AI News, The Computer Revolution/Artificial Intelligence/Robotics
The Computer Revolution/Artificial Intelligence/Robotics
Robotics is the science or technology of designing, building and using robots.
Robots are commonly used by the military and businesses to complete tasks that are dangerous for people, such as defusing bombs, exploring shipwrecks, and mines.
NASA researchers have developed a way to make a crew of robots work together to grasp, lift, and more heavy loads across rough, varied terrain.
The Defence Advance Research Project Agency, which was known to be the agency which created the ARPANET which is the precursor to the internet that we enjoy today, creates and manages projects that cover a wide variety of aspects usually within the military industry.
Recently, in a partnership with a company called Boston Dynamics, they have created a four legged robot that is able to sprint up to speeds of 28.3 miles per hour on a treadmill in their laboratory.
This can provide users with the ability to carry loads of up to 200 pounds for longer periods of time and over all types of terrain.
It can operate on battery power for an extended amount of time and features a power-saving design, which means if the power is low it will continue to support the carrier and their loads.
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/05/combat-exoskeleton-fghanistan/ http://www.lockheedmartin.com/products/hulc/ Google’s new project is working on cars that use artificial intelligence to drive themselves without the need of any human intervention.
These vehicles can sense anything near the vehicle, they mimic the decision a driver makes, and they are programmed with road maps and speed limit information.
Also, if the cars do not require a driver, they could be summoned to different locations only when needed and allow for people to share vehicles, reducing the amount of vehicles on the road and the need for parking spaces.
The vehicles performed as expected and the only accident was when one of the AI cars was rear ended by a human driven vehicle while waiting at a stop light.
483).” Toy companies design robotic toys for children, and others are designed to help individuals with house work, such as vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers.
“Household robots that can assist individuals with more complex tasks, such as putting away the dishes or picking up toys before vacuuming the living room, are a little further in the future, when robot technology improves to allow for better navigation and improved physical manipulation , and as prices come down (P.
Water-based robots can perform underwater surveillance.Right now the military robots are controlled by the soldiers but researchers are currently working on autonomous robots that will be able to navigate by themselves.
Robotics is an interdisciplinary branch of engineering and science that includes mechanical engineering, electronics engineering, computer science, and others.
Robots can be used in many situations and for lots of purposes, but today many are used in dangerous environments (including bomb detection and deactivation), manufacturing processes, or where humans cannot survive (e.g.
The concept of creating machines that can operate autonomously dates back to classical times, but research into the functionality and potential uses of robots did not grow substantially until the 20th century.
Throughout history, it has been frequently assumed that robots will one day be able to mimic human behavior and manage tasks in a human-like fashion.
researching, designing, and building new robots serve various practical purposes, whether domestically, commercially, or militarily.
Many robots are built to do jobs that are hazardous to people such as defusing bombs, finding survivors in unstable ruins, and exploring mines and shipwrecks.
The play begins in a factory that makes artificial people called robots, creatures who can be mistaken for humans – very similar to the modern ideas of androids.
The first digitally operated and programmable robot, the Unimate, was installed in 1961 to lift hot pieces of metal from a die casting machine and stack them.
Robots are widely used in manufacturing, assembly, packing and packaging, mining, transport, earth and space exploration, surgery, weaponry, laboratory research, safety, and the mass production of consumer and industrial goods.
Such an integrated robotic system is called a 'welding robot' even though its discrete manipulator unit could be adapted to a variety of tasks.
They range from lead–acid batteries, which are safe and have relatively long shelf lives but are rather heavy compared to silver–cadmium batteries that are much smaller in volume and are currently much more expensive.
By far the most popular actuators are electric motors that rotate a wheel or gear, and linear actuators that control industrial robots in factories.
The vast majority of robots use electric motors, often brushed and brushless DC motors in portable robots or AC motors in industrial robots and CNC machines.
Various types of linear actuators move in and out instead of by spinning, and often have quicker direction changes, particularly when very large forces are needed such as with industrial robotics.
flexure is designed as part of the motor actuator, to improve safety and provide robust force control, energy efficiency, shock absorption (mechanical filtering) while reducing excessive wear on the transmission and other mechanical components.
plastic material that can contract substantially (up to 380% activation strain) from electricity, and have been used in facial muscles and arms of humanoid robots,
These work on a fundamentally different principle, whereby tiny piezoceramic elements, vibrating many thousands of times per second, cause linear or rotary motion.
The absence of defects in carbon nanotubes enables these filaments to deform elastically by several percent, with energy storage levels of perhaps 10 J/cm3 for metal nanotubes.
