The Reality of Robotics And its Lesser Known Uses
Why We Need Not Worry About Robots Replacing Us From Our Jobs
The robotic revolution is here! Although it is nothing like how Hollywood movies have represented. While the first industrial revolution was powered by steam, second by electricity and third by computer chips and transistors, the fourth revolution will be fundamentally based on the potential of Artificial Intelligence. It is this AI that paves the way for the age of robotics. From a historical perspective, the first phase of robots was inundated by machinery capable of doing rote tasks, especially in the assembly unit of industries. Now, in the second phase of robotics, the robots have upgraded their functions and applications beyond the manufacturing industry settings. This was made possible due to readily available data pool, decreasing prices of sensors, and demand for cobots (collaborative robots). Therefore because of its wider usability, robotics is an emerging technology across all industrial landscapes.
Despite the promising prospects of robotics, people are worried if it will replace them as a better ‘employee’ alternative. According to an article on Interesting Engineering, this paranoia began in the 1990s in the USA bank sector. Commonly known as the American Teller Story, in that decade, banks in the USA started installing automated teller machines (ATM) across the country. These machines could do just about everything a human teller could do in a more efficient and simpler manner. This sparked fears of job loss to human-made machines, which continues till date. However, what people realize then was the fact that those ATM encouraged banks to open up more branches, thereby increasing employment in the commercial banking sector.
A report by PwC estimates that in the time-period of 2017-2037, AI and robotics will generate 7.2 million new jobs as compared to the 7 million jobs that will be displaced, thus, giving a net gain of 200,000 jobs. Besides, it is important to note that the switch to robotic automation depends on the people having sound trade skills for its maintenance too, which is already suffering a deficiency due to stigmatized career, poor basic pay, and lack of vocational training.
Moving on, robots shall not only transform bigger industries like logistics, manufacturing, finance but also be increasingly used in sectors like military training, farming, and restaurants too. In the military, the MAARS (Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System) can fire, non-lethal lasers (designed to blind foes), tear gas, or even a grenade. The SAFFiR (Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot) can extinguish fires that break out on Naval ships while, flying surveillance robot, Black Hornet can stream live video to the user, allowing them to scout areas from a safe distance.
In farming, robots now assist farmers in harvesting fruits, vegetables, and other harvestable without damaging the product, pull out weeds, and spraying pesticides. E.g., Octinion’s Rubion robot is used to pick up 360kg of strawberries each day for Wimbledon matches. Rubion uses photonic sensors to detect the wavelengths of light, or the ‘signatures’ given off from a ripe, red strawberry according to a pre-programmed set of characteristics the RGB camera has built into the ‘eye’ of the robot. It then uses a patented soft-touch gripper to pick strawberries from below and sort the fruits by size or weight and pack into punnets as it goes along.
Further, robots are deployed in restaurants and food outlets to take orders, clean utensils, prepare food, and so on. E.g., Kiwi has employed a fleet of food delivery bots each for different kinds for each step in the process, with a goal to make the transport of food to customers as cheap and efficient as possible. Meanwhile, San Francisco’s Creator uses robots for every step of the burger-making process, i.e., grinding beef, frying patties, toasting buns, dispensing condiments, and assembling burgers, which are then sold for reasonable rates.