The Future of Robotics

human radiography scan

The ambitious headline was the theme of a recent seminar held at Stanford University, where industry and researchers gathered to discuss the future of robotics.

A number of important and interesting questions were raised, with many different opinions on the future of robotics and the direction development will go in. However, one thing that everybody could agree upon is that robots will play an important part of our future.

Three speakers from international industry and research institution presented leading research and different parts of the industry.

Will robots take over our jobs?

This question seemed to reoccur, and the short answer is – yes! Robot technology is developing in an exponential pace, meaning that functionality improves all the time while the price is steadily decreasing, and thereby making robots more available. Therefore, robots will take over different functions that we used to do ourselves and the speakers at the event expect that we very soon will face robots in our everyday life when we go to the supermarket or do other everyday activities.

This can seem frightening to many people, but according to Roy Kornbluh from SRI International, the robots will only take over the jobs with the characteristics of the three “D”s –  Dirty, Dangerous, or Dull. This will free up labor for other jobs, in which humans have a cognitive advantage, such as jobs that involve creativity or have dynamic environments.

According to the panel, robots still have a long way before they can act in dynamic environments or they will be able to be social towards each other.

Robots you can wear

Another speaker of the night was Eimei Onaga, coming all the way from Muscle Robotics in Japan. According to him, we will see a growth in wearable robotic technics, meaning that we will have robots that can enhance physical capabilities. This is a technology that stems from military research, and now the research is so far in the process that the technology even can be built into a thin layer of underwear.

The target group of this kind of robotics is the aging population and people with muscular disease. Thereby, they will be able to do many more things than without the robotic wearables and thus be less dependent on help from others.

Especially in Japan, this will serve a great advantage, as Japan has one of the most rapidly aging populations in the world.

The next step for robotics

Other topics raised at the event included research on avatars. An avatar refers to a robot that is controlled by a human in another location than the robot. This technology will help us solve tasks that we could not do before, e.g. deep water diving or enabling people to be social without being actually present at a certain location – thereby saving the time spend on transportation.

Coca Cola has already started using this in their marketing, which can be seen in this video.

The further development of robotics will be exiting to follow, to discover what use can be made of the technology when robots will become increasingly autonomous. However, no matter what opinion one has of robots, it seems that they are here to stay.

And speaking of robotics, did you know that the Danish island of Funen has a RoboCluster – hosted at the University of Southern Denmark? The University has seen several robotic company spin offs, the most prominent one being Universal Robots. The company, poised to double their growth each year from 2014-2017 (and which so far have exceeded those goals) just launched the world’s most flexible, lightweight table-top robot to work alongside humans at the Automate show in Chicago this week.

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