They are used for various forms of measurements, to give the robots warnings about safety or malfunctions, and to provide real-time information of the task it is performing.
When the artificial skin touches an object the fluid path around the electrodes is deformed, producing impedance changes that map the forces received from the object.
Scientists from several European countries and Israel developed a prosthetic hand in 2009, called SmartHand, which functions like a real one—allowing patients to write with it, type on a keyboard, play piano and perform other fine movements.
In most practical computer vision applications, the computers are pre-programmed to solve a particular task, but methods based on learning are now becoming increasingly common.
Computer vision systems rely on image sensors which detect electromagnetic radiation which is typically in the form of either visible light or infra-red light.
Like human eyes, robots' 'eyes' must also be able to focus on a particular area of interest, and also adjust to variations in light intensities.
There is a subfield within computer vision where artificial systems are designed to mimic the processing and behavior of biological system, at different levels of complexity.
These can have certain advantages such as greater efficiency and reduced parts, as well as allowing a robot to navigate in confined places that a four-wheeled robot would not be able to.
Balancing robots generally use a gyroscope to detect how much a robot is falling and then drive the wheels proportionally in the same direction, to counterbalance the fall at hundreds of times per second, based on the dynamics of an inverted pendulum.
one-wheeled balancing robot is an extension of a two-wheeled balancing robot so that it can move in any 2D direction using a round ball as its only wheel.
Because of the long, thin shape and ability to maneuver in tight spaces, they have the potential to function better than other robots in environments with people.
Using six wheels instead of four wheels can give better traction or grip in outdoor terrain such as on rocky dirt or grass.
Tracked wheels behave as if they were made of hundreds of wheels, therefore are very common for outdoor and military robots, where the robot must drive on very rough terrain.
The robot's onboard computer tries to keep the total inertial forces (the combination of Earth's gravity and the acceleration and deceleration of walking), exactly opposed by the floor reaction force (the force of the floor pushing back on the robot's foot).
more advanced way for a robot to walk is by using a dynamic balancing algorithm, which is potentially more robust than the Zero Moment Point technique, as it constantly monitors the robot's motion, and places the feet in order to maintain stability.
Using this technique, a robot need only supply a small amount of motor power to walk along a flat surface or a little more to walk up a hill.
Mimicking the way real snakes move, these robots can navigate very confined spaces, meaning they may one day be used to search for people trapped in collapsed buildings.
Another approach uses the specialized toe pad method of wall-climbing geckoes, which can run on smooth surfaces such as vertical glass.
According to Dr. Li, the gecko robot could rapidly climb up and down a variety of building walls, navigate through ground and wall fissures, and walk upside-down on the ceiling.
It was also able to adapt to the surfaces of smooth glass, rough, sticky or dusty walls as well as various types of metallic materials.
It was the first robotic fish capable of outperforming real carangiform fish in terms of average maximum velocity (measured in body lengths/ second) and endurance, the duration that top speed is maintained.
The first build, iSplash-I (2014) was the first robotic platform to apply a full-body length carangiform swimming motion which was found to increase swimming speed by 27% over the traditional approach of a posterior confined waveform.
Since the propulsion of sailboat robots uses the wind, the energy of the batteries is only used for the computer, for the communication and for the actuators (to tune the rudder and the sail).
Though a significant percentage of robots in commission today are either human controlled or operate in a static environment, there is an increasing interest in robots that can operate autonomously in a dynamic environment.
Also, self-controlled cars, Ernst Dickmanns' driverless car, and the entries in the DARPA Grand Challenge, are capable of sensing the environment well and subsequently making navigational decisions based on this information.
Most of these robots employ a GPS navigation device with waypoints, along with radar, sometimes combined with other sensory data such as lidar, video cameras, and inertial guidance systems for better navigation between waypoints.
The state of the art in sensory intelligence for robots will have to progress through several orders of magnitude if we want the robots working in our homes to go beyond vacuum-cleaning the floors.
If robots are to work effectively in homes and other non-industrial environments, the way they are instructed to perform their jobs, and especially how they will be told to stop will be of critical importance.
Science fiction authors also typically assume that robots will eventually be capable of communicating with humans through speech, gestures, and facial expressions, rather than a command-line interface.
Nevertheless, great strides have been made in the field since Davis, Biddulph, and Balashek designed the first 'voice input system' which recognized 'ten digits spoken by a single user with 100% accuracy' in 1952.
Robotic faces have been constructed by Hanson Robotics using their elastic polymer called Frubber, allowing a large number of facial expressions due to the elasticity of the rubber facial coating and embedded subsurface motors (servos).
