If you consider where we were in the year 2000 and where we are today, our younger selves would be pleasantly surprised and perhaps somewhat terrified. Who would’ve thought robots would be building robots or advanced robotics systems operating entire production lines in the automotive sector, among others?
Robots have helped mankind for some time and will play an even bigger role in the future. Some industries will benefit greater from advanced robotics, including medical, agriculture, homecare, space exploration and firefighting among others.
Developments In Advanced Robotics
As more and more companies are investing in and implementing advanced robots, could they really take over the world? Probably not the way Hollywood scripts are written but sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few interesting developments in advanced robotics over the years.
The Surena IV
Source: IEEE Spectrum / YouTube
A great example of how far we’ve come is Surena, a rudimentary humanoid robot developed a little over 10 years ago. Subsequent improvements have led to Surena II, which could walk, followed by an even more capable robot in 2015 to the latest adult-sized, nimbler Surena IV.
It has face and object detection capabilities as well as speech recognition and generation. This means Surena IV can mimic a person’s pose, grasp a water bottle and write its name on a whiteboard. Other improvements include custom-made sensors underneath its feet to help the robot step over uneven surfaces. It can also walk at a speed of 0.43 mph or 0.7 km/h.
Sony Aibo Robotic Dogs
If world domination is your main concern, then you’ve got nothing to fear from these little robot dogs. Sony’s Aibo robotic dog is a hybrid between a pet and a toy. It made its first appearance in 2018 and have already come a long way since. Thanks to artificial intelligence, the Aibo is much smarter and can recognise its owner.
Impressed yet? Well, there’s more as it can even adapt to an owner’s behaviour over time. The end goal is to make the robot dog behave exactly as a real dog would but without the fur and potty training (we hope). Their AI algorithms that determine the dogs’ intelligence are stored in the cloud and that means all active Aibo’s can learn collectively which is not scary at all!
The CB2 Child-Robot
In 2007, the CB2 Child-robot made its way onto the scene and was an impressive feat of engineering at the time. This robot could mimic the physical and mental capabilities of a 2-year-old child, complete with tactile sensors under the skin and a camera behind its eyes.
They say it can slowly develop social skills by interacting with humans and watching their facial expressions. You can see its shoulders rise and fall with rhythmic breathing while black eyes follow movements across the room. It may not be human but it is certainly paying attention.
Exploring Space With The Vyommitra Robonaut
Source: The Print/Youtube
Several countries around the world are working on advanced robotics for space exploration and this time we go to India. The ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) unveiled a female robot that can talk and perform tasks of a human astronaut. It makes perfect sense to build these types of robots as they can handle harsher environments and be used for a wider variety of missions.
Soon, aerospace robots may very well be used to study potentially habitable planets and even establish outposts before any humans arrive. For the moment, Vyommitra doesn’t have legs as it will only carry out certain experiments while remaining in touch with the ISRO command centre.
Vyommitra is scheduled to conduct microgravity experiments to help prepare for future crewed missions. It’s not the only space-bound robot as NASA has built the Robonaut 2 and Valkyrie which could eventually be used on Mars or Moon colonies.
Boston Dynamic’s Robot Dog
If you had to fear any robot chasing you down, this one is certainly high up on the list. Unlike Sony’s Aibo, SPOT is not a toy but rather a sophisticated, versatile robot capable of providing various tasks across many sectors.
SPOT can easily traverse rough terrain while being small enough to also operate indoors. It has a 360-degree vision and obstacle avoidance with the ability to learn actions or use pre-planned routes to perform autonomous missions.
Another benefit is that it can carry various payloads which means it can be used in various applications:
- Carry equipment or supplies on construction sites
- Perform a supportive role to military personnel (or maybe even carry a mounted weapon)
- Perform safety inspections on oil and gas facilities
- Check mining routes before humans enter
- Deliver critical supplies to medical professionals or in disaster zones
Recommended: ‘Boston Dynamics Crosses New Threshold With Door-Opening Dog’
Sophia – The Celebrity Robot
Sophia is one of the most expressive robots ever created and has already achieved so much. Some say Sophia may be the face of robots and it’s no surprise she is regarded as a celebrity in the world of advanced robotics.
It was built to mimic human behaviours and inspire feelings of love and compassion in people. Sophia can express real emotions using her human-like face as can be seen in interviews. Sophia has appeared on the cover of Elle magazine, made several global television appearances, and even became an official Saudi Arabian citizen.
The United Nations Development Programme named Sophia as the first-ever Innovation champion; the first non-human to receive a UN title.
As impressive as Sophia is, she is not self-aware. Like others in this article, Sophia is driven by narrow artificial intelligence which means she still needs a person to programme her actions, movements and responses.
Artificial Eye For Advanced Robotics
Earlier in 2020, scientists developed an artificial eye that could provide vision for humanoids. Better yet, it can also function as a bionic eye for visually impaired people in the future. The artificial eye mimics the human iris and retina by focusing light onto a dense array of light-sensitive nanowires. Information is processed via these wires to a computer processor which acts like the brain’s visual cortex.
Currently, the proof-of-concept device only has a low resolution where each of the 100 nanowires accounts for one pixel. However, according to the researchers, further development could have fascinating results allowing the artificial eye to have better resolution than human eyes.
Final Thoughts On Advanced Robotics And Artificial Intelligence
Whatever your view may be on advanced robotics, this field of research is among the most advanced and exciting. Indeed, there are still many areas to iron out, in particular the fear of unemployment, and AI ethics but the benefits are astounding.
Perhaps our fears are misplaced as it’s not necessarily the robots that can cause harm but rather the humans designing and controlling it. Therein lies the ethical debate around AI which is a whole new topic for discussion. Until then, have a look at this interesting article from Science Direct.
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