountain Of Cheese Is On Our Plates

To help dairy farmers hurt by a glut, the USDA said this week it'll buy $20 million worth of cheese and give it to food banks. But we eat so much of the stuff, that's hardly a drop in the bucket.
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Friday News Roundup - International

Italy searches for survivors after a devastating earthquake. Turkey escalates its role in the fight against ISIS. And Colombia and the FARC rebels sign a peace treaty ending a half-century-long guerrilla war. A panel of journalists joins guest host Derek McGinty for analysis of the week's top international news stories.

NPR

WhatsApp Will Start Sharing Data, Including Phone Numbers, With Facebook

It will also test new ways for businesses to communicate with users on the app. The privacy policy changes mark the long-expected move by Facebook to begin making money from the free app.

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