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AI is driving ‘hyperautomation’ and autonomous factory systems

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Many are familiar with the idea of factory automation, but what about ‘hyperautomation’? And, how about the rise of autonomous factories, with systems that make their own decisions about things like quality control and line speed?

Both concepts, driven by artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, are coming soon to manufacturers, and are being closely tracked by many industry watchers. They’re also both expected to revolutionize how factories function.

Hyperautomation is perhaps the first next big thing when it comes to widespread adoption of these advances, according to Gartner, which seems to have coined the term. But the concept is a familiar one to the many IT manufacturing departments tasked today with advancing Industry 4.0 initiatives at their companies. According to Fabrizio Biscotti, a Gartner research vice president, the approach allows organizations to automate as many of their processes as possible with technologies such as robotic process automation, low-code platforms and artificial intelligence.

The technologies are evolving rapidly, and manufacturers that want to remain competitive can no longer put off marrying them for full factory automation. Barring that, these factories will at least need to automate their systems as much as is feasibly possible, he said.

These factory automation initiatives are possible because AI and the machine-learning algorithms that power AI systems are becoming more prevalent and affordable. At the same time, the Internet of Things and its web of sensors allows these factories to connect processes, gather data, and gain important insights into factory performance, said Scot Kim, a senior director analyst in Gartner’s advanced manufacturing and transportation Group.

“Hyperautomation is becoming a thing for manufacturers to increase productivity with optimization,” Kim said. “Supply chain disruptions, labor shortage and macroeconomic turmoil happening may continue throughout 2022 and manufacturers are ready to make aggressive investments to modernize their factories.” 

Like so much about Industry 4.0 initiatives, manufacturers must automate as many technologies and processes as possible or risk being left behind.

“Hyperautomation has shifted from an option to a condition of survival,” Biscotti said. “Organizations will require more IT and business process automation as they are forced to accelerate digital transformation plans in a post-COVID-19, digital-first world.”

Gartner expects the market for the tools that enable hyperautomation, such as robotic process automation, low-code platforms and AI is expected to see double-digit growth through 2022. The firm predicts that by 2024 organizations will lower operational costs by 30% by combining hyperautomation technologies with redesigned operational processes.

Other types of automation software can be used to automate more specific company tasks, such as the supply chain, the enterprise resource planning system and the customer-relationship management system, Biscotti added.

Beyond automation to autonomous

Many manufacturers, even as they look to automate as many systems as possible, are also beginning to think about moving beyond automation and into autonomy.

The two concepts may sound similar but they’re actually quite different. 

Automation is a fixed process that runs on its own, like the popular idea of a factory production line. Sure, an automated vision system may monitor the process to pick out flawed products and sure, a robot may perform certain jobs all along the line. But these systems are actually human-powered: they include a person behind the curtain of their autonomous operation, rather like the Wizard of Oz. The wizards, in the case of automated systems, are humans behind these systems who have programmed them to perform in a limited way, Reynolds said. 

The vision system is programmed to detect very specific flaws and the robot performs the same job in the exact same way, repeatedly.

Autonomous systems, on the other hand, can learn how to perform tasks on their own and even adapt to changes in a process or environment, according to  Jordan Reynolds, global director of data science at the management consulting firm Kalypso.

A number of Industry 4.0 technologies must come together to operate autonomous systems, including the Internet of Things and AI. The IoT is made up of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of sensors connected to operating equipment and continually sending back information about surrounding conditions and about how the equipment is functioning in real time. 

“We now have the ability to enable self-learning, as opposed to explicit programming of these systems, ” Reynolds said. “And they’re able to learn how to create products and maintain levels of quality on their own.”

Automation wouldn’t be possible without the AI and machine-learning technologies, he added, likening factory automation to the concept of autonomous vehicles, which even today are hitting the streets — even if in a small way — in the form of buses and short-haul transportation trucks. The IoT continually monitors things like road conditions and tire pressure and measures the distance between the vehicle and, say,a person on a bicycle crossing the street in front of the car. 

The machine-learning and AI tools allow the car to get smarter over time; to essentially get better at driving based on past experiences, in much the same way a beginning driver advances simply by getting out and driving along the road, Reynolds said. 

The same AI technologies are moving factories from the traditional programmable logic controllers that automate lines to autonomous plants that function on their own, learning as they go and getting better at what they do over time without human intervention. 

With AI and autonomous systems,whether self-driving cars or self-optimizing manufacturing procedures, the goal is to instill these human-like abilities — to observe, infer, decide and act — into the systems that will act autonomously, Reynolds said.  

Autonomous manufacturing systems can bring significant business value. They can  eliminate or repurpose the need for manual effort, which leads to better planning, scheduling and resource allocation decisions, reductions in resource and raw material inputs, faster rates of production, higher levels of quality and yield and greater capital asset efficiency, he added.

“All of this is a natural progression of the automation market,” said Reynolds. “The ability for manufacturing processes to learn and adapt independently is the next logical stage of this development.”

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FIFA 23 lets you turn off commentary pointing out how bad you are

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FIFA 23 lets you turn off commentary pointing out how bad you are
A player shouldering the ball



(Image credit: EA)

FIFA 23 might be the best game soccer game yet for terrible sports fans, as it lets you turn off commentary that criticizes your bad playing.