These new concepts are grounded from low-level continuous sensor data through unsupervised learning, and task goals are subsequently learned using a Bayesian approach.
Much of the research in robotics focuses not on specific industrial tasks, but on investigations into new types of robots, alternative ways to think about or design robots, and new ways to manufacture them.
Because the first generation robot would be incapable of learning, however, Moravec predicts that the second generation robot would be an improvement over the first and become available by 2020, with the intelligence maybe comparable to that of a mouse.
Though fourth generation robots, robots with human intelligence, professor Moravec predicts, would become possible, he does not predict this happening before around 2040 or 2050.
In a similar way to natural evolution, a large population of robots is allowed to compete in some way, or their ability to perform a task is measured using a fitness function.
this technique may be run entirely or mostly in simulation, using a robot simulator software package, then tested on real robots once the evolved algorithms are good enough.
Currently, there are about 10 million industrial robots toiling around the world, and Japan is the top country having high density of utilizing robots in its manufacturing industry.
Inverse kinematics refers to the opposite case in which required joint values are calculated for given end effector values, as done in path planning.
Once all relevant positions, velocities, and accelerations have been calculated using kinematics, methods from the field of dynamics are used to study the effect of forces upon these movements.
In each area mentioned above, researchers strive to develop new concepts and strategies, improve existing ones, and improve the interaction between these areas.
In space, defence, security, or the nuclear industry, but also in logistics, maintenance, and inspection, autonomous robots are particularly useful in replacing human workers performing dirty, dull or unsafe tasks, thus avoiding workers' exposures to hazardous agents and conditions and reducing physical, ergonomic and psychosocial risks.
For example, robots are already used to perform repetitive and monotonous tasks, to handle radioactive material or to work in explosive atmospheres.
In the future, many other highly repetitive, risky or unpleasant tasks will be performed by robots in a variety of sectors like agriculture, construction, transport, healthcare, firefighting or cleaning services.
Despite these advances, there are certain skills to which humans will be better suited than machines for some time to come and the question is how to achieve the best combination of human and robot skills.
The advantages of robotics include heavy-duty jobs with precision and repeatability, whereas the advantages of humans include creativity, decision-making, flexibility and adaptability.
This need to combine optimal skills has resulted in collaborative robots and humans sharing a common workspace more closely and led to the development of new approaches and standards to guarantee the safety of the 'man-robot merger'.
Some European countries are including robotics in their national programmes and trying to promote a safe and flexible co-operation between robots and operators to achieve better productivity.
In future, co-operation between robots and humans will be diversified, with robots increasing their autonomy and human-robot collaboration reaching completely new forms.
10 Things We Couldn’t Do Without Robots
Their precision, intelligence and endless energy levels make them the perfect employees for a wide variety of jobs that humans just can’t afford to do.
Some common robots used by the military are Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) robots, which are capable of examining suspicious packages and surrounding areas to find and even deactivate improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and mines.
The military also uses unmanned aerial vehicles for reconnaissance missions, to scope out enemy movements, find hidden explosives and give the Air Force a wide-angle surveillance of their battlespace. Car
Automotive industry robots are capable of performing a wide range of tasks such as installation, painting and welding, and aren’t restricted by fatigue or health risks, therefore making them an incredibly useful and irreplaceable part of car production. Space
Today’s surgical robots are so advanced that it’s possible for surgeons to perform remote surgery without physically being in the operating room or even in the same country!
Robot-assisted surgery has improved the limitations of minimally invasive surgery and has many advantages over traditional open surgery, including greater precision, smaller incisions, less pain and decreased blood loss.
Surgical robots, such as the da Vinci Surgical System, are used for gynecologic, colorectal, prostate, throat cancer surgeries, as well as bariatric surgery, angioplasty and bypass surgery. Underwater
These amazing machines are equipped with sensors, high-definition cameras, wheels and other technology to assist scientists when they explore docks, ocean floors, dams, ship bellies and other surfaces.
It’s also safer for industrial and institutional markets to use robots because workers are not exposed to harmful chemicals or enzymes that come from dust mites.
Duct cleaning robots are used in hospitals and government buildings that may have hazardous or contaminated environments, as well as embassies and prisons for a shorter and more secure cleaning.
Law enforcement officers use an array of high-tech and remote-controlled robots that are equipped with front and back cameras, infrared lighting and a speaker to search for criminals and find their location without endangering a police officer.
These high-tech robots are connected by cable to ships and are used to collect video footage and information from fiber-optic sensors that help engineers better understand the problem and intervene when necessary.
