Leading technology movies have taught us to both admire and fear robots. Of course, the “rise of the machines” scenario isn’t a reality and won’t come to fruition until we discover true artificial intelligence. And, although technology is developing rapidly, we still need to go through a lot of trial and error to get there. In other words, we must lay a foundation by continuously improving the design and application of existing robotic technologies. Even though they are undoubtedly considered “lesser” in comparison, the impact they have is still extraordinary. With that said, let’s give robotic technology a deep analysis.
What is robotic technology?
Robotic technology represents an interdisciplinary sector of engineering, science, and technology that deals with the design, construction, manufacturing, operation, and utilization of mechanical or electrical robots.
It owes its existence to a variety of disciplines and ensuing technologies, mainly electrical, information, software, control systems, and mechanical engineering, but also computer science, mathematics, and artificial intelligence. Robotic technologies are also intertwined with cybernetics, a transdisciplinary approach concerned with the practical application of robotics.
A Brief History of Robots.
While robotics might sound futuristic, its idea is certainly ancient. In fact, we had the concept of robots, automation, and even AI long before we were anywhere near capable enough to bring them to fruition. By simply taking a look at our history, we can find evidence that we have always tried to make some version of robots, albeit a lot different from the robots we have today.
If we leave out the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, which all had their own versions of automated toys and concepts, we start with the post-industrialization age, an era where we had begun to look at engineering, science, and mathematics a lot more closely.
Over the years, we wrestled with the concept of robots until we almost achieved it in 1913, when we started building the Sperry gyroscope, often considered by many to be the world’s first robot.
Later on, in 1914, a sci-fi writer by the name of Isaac Asimov first used the term robotics in a story titled Liar. But the first industrial use of robots didn’t happen until 1980 when a car manufacturer fired over 200 people and replaced them with 50 robots. And from then on, there was no turning back.
What does the future hold for robotics?
Robots and robotics are a technology that is almost guaranteed to shine in the near future. Although there is a huge group of people who debate that robots aren’t good for us and will be detrimental, it is almost a given that industries such as healthcare, retail, manufacturing, defense, food, and even agriculture would likely benefit from their inclusion.
The future will see a substantial rise in the use of IoT devices, AI, and other cutting-edge technology that can be assimilated into robotics. In fact, AI alone is at the forefront of evolution, and it alone has enough potential to make robotics more potent.
Examples of robotic technology
If you’ve read our article on the pros and cons of robots, you have an idea of the areas they’re perfect for. Just in case, let’s mention prominent examples of robotic technologies:
Humans aren’t built to work at maximum mental and physical capacity day in and day out. We’re often moody, unreliable, hard to understand and manage, make mistakes, create waste, get sick, and have obligations outside of work. We also tend to suffer at dull or dangerous jobs in one way or another.
Finally, to remain happy, we must advance in our careers, whether in position or salary. Robots are the exact opposite. This makes industrial and warehouse robots ideal for routine, repetitive labor that requires precision, consistency, low maintenance, insurance, and operation costs, and top-notch productivity 24/7/365.
Robots are machines that can carry out complex series of actions rapidly and accurately. In doing so, they eliminate the risk of human error due to tiredness, recklessness, and inexperience, making them ideal for transportation technologies. Speaking of transportation, smart vehicles with robotic systems are all the rage nowadays.
Some examples that will become widespread shortly are self-driving cars and motorcycles, the latter of which even use self-balancing robotic systems. To be fair, they still have a driving assistance role and aren’t fully autonomous. However, it’s a matter of time before we can sit back, relax, and likely even fall asleep at the wheel.
The representatives of robotics technology in the household are growing steadily. The most obvious example is perhaps cleaning robots. They can already sweep the house in regular or irregular patterns, and adapt to various surfaces, environments, and elevations without assistance.
Furthermore, the ever-growing interest in personal assistant robotics technologies has already netted consumer robots in the form of humanoid, canine, and feline robotic pets, toys, and kits. They can serve as entertainment, education, or help with chores.
We, as humans, are imperfect. Unfortunately, that isn’t a valid excuse when a drop in focus, wrong prescription, improper care, or a tiny movement of the surgeon’s hands causes irreparable damage. Therefore, we welcome medical robots with open hands. They are always up to the task and can, for example, perform surgery with razor-sharp precision.
Additionally, robots can control bionic limbs and prostheses, carry medical devices, administer medicine, and even serve as exoskeletons. Moreover, analysts expect humanoid robots in healthcare facilities to make a massive splash.
They can soothe patients, relay answers from their database, and send emergency calls after tracking vitals. Most importantly, they can connect patients, nurses, and doctors with other professionals worldwide.
