Robotics and you

Cobots will become the friendly face of workplace automation, actively designed and marketed as a partner that will work alongside us.
Read time 4min 10sec

Robot workers are quite commonplace nowadays. For a while now, robots and robotics have been revolutionising the areas of motor and electronics, food production, retail, healthcare and distribution operations.

We have gotten so used to them in our everyday lives that the generalised hysteria around job losses that heralded the era of robot workers has somewhat died down.

However, 2019 and 2020 are being touted as the years that more personalised robots come into their own. No longer happy with just having a simple robotic vacuum cleaner floating around the house, people want more. More convenience, more ‘always on’ connectivity, more innovation, and quite profoundly, more companionship.

As a result, we are seeing more start-ups emerge that offer everything from robotic companions for the elderly and lonely, to robots that care for, play with and feed your pets – each one trying to corner a niche of the market not already saturated.

So, are we on the brink of a new robotic revolution? The below scenarios certainly indicate as much.

Delivery please

The most expansive part of any delivery is the last stretch – the precisely targeted – to a specific address portion of a delivery. Robotics is widely tipped to solve and cheapen this last problem which is inherent to delivery operations – speedily and efficiently enabling parcels to reach their final destinations on time and intact.

Segway’s Loomo, for example, is designed to work in large indoor environments and will carry out the delivery of internal mail in workplace settings.

The emergence of smart sensors – sensors with inbuilt artificial intelligence – will reduce the need for information to be sent to the cloud or centralised servers for processing.

Others, like the Google-engineer-designed Nuro, will foray into the streets to deliver fresh groceries and hot food. It is already on trial in parts of Phoenix, Arizona – a hotbed of robotic activity thanks to its grid-like streets, which are also hosting the world’s first autonomous taxis, thanks to another Google spin-off, Waymo.

Then there is Amazon and JD.com, which are the pioneers of delivering parcels via airborne drone delivery.

Robotic partners

Cobots (collaborative partners) will become the friendly face of workplace automation. Actively designed and marketed as a partner, thereby negating the inherent suspicion that robots are out to steal our jobs, they will become integral and will work alongside us, providing timely advice or simply mechanical muscle.

It is only a matter of time before robotic technology becomes even more widespread than it already is. This will result in deployment costs falling and will make it viable for businesses to drive efficiency by deploying robots in environments which are unsafe or inhospitable to humans.

Robots on the edge

Robots also make ideal platforms for edge computing: the building of sensors into the extremities of automated systems – this is where machines meet the real-world environments they are built to influence.

The emergence of smart sensors – sensors with inbuilt artificial intelligence – will reduce the need for information to be sent to the cloud or centralised servers for processing.

This will save business on many fronts – logistically, space (both physical and cloud-based) and will be good for the environment (carbon footprint).

Robotics in healthcare

The most famous medical robot is the da Vinci Surgical System. However, due to the need to have FDA approval, the uptake of robotics in surgery hasn’t been as fast as it could have been. As things currently stand, the da Vinci Surgical System is the only FDA-approved medical robot in the world. Used for various surgeries, it is sadly very expensive.

Medical cobots are another story though. Robots that, along with a human operator, are capable of cutting precisely though bone, can make the analysis of various laboratory tests infinitely more accurate, and are used in neurosurgery to precisely (almost more precisely than the human eye can) position digital microscopes.

These examples prove that robotics as a field in and of itself is massively exciting. And now just imagine all the data these robots will be collecting. All the information that can be harnessed, analysed and queried, which can then be used to develop even more exciting applications, robots, cobots, sensors.

The more futuristic robots and robotic systems often get the most exposure and coverage. Things like self-driving cars, robotic interfaces with human-like features – the list is actually very long.

However, there is no doubt that businesses can really benefit in many ways from a foray into the world of robots, robotics and AI. No matter how small or how expansive. After all – the future is now. 

Jessie Rudd
Technical business analyst at PBT Group

Jessie Rudd is a technical business analyst at PBT Group, a position she has held since 2011. In this role, she is responsible for combining data analysis assignments and researching new technologies in this space. Rudd holds training in IT (computer management) and has been exposed to a number of industries over the past 10 years, including BI, financial services, retail, market research, as well as corporate functions such as call centres, human resources and IT. This broad experience allows her to grasp the complexity attached to converting data into intelligence. Rudd has a passion for investigating new technologies and making others aware of them, as well as finding the most efficient tools for successfully undertaking a required task.

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