Robots such as the Scout Throwable Robot are used by law enforcement agencies and fire departments to help find information about people stuck inside a building, and even have the ability to detect grenades or explosives in the area.
Robots can be autonomous or semi-autonomous and range from humanoids such as Honda's Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility (ASIMO) and TOSY's TOSY Ping Pong Playing Robot (TOPIO) to industrial robots, medical operating robots, patient assist robots, dog therapy robots, collectively programmed swarm robots, UAV drones such as General Atomics MQ-1 Predator, and even microscopic nano robots.
These technologies deal with automated machines that can take the place of humans in dangerous environments or manufacturing processes, or resemble humans in appearance, behavior, or cognition.
From the time of ancient civilization there have been many accounts of user-configurable automated devices and even automata resembling animals and humans, designed primarily as entertainment.
Electronics evolved into the driving force of development with the advent of the first electronic autonomous robots created by William Grey Walter in Bristol, England in 1948, as well as Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine tools in the late 1940s by John T.
in performing repetitive and dangerous tasks which humans prefer not to do, or are unable to do because of size limitations, or which take place in extreme environments such as outer space or the bottom of the sea.
There is no consensus on which machines qualify as robots but there is general agreement among experts, and the public, that robots tend to possess some or all of the following abilities and functions: accept electronic programming, process data or physical perceptions electronically, operate autonomously to some degree, move around, operate physical parts of itself or physical processes, sense and manipulate their environment, and exhibit intelligent behavior, especially behavior which mimics humans or other animals.
Hero of Alexandria (10–70 AD), a Greek mathematician and inventor, created numerous user-configurable automated devices, and described machines powered by air pressure, steam and water.
In ancient China, the 3rd-century text of the Lie Zi describes an account of humanoid automata, involving a much earlier encounter between Chinese emperor King Mu of Zhou and a mechanical engineer known as Yan Shi, an 'artificer'.
There are also accounts of flying automata in the Han Fei Zi and other texts, which attributes the 5th century BC Mohist philosopher Mozi and his contemporary Lu Ban with the invention of artificial wooden birds (ma yuan) that could successfully fly.
Samarangana Sutradhara, a Sanskrit treatise by Bhoja (11th century), includes a chapter about the construction of mechanical contrivances (automata), including mechanical bees and birds, fountains shaped like humans and animals, and male and female dolls that refilled oil lamps, danced, played instruments, and re-enacted scenes from Hindu mythology.
Da Vinci's notebooks, rediscovered in the 1950s, contained detailed drawings of a mechanical knight now known as Leonardo's robot, able to sit up, wave its arms and move its head and jaw.
Different variations of the karakuri existed: the Butai karakuri, which were used in theatre, the Zashiki karakuri, which were small and used in homes, and the Dashi karakuri which were used in religious festivals, where the puppets were used to perform reenactments of traditional myths and legends.
The mechanical duck could flap its wings, crane its neck, and swallow food from the exhibitor's hand, and it gave the illusion of digesting its food by excreting matter stored in a hidden compartment.
The early 1870s saw remotely controlled torpedoes by John Ericsson (pneumatic), John Louis Lay (electric wire guided), and Victor von Scheliha (electric wire guided).
The Brennan torpedo, invented by Louis Brennan in 1877, was powered by two contra-rotating propellors that were spun by rapidly pulling out wires from drums wound inside the torpedo.
The word 'robot' itself was not new, having been in the Slavic language as robota (forced laborer), a term which classified those peasants obligated to compulsory service under the feudal system widespread in 19th century Europe (see: Robot Patent). Čapek's
fictional story postulated the technological creation of artificial human bodies without souls, and the old theme of the feudal robota class eloquently fit the imagination of a new class of manufactured, artificial workers.
Seven feet tall (2.1 m) and weighing 265 pounds (120.2 kg), it could walk by voice command, speak about 700 words (using a 78-rpm record player), smoke cigarettes, blow up balloons, and move its head and arms.
He wanted to prove that rich connections between a small number of brain cells could give rise to very complex behaviors – essentially that the secret of how the brain worked lay in how it was wired up.
Walter stressed the importance of using purely analogue electronics to simulate brain processes at a time when his contemporaries such as Alan Turing and John von Neumann were all turning towards a view of mental processes in terms of digital computation.
Devol sold the first Unimate to General Motors in 1960, and it was installed in 1961 in a plant in Trenton, New Jersey to lift hot pieces of metal from a die casting machine and stack them.
Robots are widely used in manufacturing, assembly and packing, transport, earth and space exploration, surgery, weaponry, laboratory research, and mass production of consumer and industrial goods.
