Future of Engineering

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Future of Robotics - Robots Uses, Trends, Applications

The bots, until a decade back, used to be just fun and were more toys for tinkerers and scientists (except in Japan of course). But now the robots are beginning to be seen in many social places. We are used to chuckling at stories from Japan of robots serving coffee and greeting visitors to homes. But know what, these mechanical humans are here with us now, in London, in New York and whoa! even in my country, India. And when I read about predictions that robots in future could love and gasp!, go even one step beyond, I felt it was time I compiled a list of resources for what the future held in store for robotics. What are scientists predicting for the bots' future? What do the experts think? And who do those always fascinating sci-fi writers and futurists say after gazing at their crystal balls?

This compilation is divided into sections more for reading convenience than for any logical reason. Please let me know your thoughts and predictions on robots and their future roles by using the comments section below. Thanks!

Industrial, Professional & Military Applications

Robots: The Future is Now - Robots are already a part of our lives. Industrial robots widely used in manufacturing. Military and police organizations use robots to assist in dangerous situations. Robots already have a significant role in medicine. Robots are helping doctors achieve more precision in the operating room, performing safer, less invasive techniques

Future of Robotics for Civil Use - Caterpillar plans to develop remote controlled machines and expects to develop fully autonomous heavy robots by 2021. Some cranes already are remote controlled It was demonstrated that a robot can perform a herding task. Robots are increasingly used in manufacturing (since 1960s). In auto industry they can amount for more than half of the "labor". There are even "lights off" factories such as an IBM keyboard manufacturing factory in Texas that are 100% automated. Robots such as HOSPI are used as couriers in hospitals, etc. Other hospital tasks performed by robots are receptionists, guides and porters helpers, (not to mention surgical robot helpers such as Da Vinci) Robots can serve as waiters and cooks.

Bots on The Ground - The most effective way to find and destroy a land mine is to step on it. This has bad results, of course, if you're a human. But not so much if you're a robot and have as many legs as a centipede sticking out from your body. That's why Mark Tilden, a robotics physicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, built something like that.

Surgical Robotics - Surgical Robots towards autonomy:
* Current surgical robots are tactical: every move authorised by a surgeon
* Telesurgery already requires local autonomy
* Miniaturisation and new MIS techniques lead to strategic robots

* Robotics will become ubiquitous in future

Applications for Robot

Applications for robot insects are
* Tasks on terrain unsuitable for wheeled robots
* Animal modelling
* Remote handling
* Remote location exploration
* Entertainment/home projects
* Robot insects could be used for tasks that involve transportation, exploration and surveillance, especially for tasks that are inhospitable for humans.

Mobile Robot Suits Material Handling Applications - Employing Industrial Mobile Robotics technology, vision-guided Model GT3 moves through manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution operations utilizing stereo cameras to build 3D map of environment. It then uses map and its own reasoning ability to navigate predetermined path to complete assigned transport task. Designed to free up skilled employees, GT3 pulls carts, delivers palletized materials, and positions supplies without wire guides, magnets, or lasers.

Military Robots of the Future - Since Robby the Robot first appeared on screen in 1956’s Forbidden Planet, science fiction in print, film and on television has pushed the limits of our imagination regarding machines of the future and their abilities to perform human tasks.

Social Bots

Robots! More robots! And They're in Your House! - Robots of the future will look nothing like R2D2 in Star Wars, but resemble computer chips embedded in everyday appliances, such as vacuum cleaners and cell phones, if companies like Evolution Robotics Inc. have anything to do about it.The Pasadena-based company produces vision-based robotic technology. With it, you can point your cell phone at a movie poster, take a picture, and the technology will go out to the Web and download the movie's trailer to your phone.

'Love+Sex with Robots': Our Future? - Don Oldenburg says “I've seen the future of sex, and its name is Robot — as in humanoids designed and programmed to satisfy our every psychological and sexual need, want and desire. At least that's what artificial-intelligence expert David Levy contends in his controversial and troublingly arousing book about sexuality 50 years hence.” His prediction: Falling in love with and making love to artificial but remarkably human-like robots will become a socially accepted alternative

Robotic Rats Will get a Sense of Touch - An international team composed of robot designers and brain researchers is looking at nature to develop a new generation of robots with active touch sensing abilities. The BIOTACT (’Biomimetic technology for vibrissal active touch’) project is developing whiskered robot rats which might help in rescue or search missions under conditions of restricted visibility, and even for planetary research

Roomba Robotic Vacuum Cleaner - The Roomba 530 is easy to set up and use (it even has a talking tutorial/demo mode). Simply unpack it, install the battery and place it on its charging station. Several hours later, you’re good to go, using either standard mode or the spot-cleaning mode. Spot cleaning is best for small areas, while the Clean mode will cover several standard-size rooms. The Verdict: The Roomba 530’s clever design means dirt and dust won’t pass through the robot’s vacuum workings, which make it both easy to maintain and a great choice for dust-allergy sufferers. The Roomba 530 is also value for money; at $599 it’s not much more than a reasonably good vacuum cleaner.

