The Robots Are Not Taking over Libraries

December 14, 2016

I once watched a Japanese anime that featured a robot working in a library.  The robot shelved, straightened, and maintained order of the books by running on a track that circumnavigated all the shelves in the building.  The anime took place in a near-future Japan, when all paper documents were rendered obsolete.  While we are a long way off from having robots in public libraries (budget constraints and cuts), there is a common belief that libraries are obsolete as well.

Libraries are the furthest thing from being obsolete, but robots have apparently gained enough artificial intelligence to find lost books, however.  Popsci shares the story in “Robo Librarian Tracks Down Misplaced Book.”  It explains a situation that librarians hate to deal with: people misplacing books on shelves instead of letting the experts put them back.  Libraries rely on books being in precise order and if they are in the wrong place, they are as good as lost.  Fancy libraries, like a research library at the University of Chicago, have automated the process, but it is too expensive and unrealistic to deploy.  There is another option:

A*STAR roboticists have created an autonomous shelf-scanning robot called AuRoSS that can tell which books are missing or out of place. Many libraries have already begun putting RFID tags on books, but these typically must be scanned with hand-held devices. AuRoSS uses a robotic arm and RFID scanner to catalogue book locations, and uses laser-guided navigation to wheel around unfamiliar bookshelves. AuRoSS can be programmed to scan the library shelves at night and instruct librarians how to get the books back in order when they arrive in the morning.

Manual labor is still needed to put the books in order after the robot does its work at night.   But what happens when someone needs help with research, finding an obscure citation, evaluating information, and even using the Internet correctly?  Yes, librarians are still needed.  Who else is going to interpret data, guide research, guard humanity’s knowledge?

Whitney Grace, December 14, 2016

Neural-Net AI Service Echobox Manages Newspaper Presences on Social Media

November 18, 2016

An article at Bloomberg Technology, titled “It Took Robots for This French Newspaper to Conquer Twitter,” introduces Echobox, a startup that uses a neural-network approach to managing clients’ social media presences. The newspaper mentioned in the title is the esteemed Liberation, but Echobox also counts among its clients the French Le Monde, Argentinia’s La Nacion, and The Straits Times out of Singapore, among many others. Apparently, the site charges by the page view, though more pricing details are not provided. Writer Jeremy Kahn reports that Echobox:

… Determines the most opportune time to post a particular story to drive readership, can recommend what headline or tweet to send out, and can select the best photograph to illustrate the post. Using the software to post an average of 27 articles per day, Grainger [Liberation’s CTO] said that Liberation had seen a 37 percent increase in the number of people it reached on Facebook and a 42 percent boost in its reach on Twitter. ‘We have way more articles being seen by 100,000 people or more than before,’ Grangier said. He also said it made life easier for his digital editors, allowing them to spend more time curating the stories they wanted to publish to social media and less on the logistics of actually posting that content.

So, it seems like the service is working. Echobox’s CTO Marc Fletcher described his company’s goal—to create a system that could look at content from an editor’s point of view. The company tailors their approach to each customer, of course. There are competitors in the social-media-management space, like SocialFlow and Buffer, but Kahn says Echobox goes further. He writes:

Echobox professes to offer a fuller range of automation than those services, with its software able to alter a posting schedule to adjust to breaking news, posting content related to that event, and delaying publication of less relevant stories. Echobox uses a neural network, a type of machine learning that is designed to mimic the way parts of the human brain works. This system first learns the audience composition and reading habits for each publication and then makes predictions about the best way to optimize a particular story for social media. Over time, the predictions should get more accurate as it ‘learns’ the nuances of the brand’s audience.

This gives us one more example of how AI capabilities are being put to practical use. Founded in 2013, Echobox  is based in London and maintains an office in New York City. The company also happens to be hiring as I write this.

Cynthia Murrell, November 18, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Another Robot Finds a Library Home

August 23, 2016

Job automation has its benefits and downsides.  Some of the benefits are that it frees workers up to take on other tasks, cost-effectiveness, efficiency, and quicker turn around.  The downside is that it could take jobs and could take out the human factor in customer service.   When it comes to libraries, automation and books/research appear to be the antithesis of each other.  Automation, better known as robots, is invading libraries once again and people are up in arms that librarians are going to be replaced.

ArchImag.com shares the story “Robot Librarians Invade Libraries In Singapore” about how the A*Star Research library uses a robot to shelf read.  If you are unfamiliar with library lingo, shelf reading means scanning the shelves to make sure all the books are in their proper order.  The shelf reading robot has been dubbed AuRoSS.  During the night AuRoSS scans books’ RFID tags, then generates a report about misplaced items.  Humans are still needed to put materials back in order.

