Just as mobile technology and cloud computing became a normal part of our lives, along comes the next set of disruptive innovations that will radically change the way we work and play. Get ready for robots to appear in virtually every area of life. But just as with the Internet, there will also be a dark side.
Over the past few months, robots were unveiled that can do new things in exciting ways. There is so much progress being made that some experts are predicting a new age of robots arriving soon to revolutionize the way we live and work to help with numerous difficult tasks and improve the overall quality of life.
However, others are saying that robots could be putting traditional jobs at risk and will cause negative disruptions. Even worse, some worry about killer robots and a dark side to this new trend. “Unlike today’s robots, which generally work in cages, the next generation will have much more autonomy and freedom to move on their own.”
Here are some recent new examples from the Mirror Newspapers (UK):
"Sheepdogs - “Researchers at the University of Swansea found that sheepdogs use only two simple tactics to herd wandering woollies and have come up with a way to mimic them….”
Delivery drivers – “Online shopping giant Amazon is developing unmanned drones to deliver their packages….”
Butlers: “The world’s first robot butler is already on duty at Californian hotel Aloft. He is 3 ft tall with a snazzy bow-tie and uses the lifts to move between floors and delivers toiletries and phone chargers to guests.”
Other examples include: Birds of prey, jockeys, security staff, hospital porter, burger flipper, astronaut and more.
Credit: Flickr Enon Robot, via Wiki Commons
How Can Robots Come to the Cloud?
It almost seems like a theme from a Star Wars or Lord of the Rings movie, but scientists are creating a new robot brain that will rule them all – dubbed “Robo Brain.”
"...With Robo Brain, individual robots, whether it's a robotic arm working on a factory floor, an autonomous car or a robot assistant helping an elderly person at home, can draw on this store of information and learn from what other robots have already learned….
In July, the team of scientists began uploading about 1 billion images, 120,000 YouTube videos and 100 million how-to documents and appliance manuals. They also uploaded all of the training and information they already had given the different robots created in their own individual laboratories…."
And at least one researcher believes that the rise in robots will affect women more than men, at least in the workplace. (I'm not as convinced.)
Meanwhile, there is plenty of competition to try new things with robots. This year RobotChallenge presents a new open source competition - "Hack the Arduino Robot!".
“To apply for this competition you need to submit a short description of your project idea (up to 120 words) until the 26th of January responding to the following questions:
· What would you do with an Arduino Robot?
· What makes your idea special?
· What real life problem does your robot solve?"
Back at the beginning of 2014, the Huffington Post listed these 10 robots to watch for 2014. I especially like QB from AnyBots:
"QB from AnyBots is a remotely controlled, self-balancing, virtual presence robot. It'll represent you and let you 'go' places and interact when you can't physically attend. For example, a child under medical treatment could use QB to attend classes. Or a manager could inspect a factory from a remote office."
What About Government Uses?
One area that governments see robots being used is on the farm. There are debates around how fast this new technology will be deployed, but this article from the UK describes possible ways that robots could be used from everything from picking fruit to food inspections. (Note UK spellings):
For instance, a "lettuce bot" is capable of hoeing away ground weeds from around the base of plants. A "wine bot" trundles through vineyards pruning vines. Other bots are under development to remotely check crops for their growth, moisture and signs of disease.
Owen Paterson, the secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs, enthusiastically embraced the prospect at the Oxford Farming Conference this week, saying: "I want our farmers and food producers to have access to the widest possible range of technologies, from new applications of robotics and sensor technology to new LED lighting in greenhouses and cancer-fighting broccoli."
The government has set out for the first time an "agri-tech" strategy, with £160m in public funding. Of this cash, about £70m will go to commercialising new agricultural technologies – including robots, and £90m will be spent on setting up centres for agricultural innovation that will seek to develop farm technology for export, with the help of a new unit within UK Trade and Investment.
I also like this CIA robot fish named "Charlie." I'm not sure what it is used for, but one can only imagine. (It turns out, this fish was created in the 1990s.)
CIA Robot Fish Charlie credit: Wiki Commons
Ready or not, robots are coming. And yet, The Atlantic makes the case that the world is not ready for the next generation of robot warfare – which is already happening with drones helping to go where humans do not today.
It is clear that robots are becoming an entirely new area of innovation that will transform our lives in the coming years. We will no doubt see robots developed for good and evil purposes. Hacking robots is certainly a new field that will emerge for coming generations.
Regardless of your focus, robots will be on the front lines of technology innovation, as well as advances in every area of life.
Will robots become a part of critical infrastructure or enterprise technology teams? Or, will new professional role(s) emerge to manage robots? What do you think about robots?