She can read newspapers, find and correct misspelled words, learn about banks like Barclays, and understand that some restaurants are better places to eat than others.
Any regular worker could program Baxter and it only takes a matter of minutes, unlike usual industrial robots that take extensive programs and coding in order to be used.
The play does not focus in detail on the technology behind the creation of these living creatures, but in their appearance they prefigure modern ideas of androids, creatures who can be mistaken for humans.
At issue is whether the robots are being exploited and the consequences of human dependence upon commodified labor (especially after a number of specially-formulated robots achieve self-awareness and incite robots all around the world to rise up against the humans).
The word robota means literally 'corvée', 'serf labor', and figuratively 'drudgery' or 'hard work' in Czech and also (more general) 'work', 'labor' in many Slavic languages (e.g.: Bulgarian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Polish, Macedonian, Ukrainian, archaic Czech, as well as robot in Hungarian).
(The three laws are pure fiction, and no technology yet created has the ability to understand or follow them, and in fact most robots serve military purposes, which run quite contrary to the first law and often the third law.
Mobile robots are the focus of a great deal of current research and almost every major university has one or more labs that focus on mobile robot research.
'an automatically controlled, reprogrammable, multipurpose, manipulator programmable in three or more axes, which may be either fixed in place or mobile for use in industrial automation applications.'
The International Federation of Robotics has proposed a tentative definition, 'A service robot is a robot which operates semi- or fully autonomously to perform services useful to the well-being of humans and equipment, excluding manufacturing operations.'
There have also been devices shaped like robots such as the teaching computer, Leachim (1974), and 2-XL (1976), a robot shaped game / teaching toy based on an 8-track tape player, both invented Michael J.
ANAT technology, an early modular robotic technology patented by Robotics Design Inc., allows the creation of modular robots from U and H shaped modules that connect in a chain, and are used to form heterogeneous and homogenous modular robot systems.
These 'ANAT robots' can be designed with 'n' DOF as each module is a complete motorized robotic system that folds relatively to the modules connected before and after it in its chain, and therefore a single module allows one degree of freedom.
L-shaped modules can also be designed in a chain, and must become increasingly smaller as the size of the chain increases, as payloads attached to the end of the chain place a greater strain on modules that are further from the base.
ANAT H-shaped modules do not suffer from this problem, as their design allows a modular robot to distribute pressure and impacts evenly amongst other attached modules, and therefore payload-carrying capacity does not decrease as the length of the arm increases.
Because modular robots of the same architecture type are composed of modules that compose different modular robots, a snake-arm robot can combine with another to form a dual or quadra-arm robot, or can split into several mobile robots, and mobile robots can split into multiple smaller ones, or combine with others into a larger or different one.
This allows a single modular robot the ability to be fully specialized in a single task, as well as the capacity to be specialized to perform multiple different tasks.
In 2009, experts attended a conference hosted by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) to discuss whether computers and robots might be able to acquire any autonomy, and how much these abilities might pose a threat or hazard.
They noted that some robots have acquired various forms of semi-autonomy, including being able to find power sources on their own and being able to independently choose targets to attack with weapons.
Various media sources and scientific groups have noted separate trends in differing areas which might together result in greater robotic functionalities and autonomy, and which pose some inherent concerns.
For centuries, people have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete and increase unemployment, although the causes of unemployment are usually thought to be due to social policy.
recent example of human replacement involves Taiwanese technology company Foxconn who, in July 2011, announced a three-year plan to replace workers with more robots.
For example, a factory robot arm can perform jobs such as cutting, welding, gluing, or acting as a fairground ride, while a pick-and-place robot can only populate printed circuit boards.
General-purpose autonomous robots typically can navigate independently in known spaces, handle their own re-charging needs, interface with electronic doors and elevators and perform other basic tasks.
They may recognize people or objects, talk, provide companionship, monitor environmental quality, respond to alarms, pick up supplies and perform other useful tasks.
A typical factory contains hundreds of industrial robots working on fully automated production lines, with one robot for every ten human workers.
On an automated production line, a vehicle chassis on a conveyor is welded, glued, painted and finally assembled at a sequence of robot stations.
Industrial robots are also used extensively for palletizing and packaging of manufactured goods, for example for rapidly taking drink cartons from the end of a conveyor belt and placing them into boxes, or for loading and unloading machining centers.
Mass-produced printed circuit boards (PCBs) are almost exclusively manufactured by pick-and-place robots, typically with SCARA manipulators, which remove tiny electronic components from strips or trays, and place them on to PCBs with great accuracy.