Home Robots Grow In Popularity - We are moving beyond the stage where robots were used only in controlled and therefore relatively simple factory environments. The home and the surgical operating table are both much more complicated environments with more unplanned and unexpected elements that can show up. Recent advances in robotic vehicles demonstrate the potential for robotic systems to handle complex environments outside of factories. The success of robots in the mass market will provide revenue flows to fund the development of more robotic products. We should expect the introductions of new kinds of home and workplace robots in the next few year. Robots are a growing part of our everyday lives.

Robot Future Poses Hard Questions - Scientists have expressed concern about the use of autonomous decision-making robots. As they become more common, these machines could also have negative impacts on areas such as surveillance and elderly care, the roboticists warn. The development and eventual deployment of autonomous robots raises difficult questions. The more pressing and serious problem is the extent to which society is prepared to trust autonomous robots and entrust others into the care of autonomous robots

Future Vision: Cheap Robots Change the World - Virtual Travel: People will be able to visit each other without traveling. They will do this by taking control of a robot at their desired vacation destination, and use the Internet to transmit all the sensory information back and forth
* Housekeeping
* Machines will do the routine chores around the house
* Robots will be inexpensive

Exotic Stuff

Self-healing Mini Robots for Search and Rescue Operations - It is believed that the self-healing robots will be able to dock with each other, share energy, and co-operate to maximise their abilities to achieve different tasks. Researchers from 10 universities are associated with the project. They say that future applications include search and rescue missions, space exploration, and medicine. "A swarm could be released into a collapsed building following an earthquake. They could form themselves into teams searching for survivors or to lift rubble off stranded people"...Hmmm...

Robots Fly into Antarctic Skies - A pair of lightweight, robotic planes have made the first unmanned flights over Antarctica's icy expanses. Driven by propeller, the machines made 20 low-altitude sorties, including four over the Weddell Sea. The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were launched by catapult but flew autonomously until landing.During some of the test flights the machines were fitted with miniaturised instruments to collect data for use in predictive climate models

Thought-controlled Robot Picks up Green or Red Block………and more such interesting info

Brain Machine Interface - In January, Miguel A. L. Nicolelis announced that his team completed the first steps toward a brain machine interface that might make it possible for paralyzed people to walk by directing devices with their thoughts. The team's monkey, in North Carolina, demonstrated the power of the technology when she used her brain signals to make a robot in Japan walk.

Future Predictions

Future Trends in Robotics This brief report from AI Depot cites some interesting articles discussing trobotics trends...Guardian's feature on a recent experiment in evolutionary robotics, NY Daily report on Honda's Humanoid Robots, and the BBC News report on Robot Pets.

Bill Gates Stumps for Robotic Future - Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates lays out the robotic future in the cover story of January's Scientific American magazine, which has a C-3PO type robot on the cover. In the story, Gates argues that the robot industry is akin to the PC industry 30 years ago. Robots lack standards and don't have a common OS, processor or code base. And guess who wants to be that standard OS? Microsoft.

iRobot CEO Talks Past, Present and Future of Robotics Very few people know more about the practical robotics industry more than iRobot CEO Colin Angle. This article is based on a chat with Colin Angle earlier today about the state of the robotics industry, why iRobot is essentially the only company doing what they're doing in the field, what kind of robots are coming in the future and why robots are necessary for the human race to survive. Why are so few people getting into the robotics industry now? Colin says it's because the market is incredibly hard, the margins are terrible, and very few companies have the collective knowledge necessary to enter the market. More in the article.

