Artificial intelligence brings new life to robotics

Robotics has gone from a nice to have, to an intricate part of our daily lives. Currently, robots are limited to accomplishing straightforward, repetitive tasks (e.g., welding a door into place on the automobile assembly floor), and they can do their tasks with greater precision and efficiency than their human counterparts.

With the advent of machine learning, we are now witnessing robots expanding into a whole new host of activities. For instance, robotics maker Boston Dynamics has a whole host of robots that use machine learning to achieve remarkable, sophisticated motions, once thought only possible by living organisms. Their flagship project, Atlas, has become one of the closest examples of humanoid motion on the market. "Atlas' control system coordinates the motion of the arms, torso, and legs to achieve whole-body mobile manipulation, significantly expanding its reach and workspace." (1) This gives the robots different abilities such as "parkour", where the robot act of moving from point “a” to point “b” using the obstacles in your path (2). This can be seen in their most recent viral video. Through this might seem unremarkable to the average person, Atlas conclusively proves that an increasing range of motion is possible with robotics, which opens the door to much more practical applications for all of us.

Other countries that are planning for a future with robots engaged in our daily lives will quickly become the next economies for others to follow.  It is estimated that Japan, with its rapidly aging population will need an additional 370,000 caregivers by 2025 (3). Robots offer a tangible solution to what is an inevitable human resources shortage of skilled labor. Testing has already begun for companies to test their robots in a real-world nursing care facility (with the supervision of course). Silver Wings, one of the Japanese nursing homes leveraging these types of robots, says that robots are used primarily for three purposes, “rehabilitation, caregiver-assistance, and communication.” (4)(5)

Softbank: Pepper

"Pepper is intended to make people happy, enhance people's lives, facilitate relationships, have fun with people and connect people with the outside world" (8)

Panasonic: Resyone

"The Resyone is a transfer assist bed where part of the electric-powered nursing bed detaches for use as an electric-powered reclining wheelchair, enabling transfer from bed to wheelchair to be conducted smoothly and removing both the mental and physical stress from the care recipient." (5)

RIKEN: Robear

"Robear, which is capable of performing tasks such as lifting a patient from a bed into a wheelchair or providing assistance to a patient who is able to stand up but requires help to do so." (3)

Healthcare isn't the only industry being affected by the introduction of machine learning in robotics. The security industry has undergone massive change with the Nimbo security robot, which is the result of a collaboration between Turing Video Inc. and Segway Robotics (6). The Nimbo robot patrols a specific area in hopes of protecting people and property. This system can detect a suspicious person and alert a security guard to come to the specific area to resolve the situation.  The Nimbo can also become a mode of transportation that security guards may use to enhance their effectiveness further (7).

As more and more industries adopt the synergies of machine learning and robotics in practical solutions, our exposure to these solutions will become increasingly more commonplace.

References:
  1. https://www.bostondynamics.com/atlas
  2. https://wfpf.com/parkour/
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/06/japan-robots-will-care-for-80-of-elderly-by-2020
  4. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-ageing-robots-widerimage/aging-japan-robots-may-have-role-in-future-of-elder-care-idUSKBN1H33AB
  5. https://www.engadget.com/2017/08/23/robot-bears-are-coming-for-your-grandparents/
  6. https://www.engadget.com/2018/01/09/turing-video-segway-security-robot/
  7. https://www.autoblog.com/2018/01/09/video-nimbo-segway-security-robot/
  8. https://www.theskinny.co.uk/tech/features/pepper-robot

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October 26, 2018

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