3D scanners or other means of sensing the environment in two or three dimensions help to eliminate cumulative errors in dead-reckoning calculations of the AGV's current position.
Some AGVs can create maps of their environment using scanning lasers with simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) and use those maps to navigate in real time with other path planning and obstacle avoidance algorithms.
They are able to operate in complex environments and perform non-repetitive and non-sequential tasks such as transporting photomasks in a semiconductor lab, specimens in hospitals and goods in warehouses.
For dynamic areas, such as warehouses full of pallets, AGVs require additional strategies using three-dimensional sensors such as time-of-flight or stereovision cameras.
For instance, a laparoscopic surgery robot allows the surgeon to work inside a human patient on a relatively small scale compared to open surgery, significantly shortening recovery time.
Hundreds of robots such as iRobot's Packbot and the Foster-Miller TALON are being used in Iraq and Afghanistan by the U.S. military to defuse roadside bombs or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in an activity known as explosive ordnance disposal (EOD).
Mining robots are designed to solve a number of problems currently facing the mining industry, including skills shortages, improving productivity from declining ore grades, and achieving environmental targets.
Due to the hazardous nature of mining, in particular underground mining, the prevalence of autonomous, semi-autonomous, and tele-operated robots has greatly increased in recent times.
A number of vehicle manufacturers provide autonomous trains, trucks and loaders that will load material, transport it on the mine site to its destination, and unload without requiring human intervention.
One of the world's largest mining corporations, Rio Tinto, has recently expanded its autonomous truck fleet to the world's largest, consisting of 150 autonomous Komatsu trucks, operating in Western Australia.
The Atlas Copco Rig Control System can autonomously execute a drilling plan on a drilling rig, moving the rig into position using GPS, set up the drill rig and drill down to specified depths.
The population is aging in many countries, especially Japan, meaning that there are increasing numbers of elderly people to care for, but relatively fewer young people to care for them.
FRIEND make it possible for patients who are paraplegic, have muscle diseases or serious paralysis (due to strokes etc.), to perform tasks without help from other people like therapists or nursing staff.
The pharmacist or technician then checks the contents of the vial to ensure it's the correct drug for the correct patient and then seals the vials and sends it out front to be picked up.
Once the bin is filled with all of the drugs that a particular patient needs and that the robot stocks, the bin is then released and returned out on the conveyor belt to a technician waiting to load it into a cart for delivery to the floor.
While most robots today are installed in factories or homes, performing labour or life saving jobs, many new types of robot are being developed in laboratories around the world.
Much of the research in robotics focuses not on specific industrial tasks, but on investigations into new types of robot, alternative ways to think about or design robots, and new ways to manufacture them.
So far, researchers have mostly produced only parts of these complex systems, such as bearings, sensors, and synthetic molecular motors, but functioning robots have also been made such as the entrants to the Nanobot Robocup contest.
Robots with silicone bodies and flexible actuators (air muscles, electroactive polymers, and ferrofluids) look and feel different from robots with rigid skeletons, and can have different behaviors.
Inspired by colonies of insects such as ants and bees, researchers are modeling the behavior of swarms of thousands of tiny robots which together perform a useful task, such as finding something hidden, cleaning, or spying.
The whole set of robots can be considered as one single distributed system, in the same way an ant colony can be considered a superorganism, exhibiting swarm intelligence.
Robotic characters, androids (artificial men/women) or gynoids (artificial women), and cyborgs (also 'bionic men/women', or humans with significant mechanical enhancements) have become a staple of science fiction.
Asimov carefully considered the problem of the ideal set of instructions robots might be given in order to lower the risk to humans, and arrived at his Three Laws of Robotics: a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm;
The 2017 game Horizon Zero Dawn explores themes of robotics in warfare, robot ethics, and the AI control problem, as well as the positive or negative impact such technologies could have on the environment.
Top 10 emerging technologies of 2015
From zero-emission cars fuelled by hydrogen to computer chips modelled on the human brain, this year’s 10 emerging technologies offer a vivid glimpse of the power of innovation to improve lives, transform industries and safeguard our planet.
drones 9. Neuromorphic technology 10. Digital genome Zero-emission cars that run on hydrogen “Fuel cell” vehicles have been long promised, as they potentially offer several major advantages over electric and hydrocarbon-powered vehicles.
With a long cruising range – up to 650 km per tank (the fuel is usually compressed hydrogen gas) – a hydrogen fuel refill only takes about three minutes.
Hydrogen is clean-burning, producing only water vapour as waste, so fuel cell vehicles burning hydrogen will be zero-emission, an important factor given the need to reduce air pollution.
