Since the term robot was first coined in the 1920s, robots have become an increasing part of our lives. Companies seeking to automate and enable more and more parts of their business that require physical human labor are currently looking for robots to help or completely replace humans with many activities. In addition, robotics companies are also building robots for the consumer market. With robots increasingly used in both professional and personal environments, where we are in the current state of robotics and where the robotics industry is going?
Many forward-looking companies use robotics
More and more companies are turning to robotics to help with many human-centered activities. These robots are either there to augment their human counterparts or completely replace them in certain tasks. Physical robots are highly desired in many areas, particularly for performing tasks often referred to as the four “D’s”: dirty, dangerous, expensive (or expensive) and boring (or humiliating). These robots operate every day in production, in the warehouse, in health care and in other situations to carry out the activities that would otherwise be performed by humans with not always positive results.
Stanley Black & Decker is known for its innovative building and construction tools, but you may not be aware that the company also has a future-oriented innovation lab that focuses on other areas of development. The company has mainly been known for things like knives, drill bits, tape measures and other hardware and tools. However, in recent years, the company’s focus has been on how to use artificial intelligence to improve its software, the types of products they are developing for their customers and how to make these things work smarter and more efficiently. .
For Stanley Black & Decker, artificial intelligence, robots and other development technologies are increasingly being used and incorporated into various company design, manufacturing and related functions. Just like with other industries, the company is discovering that these robots are not replacing jobs, but are helping workers to use their time wisely. By having robots that do part of the child labor, human workers are freed to perform higher level tasks and add value to the products they are creating.
For forward-looking organizations such as Stanley Black & Decker, the use of robotics can be seen as a strategic advantage. By identifying the opportunities in which robotics can be applied, operational efficiencies, benefits and ROI will be achieved. The robots will help reduce costs, improve safety and improve overall operations. Embracing robotics and disruptive technologies will help improve and improve production, as well as move the way the company designs and validates. From Stanley Black & Decker’s perspective, at least, robotics is the centerpiece of their long-term strategy and we will see more robotics in our daily lives.
Robots go underwater
While many focus on above-ground robots, some companies, organizations and non-profit organizations are taking robots overboard. Robots in Service of the Environment (RSE) is developing robots capable of operating in water to safely capture invasive species. By bringing systems of augmented intelligence and robotics to difficult environments, such as submarines, we can achieve skills that would otherwise be too dangerous for humans.
In one particular application, RSE is focused on the challenge of invasive Lionfish. Lionfish is known to be a very invasive fish that quickly eats young reef fish and has no natural predators in waters where they are not indignant. Although divers could easily kill these invasive fish with guns less than 100 feet deep, RSE wanted to see if the robotics solutions that could operate underwater would be a better solution. Creating scalable and affordable robots is a key driver for RSE. The company has already had some iterations of its underwater robots, repeating and improving with each new robot. Right now, the process of catching the lionfish is very human-centered, with humans above the water controlling and operating the robot. However, the plan provides that future versions will self-identify the lion fish to limit the need for human interaction.
RSE’s mission is to apply robotic technology to solve large-scale environmental challenges and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers through these efforts. While the underwater robot is their first robot being implemented, RSE also focuses on developing robots to solve today’s environmental problems and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. For them, the future looks promising and by involving people in this process and increasing awareness of environmental issues, they hope to inspire the next generation. From RSE’s point of view, we will see robotics increasingly applied to the most difficult environments and providing more value where humans are unable or equipped to go. If we can put rovers on Mars, then we can put robots to work under the sea.
Entering the golden age of robotics
In recent decades, robots and autonomous machines have made their way into our homes. Rosie’s idea of the Jetsons TV show, a robot that can speak, cook, clean and interact with humans has not yet been realized. However, robots and autonomous machines that can perform certain narrow tasks are a reality. We now have vacuums that can move autonomously through the rooms, lawnmowers that can move automatically in the courtyard and cut the grass, cars that are getting closer and closer to fully autonomous driving and other machines that can perform certain functions.
Colin Angle, President, CEO and Founder of iRobot believes that we are on the cusp of the golden age of robotics. To enter this golden age and move on to automation passed to truly intelligent robots and machines, three steps must be achieved. First, robots need to become more responsive. Instead of programming robots to simply perform an activity, robots must actually understand their environment and respond accordingly. Second, robots need to be more collaborative. To achieve this we need to broaden the awareness and understanding of the robot beyond its immediate environment. He must also collaborate with people and other robots. While we already have collaborative robots, the vast majority of robots would not be considered to fall into this category. Third, is that in order to have truly intelligent robots, they must act as part of a larger system. For example, when robots are able to understand their surroundings and the environment, they can interact and operate with other robots and devices in the home to create a true ecosystem rather than a group of disparate systems.
While many companies are increasing the construction and adoption of robotics in various parts of their workflows, and consumers have welcomed robots into their homes to help with various chores and activities, the need for intelligent robots continues. Creating robots can be a very expensive undertaking, and unfortunately some robotics companies have not been able to stay in business. However, there is still a lot of innovation to be done and the robotics industry will not go away soon. Many companies and nonprofits are experiencing increasing value by bringing robots into their various operations. As ROI continues to be shown, companies will continue to invest in robots. At some point, hopefully in the near future, smart robots will become mainstream and a real robotic revolution will emerge.