Killer Robots!

July 14, 2015
Where attempts to increase website traffic, poor use of language, and misrepresentations of industry meet.

Consider the famous headline: “Headless Body in Topless Bar”. At least that headline was accurate and, based on all reports I’ve seen, the facts behind the headline were verified before it ran in the New York Post in 1983. Yes, it was a sensational headline and would likely have been a huge clickbait draw if it hit online media today, but it was accurate—unlike this far more recent headline from The Telegraph: “Robot Kills Man at Volkswagen Plant in Germany”.

Adding insult to injury (no pun intended), this headline was followed by equally sensational deck copy that read: “A 22-year-old worker was grabbed by the robot and crushed against a metal plate.”

Sounds like one pissed off robot to me.

Of course, I say that in complete jest knowing that a robot won’t just grab someone and crush them against a metal plate—unless, of course, it’s been programmed to do so or the person unwittingly got in the way of the robot running through its motions. In each case, a person is to blame, not the robot—either the person who did the programming or the person who got in the way and did not follow the prescribed safety steps.

The problem is that most people outside of industry are not that knowledgeable about robots—or industry for that matter. And at a time when many industries are having difficulty finding good workers, this kind of sensationalized report not only harms industry, but misleads the public as well. It’s especially troubling considering that we are currently on the verge of seeing major changes takes place throughout industry due to the rise in use of collaborative robots.

See links at the bottom of this article to recent Automation World coverage of the collaborative robotics trend.

As an Automation World reader, you, too, realize that the industrial robot at the Volkswagen plant did not kill the man. But stories like that can harm your business and short circuit progress. The lesson: Be wary of where you get your information—at times it may be hard to differentiate fact from fiction if you’re not knowledgeable about the subject, but applying a little bit of logic and reason, along with a general wariness of sensationalistic language, can go a long way to avoiding the BS that’s out there.

When it comes to trudging through the, shall we say, less-than-honest reports that are out there, here’s some insight from Vice News on how to read the news like a defense analyst. I won’t say this article will bring your BS-sniffing capabilities to the level of a defense analyst—or that it was written free of its author’s own biases—but it does contain a number of good points that will certainly help you weed through some of the garbage masquerading as valid information these days.

I’ll step off my soapbox for now.

Recent Automation World coverage of collaborative robotics:

About the Author

David Greenfield, editor in chief | Editor in Chief

David Greenfield joined Automation World in June 2011. Bringing a wealth of industry knowledge and media experience to his position, David’s contributions can be found in AW’s print and online editions and custom projects. Earlier in his career, David was Editorial Director of Design News at UBM Electronics, and prior to joining UBM, he was Editorial Director of Control Engineering at Reed Business Information, where he also worked on Manufacturing Business Technology as Publisher. 

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