Robots and Politics (May 14)

We had another easy start this morning, leaving the hotel at about 9:00 to go to the university. Once we were there, we gathered for a lecture about German politics (specifically Bavarian politics) given to us by one of the professors at the university. I was surprised at how much he knew about American politics, which he constantly referred to. He knew a lot more about my country’s political system than I did. He also mentioned the new right-wing party that poses a threat to the current majority party in Bavaria. I sure hope the right-wing nationalists don’t get too out of hand.

After the talk, I worked for about 30 minutes on the presentation and 30 minutes on my blog with Kayla and Liam (Anna went back to the hotel to get her laptop). Pretty much all of the Pitt students gathered for lunch at the Mensa, and then we left at 1:30 for KUKA. We were able to get there via tram because the company headquarters are right here in Augsburg.

Group Photo at KUKA

The showroom was really exciting, filled with cool gimmicks, such as a light show, that showcased different robots that they manufacture. Included in this display was an opportunity to take a group picture next to one of the smaller robots. The factory tour was extremely cool. They had a fully-automated forklift that could deliver completed robots to the testing facility. Also, as expected, some parts of their robots got assembled by other KUKA robots. I was surprised, however, at the abundance of human workers in the factory. I guess it makes sense since these robots are very complex, and it requires a lot of skill to put one together. Still, I would think that a robot manufacturer would have a mostly-automated production facility. One of the highlights of the information session was the IIWA robot, the newest addition to the KUKA family. The presenters explained how the robot has seven points of rotation and therefore functions much like a human arm (which also has seven points of rotation). KUKA hopes that the IIWA robot can be used in the medical field since it is advanced enough to be safe around humans. It detects when something is blocking its path and stops moving to avoid harming the person operating it.

After returning to the Königsplatz, a lot of us went to the döner place again for dinner. Liam’s chair broke underneath him as soon as he sat down, to which he promptly said, “Wow. I didn’t think I had gained THAT much weight.” I got caught up on my devotional for a while after dinner, and a lot of us went over to Pool City at 10. We had enough people for two tables, and we played until about midnight.

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