40 years after R2-D2 made its first appearance in George Lucas’ iconic Star Wars series, robots have come a long way not only in their functionality but also in their looks. Daily chores, machine operations and business processes are becoming ever more automated, and increasingly useful to us, humans – not only at work but also at home and on the go.
We take a look at some of the most noteworthy recent robotic developments, which are already providing utility in a number of areas.
1. Collaborative robots
Commonly known as co-robots, or cobots, these machines are designed to physically interact with humans in shared workspaces. Unlike most other industrial robots, which operate independently or with some human guidance, this variety was built to be helpful to their less robotic counterparts, and perhaps even sociable.
2. Telepresence robots
Ever feel like you’re spread too thin, having to be at several locations all at the same time? The telepresence robot is your new best friend, as it replaces the need for your physical presence by providing a virtual one where needed. These computer-controlled robots are capable of providing remote, high-quality interactions with their operators (you), via a video camera, screen, microphone and speakers. This is as close as it gets to being somewhere without actually being physically present.
3. Warehousing and logistics automation
Using robotic aids isn’t new to the supply chain, logistics and warehousing sectors. Amazon has been using them for years, thus slimming down their warehouse workforce, reducing accidents and increasing efficiencies, which benefit the end customer in the long run. Robots are the culprits of efficient package assembly and speedy dispatch, and the reason why next-day delivery is becoming the norm.
4. Self-driving vehicle robots
We might not think of futuristic self-driving Teslas as robots but by definition, that’s the term for unmanned machines capable of completing complex tasks autonomously. Although marred by much recent controversy, autonomous cars are being continuously perfected and are just a few short years away from being the safest and laziest mode of transportation around.
5. Robots in business and industry
Industrial robots were among the first automated machine creations that proved to be truly useful and time-saving to humans. Today they are used heavily in many manufacturing sectors, including hardware, industrial, automotive, aerospace, and chemical. Not only do they increase efficiency and productivity, but they are also very helpful in reducing accidents related to negligence or human error. The hulky one-armed Goliaths that dominate assembly lines today are the pinnacle of industrial robot development.
6. Healthcare robots
In an industry where turnover is high and following strict hygiene and care guidelines is paramount, robotic nurses, receptionists and even surgeons are starting to streamline and improve the ways medical institutions operate. So far, medical robots have been able to reduce hospital-born infections, stand in for absentee employees, carry large quantities of medication, lift patients out of beds, and even perform doctor-led visitations remotely. In the Netherlands, medical robots are being gradually introduced in many facilities, raising patient care quality standards considerably.
7. Household robots
Always pressed for time when it comes to household chores? Always arguing with your spouse about cleaning, washing or ironing? You’re not alone and you deserve help. From simple cleaning robots like the pioneering Roomba to more complex helpers like the outdoors Toadi, domestic robots are an effective solution to household maintenance and are quickly rising in popularity.
8. Robots for kids
Tending to your kids at all times is challenging and so is finding a reliable babysitter last-minute. Not to worry, soon you’ll be able to leave your young ones with a robotic nanny. Some of the most promising inventions in this area include friendly robots that can entertain, educate and stimulate children, and others capable of recording and playing back virtual holographic videos when you’re not around.
Which kind of robot are you the most partial to? And if you had one, what would you name it?
Copywriter: Ina Danova