No Experience Necessary

Jan. 7, 2014
Somewhere on the planet, there’s an engineer who’s building something that’s going to make someone else’s job easier. Every minute, new and innovative technologies are being developed that make humans increasingly obsolete, and this is particularly true with tasks that involve a great deal of physical skill.

My favorite example of this trend is seen in the 1980 film Caddyshack. The seemingly untalented, but very wealthy, Al Cvervik played by Rodney Dangerfield uses a robotic putter to sink the shot. He says the high-tech putter was given to him by Albert Einstein. “Nice man, nice man … made a fortune in physics.”

As costs of sensors and software drop, more unskilled and less-wealthy people can take the field. For instance, a marksman needs to consider a list of conditions to successfully hit a target. This includes gauging the wind, adjusting the scope, aiming correctly at the target, and then finally, pulling the trigger. Now, any unexperienced shooter using the TrackingPoint smart rifle can get the same result.

The gun is equipped with highly advanced sensors and a computer chip that lets even the most-inexperienced marksmen deliver a kill shot from up to a mile and a half away. The shooter simply shoulders the gun, looks through the scope, lines up the crosshairs on the target, and presses a button to lock in the target. Once locked, the computer completes its calculations. When the crosshairs turn from blue to red the only task left to do is pull the trigger.

The rifle scope is an extremely high-tech camera with powerful magnification capabilities. The rifle also includes range finders which automatically measure distance and other sensors that measure environmental conditions such as barometric pressure and temperature. The gun even considers the type of ammunition being used. No more steadying your hand, controlling your breathing, or measuring the wind. Just point and shoot.

Another technology that reduces a complicated task to the level of a nudnik is Raytheon’s Advanced Warfighter Awareness for Real-time Engagement (AWARE) system. Imagine being in an unfamiliar place and having someone say, “Tell me where you are.” You’d look for street signs, businesses, house numbers; you might even pull out your smartphone and give them your exact location. With AWARE, that isn’t necessary, at least not for the military for which the technology was strictly developed.

With AWARE, a soldier simply puts on a helmet equipped with a monocle, looks at the target/location they are trying to mark, and hits a button. The computer then calculates the exact coordinates and relays them to a pilot in the air or a command center for further use.

From robotics and software, to finance and meteorology, the range of fields implementing smart systems is rapidly expanding. While some people stand by the fact that this type of technology can’t replace humans entirely, let’s be honest. Whatever we can do, a computer or robot can probably do better.

About the Author

Lindsey Frick | Associate Editor

Lindsey has been an Associate Editor for Machine Design since 2012. She holds a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Cleveland State University. Prior to joining Penton, she worked in product design, packaging, development and strategy, and manufacturing. She covers the materials market and other areas of interest for design engineers such as 3D printing and methods to operate efficiently.

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