Most obviously, renewable sources of electricity from wind and solar sources can be used to electrolyse water – though the overall energy efficiency of this process is likely to be quite low.
As well as the production of cheap hydrogen on a large scale, a significant challenge is the lack of a hydrogen distribution infrastructure that would be needed to parallel and eventually replace petrol and diesel filling stations.
However, innovative hydrogen storage techniques, such as organic liquid carriers that do not require high-pressure storage, will soon lower the cost of long-distance transport and ease the risks associated with gas storage and inadvertent release.
Mass-market fuel cell vehicles are an attractive prospect, because they will offer the range and fuelling convenience of today’s diesel and petrol-powered vehicles while providing the benefits of sustainability in personal transportation.
Achieving these benefits will, however, require the reliable and economical production of hydrogen from entirely low-carbon sources, and its distribution to a growing fleet of vehicles (expected to number in the many millions within a decade).
There remains the risk that robots may displace human workers from jobs, although previous generations of automation have tended to lead to higher productivity and growth with benefits throughout the economy.
And new research into social robots – that know how to collaborate and build working alliances with humans – means that a future where robots and humans work together, each to do what it does best – is a strong likelihood.
Although no recycling is 100% efficient, this innovation – if widely deployed – should speed up the move towards a circular economy with a big reduction in landfill waste from plastics.
However, new techniques are emerging that allow us to directly “edit” the genetic code of plants to make them, for example, more nutritious or better able to cope with a changing climate.
The technique is proven and reliable, and despite widespread public fears, there is a consensus in the scientific community that genetically modifying organisms using this technique is no more risky than modifying them using conventional breeding.
RNAi may also benefit major staple-food crops, protecting wheat against stem rust, rice against blast, potato against blight and banana against fusarium wilt.
In addition, more precise genome editing may allay public fears, especially if the resulting plant or animal is not considered transgenic because no foreign genetic material is introduced.
Taken together, these techniques promise to advance agricultural sustainability by reducing input use in multiple areas, from water and land to fertilizer, while also helping crops to adapt to climate change.
Other medical applications are taking 3D printing in a more biological direction: by directly printing human cells, it is now possible to create living tissues that may find potential application in drug safety screening and, ultimately, tissue repair and regeneration.
An example is NELL, the Never-Ending Language Learning project from Carnegie Mellon University, a computer system that not only reads facts by crawling through hundreds of millions of web pages, but attempts to improve its reading and understanding competence in the process in order to perform better in the future.
There is substantial evidence that self-driving cars will reduce collisions, and resulting deaths and injuries, from road transport, as machines avoid human errors, lapses in concentration and defects in sight, among other problems.
Intelligent machines, having faster access to a much larger store of information, and able to respond without human emotional biases, might also perform better than medical professionals in diagnosing diseases.
This risk, while still decades away, is taken increasingly seriously by experts, many of whom signed an open letter coordinated by the Future of Life Institute in January 2015 to direct the future of AI away from potential pitfalls.
As machines grow in human intelligence, this technology will increasingly challenge our view of what it means to be human, as well as the risks and benefits posed by the rapidly closing gap between man and machine.
The factory of the future is online – and on your doorstep Distributed manufacturing turns on its head the way we make and distribute products. In traditional manufacturing, raw materials are brought together, assembled and fabricated in large centralized factories into identical finished products that are then distributed to the customer.
To manufacture a chair, for example, rather than sourcing wood and fabricating it into chairs in a central factory, digital plans for cutting the parts of a chair can be distributed to local manufacturing hubs using computerized cutting tools known as CNC routers.
Flying robots to check power lines or deliver emergency aid Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, have become an important and controversial part of military capacity in recent years.
With reliable autonomy and collision avoidance, drones can begin to take on tasks too dangerous or remote for humans to carry out: checking electric power lines, for example, or delivering medical supplies in an emergency.
This level of collision avoidance will usher in a future of shared airspace, with many drones flying in proximity to humans and operating in and near the built environment to perform a multitude of tasks.
Unlike our current digital mobile devices (which are actually immobile, since we have to carry them around), drones will be transformational as they are self-mobile and have the capacity of flying in the three-dimensional world that is beyond our direct human reach.
Neuromorphic chips aim to process information in a fundamentally different way from traditional hardware, mimicking the brain’s architecture to deliver a huge increase in a computer’s thinking and responding power.
Miniaturization has delivered massive increases in conventional computing power over the years, but the bottleneck of shifting data constantly between stored memory and central processors uses large amounts of energy and creates unwanted heat, limiting further improvements.
