Robots and innovation

Is your toaster smarter than you?

Our world is one that’s focused on constant growth. Whether it’s growth in population, technology, or anything in between, we’re always expanding. And machines are in this journey with us from about 1760. The machines have long moved out of research labs to venture into new grounds. This epic migration towards new sector started already and countless robots are already contributing to producing high quality products and making production time shorter. Robots are proving to be effective at basic tasks and jobs, are prone to fewer errors, require less downtime, and are more cost-effective. Here are some of the latest robotics innovations and reasons why there needs to be more skilled engineering specialists to deal with them and make the growth obvious when we say “robots”.



The huge leaps forward that we’ve made in regards to robotic technology, are fueling the future of manufacturing and helping supplies meet demand while creating new jobs for people in the industry. If it goes about mirroring human body, we have been stuck in this corner of what's possible. Obviously, because in robotics, base materials are stiff. Those rigid components like: hard motors, metal pieces, hard joints, sadly do not offer anything remotely close to what we think, would be human-like robot. Recently a 3D-printed soft "muscle" for robots was designed - this mechanism for movement control (actuator) is made of synthetic materials. The actuator is flexible, electrically activated and about 15 times stronger than a human muscle. An actuator such as this, which can move in response to a stimulus, was important missing link when it comes to robotics.



MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) has created a process of teleoperating a humanoid robot Baxter with an Oculus Rift VR headset. This project is aimed towards creating a way to supervise robot workers from a distance. In a nutshell, the user controls the robot remotely in a virtual reality environment. The operator does this in a VR environment modeled like a control room with multiple sensor displays. It makes it feel like they are sitting inside the robot’s head. By using available hand controllers, operators can match their movements to the robot’s to complete variety of tasks. In a “direct” model, the user’s vision is directly coupled to the robot’s position and  state but a delayed signal can lead to nausea and headaches because of a lack of vestibular stimulation with visual representation of motion. In this “cyber-physical” model, the operator is separated from the robot and interacts only with a virtual copy of the robot and its environment. This method is much better in general for the operator but it does require much more data and specialized spaces.



We already have DaVinci surgical robots. We can consider this perhaps as Blue Collar DaVinci. WIth already well known da Vinci Surgical System, surgeons operate through just a few small incisions. Its features a magnified 3D high-definition vision system and tiny wristed instruments that bend and rotate far greater than the human hand. As a result, da Vinci enables surgeon to operate with enhanced vision, precision and control. da Vinci technology translates surgeon’s hand movements into smaller, precise movements of tiny instruments.



So will robots change our lives in the future? It's a funny question to ask when they're changing our lives now in so many ways and they have been for years. From the first time we saw a toaster pop up by itself, we have also casually accepted the fact, that machines can be trusted to do things for humans. We just don't see it.



Technically robots are automatic motorised tools but in any event, some of us probably associate “robot” with some sort of physical entity, a substitute human made of metal, plastic, and plenty of electronic componentry. Robot is task-oriented, still somewhat exotic and definitely expensive. Right?

It might be a good time for CFOs to put aside such misperceptions, because the robots are becoming an integral part of the innovation.



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