Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto

Postal Service plants are using driverless robotic vehicles inside to help process mail faster.

The automated guided vehicles, or AGVs, perform repetitious work such as hauling mail back and forth from docks to sorting machines.

“AGVs enhance efficiency by doing stuff robots can do easily, while freeing up humans to do things only humans can do,” said AGV Program Office Manager Steve Wright.

Fitted with navigation technology that incorporates cameras and lasers, AGVs can sense their surroundings and maneuver themselves around a workroom floor, avoiding obstacles and preventing accidents.

The vehicles, which recharge on their own at battery stations, are part of the Postal Service’s broader strategy to innovate and embrace new technology. The organization also operates the world’s largest gantry robotic fleet, using 174 robotics systems to move 314,000 mail trays per day.

USPS currently uses AGVs at 13 processing and distribution centers across the nation, including facilities in Santa Clarita, CA, and Dulles, VA.

The organization plans to have more than 300 AGVs operating in plants by October, just as the holiday rush kicks in.

“There isn’t anything we have to do to our plants in order to deploy AGVs,” said Ed Houston, the Postal Service’s robotics engineering manager. “It’s very easy to put them on the workroom floor with some programming and start using them. We are able to drop them in pretty quickly.”

On the money

Postal Service customers can check the status of their money orders through a new interface on usps.com.

The feature allows customers to see a near-real-time status of money orders they purchase at Post Offices, including if an order has been cashed.

Additionally, customers can use the feature to check the status of a money order inquiry.

“This new functionality is part of the Postal Service’s ongoing efforts to improve fraud prevention and the overall experience for customers,” said Controller and Vice President Cara Greene. “We’re proud to deliver these enhancements for our customers.”

To use the status tool, customers need the money order serial number, the identification number of the Post Office that issued the order and the issued amount, which are all printed on the money order receipt.

To submit a money order inquiry or to report a lost or stolen money order, customers must submit a PS Form 6401, Money Order Inquiry, at a Post Office.

Employees who handle money order transactions and suspect fraud should call the Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455. Employees who suspect they have been given a fake money order can call the money order verification system at 866-459-7822.

Global force

Hip-hop was born in the streets of New York City during the 1970s, but it didn’t stay there.

By the early ’80s, the music, art and dance movement — which the Postal Service will honor with new stamps this week — was gaining widespread popularity.

In 1984, MTV showed its first rap video: Run-D.M.C.’s “Rock Box.”

Two years later, Coca-Cola became the first national brand to use hip-hop in advertising when rapper Kurtis Blow appeared in a Sprite commercial.

By the end of the decade, the Grammys had introduced a best rap performance category. The first honorees: DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince for “Parents Just Don’t Understand.”

As hip-hop moved from the streets to the recording studio and onto radio and TV airwaves, the genre evolved.

Powerful critiques of issues like racism, poverty and police brutality found new audiences far beyond urban communities. Over time, however, the most radio-friendly songs and artists focused fewer of their lyrics on society’s ills, relegating political voices to the hip-hop underground.

Music production changed as well.

DJs’ live performance style evolved into recorded techniques such as sampling, which became a collage-like art of manipulating and rearranging prerecorded sounds.

During the next several decades, hip-hop grew into a global musical and cultural force, producing icons like LL Cool J, who became the first hip-hop artist to receive the Kennedy Center Honors, in 2017.

Socially conscious community leaders and artists now dedicate their energy to educating and preserving the four elements of hip-hop — DJing, rapping, break dancing and graffiti art. Understanding the movement’s roots has become a defining part of the culture itself, so much so that this knowledge is now widely regarded as hip-hop’s fifth component.

Hip-hop has also influenced countless other genres of music, including rhythm and blues, pop, jazz and country.

Its growth and impact have not been without controversy, but its creativity remains powerful.

Hip-hop has forever changed the way worldwide popular music is made — and what it sounds like.

This is the second of two articles on the history of hip-hop. A look at the movement’s early days was published yesterday.

Mobile device security

Postal Service-issued mobile device users must complete a mandatory CyberSafe at USPS training course by July 30.

The ISEC Mobile Device Security course provides employees and contractors with policy information, best practices and other tools to securely use their postal mobile devices.

The training course is available now through HERO, the Postal Service’s online learning platform.

Employees and contractors who don’t complete the course by the July 30 deadline will have their ACE system access restricted until it’s completed.

For more information, go to the CyberSafe at USPS Blue training page or email CyberSafeComms@usps.gov.