Robotics - What Next? - The robotics industry, while in development for half a century, is still relatively in its infancy and faces a number of challenges in the years ahead. Besides the technological and cultural hurdles to overcome, questions remain unanswered regarding their economic and environmental impacts as well as the ethical issues of human and robot interaction. What is obvious is that robots, whatever form they take, will increasingly play a role in societies around the world and that the ecosystem of services and capabilities will offer increasing opportunities for designers in the years to come

Bots with Brains: Future Robotic Overlords? - Science fiction has portrayed machines capable of thinking and acting for themselves with a mixture of both anticipation and dread, but what was once the realm of fiction has yet again become the subject of serious debate as robots become more intelligent. In 1981, Kenji Urada hopped a safety fence at a Kawasaki plant to carry out maintenance work on a robot. While working on the machine, the robot reached out and pushed 37-year-old Japanese factory worker into a grinder with its powerful hydraulic arm. Urada’s death is often said to mark the first recorded victim to die at the hands of a robot, although Robert Williams was killed by a robot two years earlier. Since both deaths, and despite the introduction of improved safety mechanisms, there have been many more gruesome industrial fatalities involving robots crushing humans, smashing their heads and even pouring molten aluminum over them. So will the robots be our future overlords, overstepping the bounds that humans had prescribed for them?

Predictions and Trends - The Robotics Industry - RobotWorx President Keith Wanner attended the 15th Annual Robotics Industry Forum in Orlando, Florida last year. Wanner said the casual atmosphere at the Forum provided the perfect setting for him to talk with top executives from major robot manufacturing companies and connect with suppliers. Some thoughts from him based on his discussions...

Robotics Technology Trends - Despite the wishes of robot researchers to emulate human appearance and intelligence, that simply hasn't happened. Most robots still can't see – versatile and rapid object recognition is still not quite attainable. And there are very few examples of bipedal, upright walking robots such as Honda’s P3, mostly used for research or sample demonstrations. Today, simple pattern matching vision sensors can be purchased for under $2,000 from Cognex, Omron and others. The price reductions reflect today's reduced computing costs, and the focused development of vision systems for specific jobs such as inspection.

Some Nice Articles on Robots - Israel is developing a robot the size of a hornet to attack terrorists. And although the prototype will not fly for three years, killer Micro Air Vehicles, or MAVs, are much closer than that. More on such stuff from here.

The Future of Robotics - From vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers to military landmine detectors, robots are becoming increasingly present in our daily lives. Living on Earth’s Bruce Gellerman visits MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory to meet a humanoid robot named Domo, its creator, PhD student Aaron Elsinger, and the man behind all the magic, CSAIL director Rodney Brooks.

How Robots Will Affect Future Generations - The future for robots is bright. But, how will robots affect future generations? Sometimes you can get ideas for the future by looking into the past and thinking about the changes we've seen as a result of other great inventions, like the cotton gin, airplane or Internet. Perhaps one day we will have true robotic ''helpers'' that guide the blind, assist the elderly. Maybe they'll be modular devices that can switch from lawn mower to vacuum cleaner, to dish washer and window washer.

What Does the Future Hold for Robot Applications? - If you ride in a car, an industrial robot helped build it. If you eat cookies, such as the Milano brand from Pepperidge Farm, there are robot assembly lines to help make and pack them. The computer you use to send e-mails and use for research almost certainly owes its existence, in part, to industrial robots. Industrial robots are even used in the medical field, from pharmaceuticals to surgery.

And the Rest

Bot Junkie - And here's a fascinating blog on the bots!

Microsoft's Announcement on Robotics - Microsoft's announced earlier this summer (late June) that it was launching a development platform for folks building robots. Microsoft historians may know Trower as a 24-year-plus Microsoft veteran who has worked on a variety of Microsoft projects, ranging from Visual Basic to Microsoft Agent technology. He has also served as a member of Chairman Bill Gates' strategic planning staff during his tenure. It was in that capacity that Trower discovered the robotics community and its growing prominence in the tech landscape. What persuaded the Microsoft power elite, which had just shunned a grid-computing initiative, to back Trower's robotics play? Two words: The future. Trower believes that robots are the natural successor to PCs, and he's convinced his bosses to adopt his view, or so it would appear.

Some related blog posts on robotics trends & future

Robots may soon protect people, places and things

It’s a Great Time to be in Robotics

Future of robotics: The Road

Future of Robotics

iRobot CEO Talks Past, Present and Future of Robotics

The Future of Robotics in the BattlefieldThe future of robotics

Future of robotics: The road ahead

World's strongest robot is put through its paces at HANNOVER MESSE 2008

NSF/CCC/CRA Roadmapping Workshop for Medical and Healthcare Robotics

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Great links. Thanks for the comment.

Have you seen this video on a robot in a chicago hospital?

The use of robots around the home to mow lawns, vacuum floors and manage other chores has surged up as more consumers prefer smart machines to handle their day to day activities without a need to attend to those machines.

A report, issued by the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe and the International Federation of Robotics at the end of 2003, said that out of total domestic robot sales 570,000 were robot lawnmowers and Sales of vacuum cleaning robots reached 37,000.

Visit http://www.robotlawnmowers.ie to Buy a lawn robot now.
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