Will they be useful or a threat?
It still sounds sci-fi but robots are gradually entering our lives. Some companies are developing them and others are ready to sell their robots which can be employed in different working areas.
Here are some of the most amazing, just to give you an idea where we are.
Digit is a bipedal robot by Agility Robotics equipped with a torso, arms, and sensors. Arms are simultaneously a tool for moving through the world, getting up after a fall, waving them for balance, or pushing open a door, while also being useful for manipulating or carrying objects. According to the company, Digit is strong enough to pick up and stack boxes weighing up to 40 lb (18 kg), as well as durable enough to catch itself during a fall using its arms to decelerate.
The robot is approximately the size and shape of a small adult human and it’s able to navigate environments semi-autonomously with the help of LIDAR and other sensors. The control system for Digit has been overhauled to enable advanced behaviors such as stair climbing and footstep planning; all controlled through a robust API that can be accessed both onboard the robot and via a wireless link. Further, Digit’s torso houses two multi-core CPUs, and a modular payload bay allows a third computer.
Digit can also perform some operations autonomously, but it’s not able to adapt to new environments as easily as a human. Agility Robotics says it can be put to a range of uses, including in logistics, warehouses, telepresence, and industrial inspection.
Delivery robots are not so far to replace delivery men even though this example of robots still looks too slow. However, it’s not the first case of robots trying to deliver packages: Amazon is currently developing new ways of delivering, by land (with robots) and by air (with drones). Anyway, it’s no surprise this kind of job is going to be replaced because easily automatable.
Spot by Boston Dynamics is a nimble robot that climbs stairs and traverses rough terrain with unprecedented ease, yet is small enough to use indoors. Built to be a rugged and customizable platform, Spot has an industry track record in remote operation and autonomous sensing. It goes where wheeled robots cannot while carrying payloads with endurance far beyond aerial drones. With 360° vision and obstacle avoidance, the robot can be driven remotely or taught routes and actions to perform autonomous missions. Developers can create custom methods of controlling the robot, program autonomous missions, design payloads to expand the robot’s capabilities, and integrate sensor information into data analysis tools.
Here are some possible applications: inspect progress on construction sites, create digital twins, and compare as-built conditions to Building Information Modeling (BIM) autonomously with Spot; create autonomous routes or drive the robot to remotely inspect facilities and improve awareness of plant operations; create autonomous routes or drive the robot to remotely perform inspections in electrified or radiation dense areas; create routine tunnel inspection routes and attach additional payloads to take measurements and ensure safe working conditions; drive Spot remotely to get eyes on dangerous situations or inspect hazardous packages from afar; use Spot to triage patients; deliver food and medicine; or disinfect rooms from afar; program dynamic movements and expressive poses through the API or drive the robot in real-time as part of a performance.
Spot is available for purchase at $75,000.
It looks weird because it seems like a dog skeleton moving like it is alive but it’s amazing how it can walk, keep balance, and avoid obstacles. Maybe it will look scarier when they’ll dress it with a dog skin or they’ll simply install a machine gun on it. Black Mirror teaches! Jokes aside, it can be very useful especially for dangerous works to safeguard human life, just like a dog would do, but in other ways. However, I can’t tell if a real dog will be replaced as a pe. It would be sad.
Handle is another Boston Dynamics’ interesting robot is Handle Robot which can move boxes in a warehouse. Handle has a small footprint, long reach, and vision system enables it to unload trucks, build pallets, and move boxes throughout a facility. Handle utilizes deep-learning vision software to identify and locate boxes. It unloads trucks, palletizes, and depalletizes at the push of a button. It does multiple jobs and it’s designed to reach boxes high and low with the ability to fold into a compact form to move throughout your facility, or to another warehouse. Its mobility enables it to operate in multiple work cells, moving through facilities along with the flow of goods. According to the company its possible applications are: unloading boxes to a conveyor to simplify truck and shipping container unloading; navigating distribution center aisles; picking from multiple inventory locations to build mixed-SKU pallets; moving boxes from conveyor to pallet and service multiple manufacturing lines with a single robot.
After the delivery robot, we have the warehouse worker robot looking like an ostrich. Another job perfectly automatable, often tiring, that will be replaced. There will be fewer warehouse workers but they will check if robots are working correctly and intervene in case of problems.
Softbank Robotics developed Pepper, the first social humanoid robot able to recognize faces, basic human emotions, and adapt its behavior. Pepper was optimized for human interaction and is able to engage with people through conversation and its touch screen. The robot is available for businesses (retail, care homes, hospitals, car showrooms, hotels, banks, …) and schools. It stands about 120 cm tall and weighs 28 kg, and uses sensors to monitor what is going on around it before making independent decisions.
Pepper has 20 degrees of freedom for natural and expressive movements; speech recognition and dialogue available in 15 languages; a perception module to recognize and interact with the person talking to the robot; touch sensors; LEDs; and microphones for multimodal interactions; infrared sensors; bumpers; an inertial unit; 2D and 3D cameras, and sonars for omnidirectional and autonomous navigation and open and fully programmable platform.
The price of Pepper is about $1,500.
Pepper looks friendly, maybe not in the middle of the night but it will be a future replacement of a secretary, receptionist, hostess, etc… Maybe it will be a good caregiver for old and disabled people, helping them with their daily needs, in case of emergency or simply to chat with; even though it’s hard replacing a person as company because even a credible conversation is fake without a soul.
Atlas is the most astonishing robot ever seen. In 10 years the humanoid robot by Boston Dynamics has evolved a lot. This robot could walk (even on snow), pick up boxes, and even get up by itself after a fall. It can have several applications: drive a utility vehicle at the site; travel dismounted across rubble; remove debris blocking an entryway; open a door and enter a building; climb an industrial ladder and traverse an industrial walkway; use a tool to break through a concrete panel; locate and close a valve near a leaking pipe; connect a fire hose to a standpipe and turn on a valve.
Atlas is the scariest robot ever seen. It’s easy for our minds to immediately jump to a Terminator scene but we must admit it’s really revolutionary. When it will be able to speak, it will be the most complete humanoid robot able to do lots of activities but we hope it won’t be used for war.
Stuntronics by Walt Disney Imagineering is autonomous self-correcting aerial performers that make on-the-go corrections to nail high-flying stunts every time. Basically, a robotic stuntperson, hence the name. They came up with the concept of a stunt double for the ‘hero’ animatronic figures that could take their place within a show or scene to perform more aggressive maneuvering, much in the same way a double replaces a valuable and delicate actor in a dangerous scene.
The Stuntronics robot features on-board accelerometer and gyroscope arrays supported by laser range finding. In its current form, it’s humanoid, taking on the size and shape of a performer that could easily be imagined clothed in a costume. The robot is able to be slung from the end of a wire to fly through the air, controlling its pose, rotation, and center of mass to not only land aerial tricks correctly but to do them on target while holding heroic poses in midair.
Cool like a Power Ranger, this robot looks like a superhero in real life. Its poses look realistic as if it’s alive. This will be a great stuntperson, better than any CGI double because it will allow more dangerous and convincing scenes.
We don’t know if robots will be used to hurt humans but it’s hard to imagine they won’t. Every technology may be used both for good or evil but we hope countermeasures to fight against the evil side will be better. Robots can be a great help for people: for jobs and for helping humans in their daily life but maybe we should imagine a world through a new perspective where a job is not essential but rather something that can be done by machines to give people more free time to focus on learning, creativity, evolving: in short, living.