Now that the early access FIFA 23 release time has passed, EA Play and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers can hop into the game ahead of its full release. But as Eurogamer (opens in new tab) spotted, they’ll find a peculiar option waiting for them.

FIFA 23 includes a toggle to turn off ‘Critical Commentary’. The setting lets you silence all negative in-match comments made about your technique, so you can protect your precious ego even when you miss an open goal or commit an obvious foul. The more positive commentary won’t be affected. 

Spare your feelings

A player dribbling the ball in FIFA 23

(Image credit: EA)

The feature looks tailored toward children and new players, who don’t want to have their confidence wrecked within mere minutes of picking up the controller. But even experienced players who just so happen to be terrible at the game might benefit.

It’s not perfect, though. According to Eurogamer, the feature didn’t seem to work during a FIFA Ultimate Team Division Rivals match, with critical comments slipping through the filter. Still, who hasn’t benefited from a light grilling every now and then?

Polite commentary isn’t the only new addition in FIFA 23. It’s the first game in the series to include women’s club football teams, and fancy overhauled animations that take advantage of the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S’s new-gen hardware. EA will be hoping to end on a high, as FIFA 23 will be the last of its soccer games to release with the official FIFA licence.

If disabling critical commentary doesn’t improve your soccer skills, maybe building a squad of Marvel superheroes will. Although you might not do much better with Ted Lasso wandering the pitch.

FIFA 23 is set to fully release this Friday, September 30.

Callum is TechRadar Gaming’s News Writer. You’ll find him whipping up stories about all the latest happenings in the gaming world, as well as penning the odd feature and review. Before coming to TechRadar, he wrote freelance for various sites, including Clash, The Telegraph, and Gamesindustry.biz, and worked as a Staff Writer at Wargamer. Strategy games and RPGs are his bread and butter, but he’ll eat anything that spins a captivating narrative. He also loves tabletop games, and will happily chew your ear off about TTRPGs and board games. 

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Google Pixel 7 price leak suggests Google is totally out of touch

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Google Pixel 7 price leak suggests Google is totally out of touch
The backs of the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro



(Image credit: Google)

We’re starting to hear more and more Google Pixel 7 leaks, with the launch of the phone just a week away, but tech fans might be getting a lot of déjà vu, with the leaks all listing near-identical specs to what we heard about the Pixel 6 a year ago.

It sounds like the new phones – a successor to the Pixel 6 Pro is also expected – could be very similar to their 2021 predecessors. And a new price leak has suggested that the phones’ costs could be the same too, as a Twitter user spotted the Pixel 7 briefly listed on Amazon (before being promptly taken down, of course).

Google pixel 7 on Amazon US. $599.99.It is still showing up in search cache but the listing gives an error if you click on it. We have the B0 number to keep track of though!#teampixel pic.twitter.com/w5Z09D28YESeptember 27, 2022

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According to these listings, the Pixel 7 will cost $599 while the Pixel 7 Pro will cost $899, both of which are identical to the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro starting prices. The leak doesn’t include any other region prices, but in the UK the current models cost £599 and £849, while in Australia they went for AU$999 and AU$1,299.

So it sounds like Google is planning on retaining the same prices for its new phones as it sold the old ones for, a move which doesn’t make much sense.


Analysis: same price, new world

Google’s choice to keep the same price points is a little curious when you consider that the specs leaks suggest these phones are virtually unchanged from their predecessors. You’re buying year-old tech for the same price as before.

Do bear in mind that the price of tech generally lowers over time, so you can readily pick up a cheaper Pixel 6 or 6 Pro right now, and after the launch of the new ones, the older models will very likely get even cheaper.

But there’s another key factor to consider in the price: $599 might be the same number in 2022 as it was in 2021, but with the changing global climate, like wars and flailing currencies and cost of living crises, it’s a very different amount of money.

Some people just won’t be willing to shell out the amount this year, that they may have been able to last year. But this speaks to a wider issue in consumer tech.

Google isn’t the only tech company to completely neglect the challenging global climate when pricing its gadgets: Samsung is still releasing super-pricey folding phones, and the iPhone 14 is, for some incomprehensible reason, even pricier than the iPhone 13 in some regions. 

Too few brands are actually catering to the tough economic times many are facing right now, with companies increasing the price of their premium offerings to counter rising costs, instead of just designing more affordable alternatives to flagships.

These high and rising prices suggest that companies are totally out of touch with their buyers, and don’t understand the economic hardship troubling many.

We’ll have to reach a breaking point sooner or later, either with brands finally clueing into the fact that they need to release cheaper phones, or with customers voting with their wallets by sticking to second-hand or refurbished devices. But until then, you can buy the best cheap phones to show that cost is important to you.

Tom’s role in the TechRadar team is to specialize in phones and tablets, but he also takes on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working in TechRadar freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. Outside of TechRadar he works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.

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DisplayMate awards the “Best Smartphone Display” title to the iPhone 14 Pro Max

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DisplayMate awards the “Best Smartphone Display” title to the iPhone 14 Pro Max

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