With vastly more compute power available for far less energy and volume, neuromorphic chips should allow more intelligent small-scale machines to drive the next stage in miniaturization and artificial intelligence.
Potential applications include: drones better able to process and respond to visual cues, much more powerful and intelligent cameras and smartphones, and data-crunching on a scale that may help unlock the secrets of financial markets or climate forecasting.
Healthcare for an age when your genetic code is on a USB stick While the first sequencing of the 3.2 billion base pairs of DNA that make up the human genome took many years and cost tens of millions of dollars, today your genome can be sequenced and digitized in minutes and at the cost of only a few hundred dollars.
This new knowledge is also making precision medicine a reality by enabling the development of highly targeted therapies that offer the potential for improved treatment outcomes, especially for patients battling cancer.
Personal genomic profiling has already raised challenges, with regard to how people respond to a clearer understanding of their risk of genetic disease, and how others – such as employers or insurance companies – might want to access and use the information.
Automation, robotics, and the factory of the future
Cheaper, more capable, and more ﬂexible technologies are accelerating the growth of fully automated production facilities.
For example, while sensors and actuators once had to be individually connected to robot controllers with dedicated wiring through terminal racks, connectors, and junction boxes, they now use plug-and-play technologies in which components can be connected using simpler network wiring.
These sensors and actuators can also monitor themselves and report their status to the control system, to aid process control and collect data for maintenance, and for continuous improvement and troubleshooting purposes.
Where early robots blindly followed the same path, and later iterations used lasers or vision systems to detect the orientation of parts and materials, the latest generations of robots can integrate information from multiple sensors and adapt their movements in real time.
The inherent flexibility of a device that can be programmed quickly and easily will greatly reduce the number of times a robot needs to repeat a given task to justify the cost of buying and commissioning it.
The cost savings offered by this kind of low-volume automation will benefit many different kinds of organizations: small companies will be able to access robot technology for the first time, and larger ones could increase the variety of their product offerings.
While it is already common to teach robots by leading them through a series of movements, for example, rapidly improving voice-recognition technology means it may soon be possible to give them verbal instructions, too.
In Japan, trials have already demonstrated that robots can cut the time required to harvest strawberries by up to 40 percent, using a stereoscopic imaging system to identify the location of fruit and evaluate its ripeness.
Finally, advanced sensor technologies, and the computer power needed to analyze the data from those sensors, will allow robots to take on tasks like cutting gemstones that previously required highly skilled craftspeople.
Expert systems used in beverage filling and packing lines can automatically adjust the speed of the whole production line to suit whichever activity is the critical constraint for a given batch.
In automotive production, expert systems can automatically make tiny adjustments in line speed to improve the overall balance of individual lines and maximize the effectiveness of the whole manufacturing system.
While the vast majority of robots in use today still operate in high-speed, high-volume production applications, the most advanced systems can make adjustments on the fly, switching seamlessly between product types without the need to stop the line to change programs or reconfigure tooling.
The replacement of fixed conveyor systems with automated guided vehicles (AGVs) even lets plants reconfigure the flow of products and components seamlessly between different workstations, allowing manufacturing sequences with entirely different process steps to be completed in a fully automated fashion.
This kind of flexibility delivers a host of benefits: facilitating shorter lead times and a tighter link between supply and demand, accelerating new product introduction, and simplifying the manufacture of highly customized products.
Companies must choose which activities to automate, what level of automation to use (from simple programmable-logic controllers to highly sophisticated robots guided by sensors and smart adaptive algorithms), and which technologies to adopt.
Building automation systems that are suitable only for a single line of products runs counter to both those aims, requiring repeated, lengthy, and expensive cycles of equipment design, procurement, and commissioning.
Just as platforming and modularization strategies have simplified and reduced the cost of managing complex product portfolios, so a platform approach will become increasingly important for manufacturers seeking to maximize flexibility and economies of scale in their automation strategies.
Process platforms, such as a robot arm equipped with a weld gun, power supply, and control electronics, can be standardized, applied, and reused in multiple applications, simplifying programming, maintenance, and product support.
Direct integration with computer-aided design, computer-integrated engineering, and enterprise-resource-planning systems will accelerate the design and deployment of new manufacturing configurations and allow flexible systems to respond in near real time to changes in demand or material availability.
The technology required to permit this integration is becoming increasingly accessible, thanks to the availability of open architectures and networking protocols, but changes in culture, management processes, and mind-sets will be needed in order to balance the costs, benefits, and risks.
To capture the full value of the opportunities presented by these new systems, companies will need to take a holistic and systematic approach, aligning their automation strategy closely with the current and future needs of the business.
- On 14. april 2021
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