Telepresence robots are mainly used by the military, researchers, and disaster response services. They go to hazardous, inaccessible, or cost-ineffective environments.
For example, drones and land robots are used by the military to scout locations, and detect enemy positions and explosive devices. Such robots can also carry heavy equipment, or assist and operate vehicle systems. Other prominent situations they excel at include ocean exploration and research or searching for survivors after natural or human-caused disasters.
Perhaps the best-known examples are bomb-defusing and disposal robots, or those that entered Fukushima Daiichi after a 2011 nuclear disaster.
Applications of robotic technology
With notable representatives pointed out, let’s move into a few areas where applying robotic technology helps. The following points are the applications of robotic technology:
Replacing jobs and boosting productivity
Although not yet fully autonomous, robots that perform manufacturing, industrial, and warehouse tasks are one of the key reasons technology is replacing jobs. We’ll soon have robots assembling new robots, with very little human input, and we already went over why.
But it’s important to realize that the widespread use of machines creates new jobs, too. Some highly sought-after occupations include resource management, programming, troubleshooting, maintenance, and technological development.
The examples mentioned above make it easy to grasp how robots shield our safety, and not only in warfare. Besides eliminating human error, carefully designed protection systems can buffer or mitigate the damage of workplace accidents. They also enter dangerous places in our stead and carry the load that would injure our bodies.
Additionally, they boost the success rates of medical operations and curb the spread of diseases. It might seem funny, but robots that milk snake and scorpion venom, which is a risky undertaking otherwise, prove our point perfectly.
One thing is clear – robots need constant power. Thankfully, we have breakthroughs in energy technology to help make that happen, which is largely responsible for the leaps and bounds we made in space technology.
Combining multiple technologies, robots can now get to the far reaches of space. And not only “live” to tell the tale but stay in communication and regularly send data back to Earth. Robotic machines also make up many of the systems on the International Space Station (ISS).
Helping differently-abled people
Robotic technology, specially designed for medical, emergency response, and teaching purposes, goes hand in hand with assistive technology and helps differently-abled populations live productive lives with minimal or no help from other people. Personal assistant, pet, and “butler” robots of the future will only bring more benefits to their physical and mental well-being.
Impact of Robotics on various sectors
It is a well-established fact that robotics will have a significant impact on several industries, which we have discussed below:
- Manufacturing: Likely to see an increase in production and quality while at the same time reducing cost.
- Agriculture: Better yield and control over crops. And with the inclusion of techniques such as precision farming, we can get the most out of the land without being a burden. Also, a reduction in labor is expected.
- Healthcare: It can redefine surgeries and help with maintenance and similar tasks. Also, assist with patient management and therapy.
- Education: Potential to enhance STEM education and how we teach it.
- Logistics: A much better and streamlined supply chain management, a far more efficient delivery system, improved efficiency, and help with international trade.
- Service: It can change the hospitality and customer service industries by replacing actual humans at the front desk. It can also be helpful with tasks such as inventory management.
Advantages of Robotics
Which brings us to the advantages robotics has to offer:
- It can increase productivity, efficiency, and quality of work while maintaining consistency.
- A robot doesn’t get bored, tired, or lazy.
- No problems with repetitive tasks.
- Very accurate at the task.
- Can function in hazardous environments.
- It doesn’t require special protection gear.
- Robots can use sensors, making them more capable than humans, especially at certain tasks.
- It can be cost-effective in the long run.
- It can also reduce waste during production.
- By allowing the workforce to focus on other activities, it can enhance working environments.
Disadvantages of Robotics
Similarly, they have a few disadvantages, which are as follows:
- Contributes to unemployment.
- It can cause economic problems in the short term, as many people can lose their jobs all at once.
- Lacks initiative, and only does what is told.
- The initial setup can be very costly.
- It requires a highly skilled workforce for optimal maintenance.
- Highly dependent on technology.
- Lacks any analytical ability.
Comparing different robots based on application and function
The following table compares different types of robots based on their application:
|Type of Robot||Application||Mobility||Automation|
|Industrial||Manufacturing automation||Typically fixed||Very high|
|Service||Customer-facing robots||Both fixed and mobile||Limited to semi-automation|
|Military||Monitoring and surveillance||Mostly mobile||Mostly semi-automated|
|Medical||Surgeries and patient management||Mostly fixed||Remote controlled|
|Educational||Used as a learning device||Can be either, based on the role||High|
|Agricultural||Monitoring and automated tasks||Can be either, based on the role||Semi-automated|
|Search & Rescue||Geolocation and surveillance||Mostly mobile||Semi-automated|