In the morning we made the trek by streetcar back to the University of Augsburg for a lecture on contemporary German politics. It was entitled, “The Age of Uncertainty,” because Germany is in uncharted waters regarding its near and long-term futures. Personally, I avidly try to avoid talking about politics at all costs because I like to avoid conflict. However, learning about current trends in Bavarian politics was very unlike the banal, frenetic arguments about American politics, mainly because I was learning about it for the first time. The big recent development is the growth of the Alternative for Germany (AFD) party which is a right-wing populist party. They are threatening to take away votes from the majority Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Bavaria. It was very similar to the recent 2016 elections in the United States. It got me thinking of whether the world is generally trending towards this populist view.
After the talk, we had two and a half hours to eat and to work on our final presentations. We came up with questions for our company visit to Horauf and Kohler tomorrow. Then we wandered over to mensa (and were able to find it without any trouble this time). I noticed a strange bread loaf thing in a white sauce and decided against getting it. After getting to the table, I noticed that one of the members of my group was more adventurous than I and had got it. When she tried it, her face lit up and she told us all we needed to try it. I took a small bite and it tasted exactly like a Boston Crème donut. I was really wishing that I had stepped out of my comfort zone and tried the strange-looking dessert.
Later, we went to Kuka, an industrial robot manufacturing company. To be completely honest, the tour was slightly below the level of the others on our trip so far, but it was still very interesting. For the first part of the tour, our guide led us into a darkened hallway and there were two Kuka robots moving around blocks. There was a projector shining cool orange patterns on the blocks, but I couldn’t help feeling that the demonstration was a little bit “all flash and no substance.” You could barely even see the Kuka arms. For the next demonstration, we watched a movie on a tablet held by a robot arm, which once again seemed overkill and kind of showy. There was a funny part though,. just after moving on from it, a few people touched the robot arm (I never heard the guide say not to) and alarmingly, all the lights suddenly turned on and illuminated the dark room. The tour guide jokingly yelled at us and tried to reset the room to darkness, but couldn’t.
Next on our agenda was the factory tour and we were able to see the assembly line of the arms being made. The paths were very narrow and often the people at the back of the group couldn’t see what the guide was talking about until the group started moving again and they passed where the guide was. Nevertheless, there was some seriously awesome parts of the tour. One thing was the autonomous forklifts. They would come and pick up the finished arms, with no driver, and carry it to the testing room. It reminded me of the “droid-like” robots that we saw at Continental. Besides being autonomous, there was something else that blew my mind about the forklifts: the wheels. The wheels had “omnibus” function, meaning that they can move laterally as well as in the tradition direction. This means that the forklift can move directly sideways to more easily fit into tight spaces. It was so amazing to watch.
After the tour, we were given a presentation that was chock full of good information and also some silly videos. One especially cheesy video was about a Kuka robot playing a World Champion in table tennis. The idea of the commercial was great but the production (ie. the camera angles, the plot, the special effects) made it almost laughable. It was still really interesting that the robot has the speed and dexterity to play ping pong, even if it’s not quite a reality yet.
After getting back to the U of A, we went to a place called Döners and we had quite the experience at the restaurant. First, when Liam sat down in his chair, it broke under him and was very funny for all the rest of us. After we had all finished laughing, Arman decided to go to the restroom. However, instead of pulling the light switch chain, he accidentally pulled the emergency chain and alarms began to go off in the restaurant. The waiters and cooks must have thought we were all crazy people, but it ended up being a great story.