Button-Pushing Robots Have Taken Our Jobs, Thankfully
Americans insist that the hardware and software in cars and trucks—all of the systems with all of their accompanying buttons—be built to survive a decade on the road.
Sometimes, that requires long hours in the lab, checking components for electromagnetic compatibility. Or it means subjecting parts to extreme vibration and temperatures ranging from -40 to 221 degrees Fahrenheit. And sometimes, it means pushing a button tens of thousands of times.
No one wants that job, which is why there are robots. This one, at Delphi’s facility in China, is repeatedly hitting a button to open a cubby designed for a center console, then closing it again. For tests like these, Delphi will run 10,000 to 50,000 cycles, depending on the component and client demands. Each cycle takes ten seconds (we’ve sped it up, since your time is more important than this robot’s), and a little back-of-the napkin calculation indicates this ‘bot will spend 28 to 139 hours on this task alone.
Other robots get more complicated assignments: In one test, Delphi programs the ‘bot to press buttons on, say, an infotainment system, in rapid, random sequences to ensure the software doesn’t freeze or require a reboot while on the road.
In their 1931 story The Revolt of the Machines, the writing duo of Nat Schachner and A.L. Zagat describe a master machine that stands ready to take over the keyboards in a control center for an entire civilization. It's a totally awesome button-pushing robot.
Through a nerve-system of copper filaments any combination of lights and sounds will actuate the proper arm which will shoot out to the required bank of buttons and press the ones necessary to meet any particular demand.
The chief wheeled to the master machine and pressed a button. Instantly, the hundreds of dangling arms telescoped out, each to a button bank where a moment before a prolat had labored. And, with a weird simulation of life, the ten forked ends of each arm commenced a rattling pressing of the buttons. Rapidly, purposefully, the metallic fingers moved over the key-boards, and on the screens we could see that the machines all over the world were continuing on their even course. Not the slightest change in their working betrayed the fact that they were now being directed by a machine instead of human beings.
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