The fear, however, is that robots can fulfill the same role as a librarian.  Attach a few robotic arms to AuRoSS and it could place the books in the proper places by itself.  There already is a robot named Hugh answering reference questions:

New technologies thus seem to storm the libraries. Recall that one of the first librarian robots, Hugh could officially take his position at the university library in Aberystwyth, Wales, at the beginning of September 2016. Designed to meet the oral requests by students, he can tell them where the desired book is stored or show them on any shelf are the books on the topic that interests them.

It is going to happen.  Robots are going to take over the tasks of some current jobs.  Professional research and public libraries, however, will still need someone to teach people the proper way to use materials and find resources.  It is not as easy as one would think.

Whitney Grace, August 23, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

The Automated Library Robot

August 11, 2016

Libraries have evolved from centers that allow people to borrow books and conduct research to a one-stop shop for Internet usage.  People love to say that libraries are useless and only archive outmoded knowledge, but they still provide useful services for people and cannot be easily replicated with a machine.  Science Daily shares that “High-Tech Librarian Knows Its Books” and relates how robotics are entering libraries.

No, an automated machine is not replacing librarians, but one of the biggest problems that libraries face are disorderly books. It is the bane of libraries everywhere and it makes librarians want to weep when a clean, orderly shelf is messed up within minutes by a lackadaisical hands.  It takes a lot of hours and staff to keep shelves in order, time that could be better spent doing something else:

“At A*STAR’s Institute for Infocomm Research, researchers Renjun Li, Zhiyong Huang, Ernest Kurniawan, and Chin Keong Ho are designing robots that can relieve librarians of many menial tasks, while enhancing searching and sorting of books. Their latest project is an autonomous robotic shelf scanning (AuRoSS) platform that can self-navigate through libraries at night, scanning RFID tags to produce reports on missing and out-of-sequence books.”

Taking away this task will save some time and even locate missing materials with (perhaps) more accuracy than a human.  Robots will not be destroying this sacred institution of knowledge, only improving it.  Budget crunches are a bigger problem for libraries than being replaced by robots.

 

Whitney Grace, August 11, 2016
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden /Dark Web meet up on August 23, 2016.
Information is at this link: https://www.meetup.com/Louisville-Hidden-Dark-Web-Meetup/events/233019199/

 

Gartner VP Claims Researching “Ethical Programming” Necessary for Future of Smart Machines

April 17, 2015

The article on TweakTown titled Gartner: Smart Machines Must Include Ethical Programming Protocols briefly delves into the necessity of developing ethical programming in order to avoid some sort of Terminator/ I,Robot situation that culminates in the rise of the machines and the end of humanity. Gartner is one of the world’s leading technology research and advisory companies, but it hardly sounds like the company stance. The article quotes Frank Buytendijk, a Gartner research VP,

“Clearly, people must trust smart machines if they are to accept and use them…The ability to earn trust must be part of any plan to implement artificial intelligence (AI) or smart machines, and will be an important selling point when marketing this technology.”

If you’re thinking, sounds like another mid-tier consultant is divining the future, you aren’t wrong. Researching ethical programming for the hypothetical self-aware machines that haven’t been built yet might just be someone’s idea of a good time. The article concludes with the statement that “experts are split on the topic, arguing whether or not humans truly have something to worry about.” While the experts figure out how we humans will cause the end of the human reign over earth, some of us are just waiting for the end of another in a line of increasingly violent winters.

Chelsea Kerwin, April 17, 2014

Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at www.xenky.com

Robot Writers Flood the Web

October 10, 2014

If you are reading this, it is likely that you look to the Internet for bit of news that inform your opinion on trends, technology, news stories, and the like. And most would assume that those stories and articles are crafted by humans who have an interest and experience in the field, just as this one is. But alas, we would all be wrong to believe that assumption. Robot writers are a growing proportion of the field. Read the details in the Contently article, “Does Your Brand Newsroom Need a Robot Writer?

The article begins:

“If you’ve spent any time reading on the web the past week, odds are you’ve read something written by a robot—and you didn’t even realize it. Robot writers are algorithms that collect and analyze data and then turn them into readable narratives. Many news sites like the Los Angeles Times and Forbes are already using them. Even Wikipedia has articles that weren’t written by humans.”

It is not surprising that automation has invaded the world of writing, but the jury is still out as to whether the quality is acceptable. But this also poses a question about cultural expectations regarding the quality of writing, particularly on Web outlets. See if you can spot the difference between articles crafted by human experts versus those written by a robot.

Emily Rae Aldridge, October 10, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext