Does Robotics Still Have The WOW Factor?

It certainly does. Sit back, relax, open up your mind, and get ready to witness technological fireworks! Because today we will have a glimpse at some of the most amazing robots technological advancements, human creativity and perseverance have made possible to achieve. 

When hearing the word robotics, most of us instinctively think about flying cars and amazing cyborgs that only Schwarzenegger would be fit to embody. And we are not that far from the truth. But, before we get to the ‘cool stuff’, we should take a quick look at what robotics and robots are. 

Robotics Vs. Robots

Scholars define robotics as a scientific and engineering discipline that focuses on understanding and using artificial, embodied capabilities. The real people behind the scholar definitions – i.e. the roboticists – design, construct and operate robots through complex computer systems that allow them to control their creations, obtain sensory feedback, and process information. 

Historically considered a branch of engineering that focuses on the design, conception, manufacture, and operation of robots, robotics is closely inter-related with electronics, computer science, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, mechatronics, and bioengineering.

On the other side, most scholars define robots as: ‘an actuated mechanism programmable in two or more axes with a degree of autonomy, moving within its environment, to perform intended tasks. Autonomy in this context means the ability to perform intended tasks based on current state and sensing, without human intervention’.

And with this definition, polemics is on the cards! For instance, surgical robots lack autonomy. However, they are still considered robots. Who defines the ‘intended tasks’: the robot, the programmer, or the user? Would a self-driving car be considered a robot? How about a smart vacuum cleaner? Despite the vagueness of the definition and the numerous questions it raises, one thing is for sure: “I can’t define a robot, but I know one when I see one.” (Joseph Engelberger). So let’s experience some robotic magic together.

Robots have our back!

Worried that a robot may substitute you? Well, there are certain situations in which you wouldn’t mind a robot having your back. Just think for a moment about defusing a bomb or entering an unstable building to save someone. If you could decide, would you play safe or risk your life?

There are many types of robots and they are used for a multitude of purposes. However, most of them are used to make our lives easier and safer: in dangerous environments, under extreme conditions in which humans wouldn’t survive, manufacturing processes, in STEM as a teaching aid, medicine, etc. 

A rapidly growing field, nowadays robotics is applied to virtually any activity domain you can think of: medicine, education, military, domestic, commercial, etc. 

Impressive robots

And now it’s time for us to meet…

Sophia

Sophia is probably the most famous robot in the world. If you haven’t had the chance to see her in action, check her out interacting with Will Smith: https://youtu.be/Ml9v3wHLuWI 

Sophia was created by Hanson Robotics, a famous engineering company that dedicates its efforts into creating human-like, living, empathetic, intelligent machines that are able to engage emotionally with people, recognize faces, understand speech, maintain eye contact, hold natural conversations, recognize emotional expressions and various hand gestures,  and learn through experience. Sophia’s resounding success has at its base the joint creative effort and hard work of an impressive team of specialists coming from various fields: AI scientists, writers, philosophers, artists, and psychologists. Their common dream was to humanize AI, positively contribute to humankind and make the world a better place. 

If you want to read more about Sophia, the “hybrid human-AI intelligence” as her creators define her, you can check out Hanson Robotics’ official website: https://www.hansonrobotics.com/sophia/ 

 According to Hanson, their main purpose is to create machines that will be used as platforms for advanced AI research, education, medical and healthcare, entertainment applications, and sales and services. 

Moley Robotics

Do you hate cooking? If you find the word ‘hate’ too strong, we can replace it with ‘dislike’. But you get the picture. If you are a really bad cook or you simply don’t have the patience or skills to chop vegetables, don’t worry. You guessed it right: there is a robot that will have your back!

Moley Robotics has developed the first intelligent and fully-automated robotic kitchen, able to learn recipes and cook dishes by recording the chef’s movements and exactly reproducing them. The system consists of two fully-articulated mechanical hands and various kitchen appliances. 

Yes, you saw it right: Moley cleans up after itself! 

Atlas

Developed by Boston Dynamics, Atlas is a bipedal humanoid robot designed to operate indoors and outdoors and participate in complicated search-and-rescue operations, operate powered equipment in hazardous environments, or performing tasks such as opening doors.  

Boston Dynamics is known for actively collaborate with military organizations such as DARP or the U.S. Department of Defense. Their robot prototypes are engineering works of art, mimicking human and animal movements. Unlike other robots, Boston Dynamics’ creations can work under harsh conditions, demonstrating extraordinary human-like stability and rough terrain mobility.

If you want to meet the whole Boston Dynamics’ robotic family, check out the official website: 

https://www.bostondynamics.com/ 

Samsung Bot Care

At CES 2019, Samsung presented a range of impressive and practical care robots specifically designed to help users manage their daily health routine. Apart from acting as a heart monitor, tracking your sleeping habits, or reminding you when to take your medicine, the BOT Care is able to call emergency services and family members if necessary. Yes, once again, a robot will have your back when in trouble!  

Emotech Olly Robot

If you think Olly is just another smart home assistant, you are completely wrong. Developed by Emotech, Olly is the first robot with an evolving personality. I’m sorry to break it to you, but – despite being a robot – Olly is as unique as you are. Capable of learning and growing based on your routines and habits, Olly will adapt to YOU.  Using a brain-inspired AI system, Olly hears, sees, proactively starts a conversation, analyzes environments, and recognizes you by voice and image. But the most impressive part is that Olly understands your verbal patterns, vocal intonations, and facial expressions identifying your mood and adapting its behavior to it. 

Toyota T-HR3

A humanoid robot system, Toyota’s T-HR3 allows a human user to operate its robotic counterpart from a distance. Avatar-ish, isn’t it? The robot is capable of mimicking the human user’s movements with a precision that would make the pair Serkis-Gollum jealous. Since it is capable of performing smooth, natural movements, T-HR3 can be used under hazardous conditions such as natural disasters or, why not, in outer space. 

Though initially controlled using a direct wired connection, T-HR3 has been further developed and can now be remotely operated using a 5G network from a 10 km distance. 

Barista Rozum Café

If you are like me and you only function properly when on high-quality caffeine, a cup of coffee served by this robot will make you beam with joy! Using a robotic coffee station for your business comes with a series of advantages: no room for human errors, no complaints about working extra hours, no medical leaves, no extra payments, and no rest and meal breaks. 

The coffee station makes use of a highly performant robotic arm that ensures that a served coffee is a synonym of a happy customer. Can a robotic coffee station outperform a flesh and bone barista? The answer to this question is only one sip away.

If you want to learn more about this deliciousness-oriented project, you can check out its official webpage: https://cafe.rozum.com/ 

You can find more information about Rozum’s products and projects here: https://rozum.com/

KUKA Robotics

One of the best robots manufacturing company in the world, KUKA offers an impressive range of industrial devices and tailor-made solutions for businesses. From lightweight machinery to performant robot and production systems that function with the precision of a Swiss clock under the harshest conditions, KUKA’s products can efficiently carry out any industrial task, no matter how dangerous or complex. 

What else can KUKA’s robotic solutions do? Take a look at this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIIJME8-au8  Doesn’t this make you feel like Messi could soon have a real competitor? 

Ubtech Robotics’ Walker

First introduced to the public at CES in 2018 and then showcased again at CES 2019 with jaw-dropping improvements, Walker is a humanoid biped robot that was designed to be your agile and intelligent home companion. Thought out to make your day-to-day routine easier and more comfortable, Walker is nice enough to open the door for you, greet you, hang up your coat, turn on/off the light, carry your bag, entertain your kids, or provide video calls and conferencing assistance.  

Pepper

Created by Softbank Robotics, Pepper is the first humanoid robot that features an emotion engine. Apart from recognizing faces and certain human emotions, Pepper is capable of entertaining people and interacting with them in a unique way. According to its creators, Pepper is a friendly robot able to form real relationships.

If you want to find out how Pepper can take your business to a new level of efficiency, make sure to check out SoftBank Robotics’ official website: https://www.softbankrobotics.com/us/pepper 

Leka

An interactive robotic companion for kids with special needs, Leka encourages social interaction using sensory stimulations such as light, color, and sound and proposing stimulating games such as picture matching or color identification meant to improve motor and cognitive skills. The ideal companion for kids suffering from autism, Leka can be programed to guide children through a range of activities meant to improve communication and help them connect with people and the surrounding environment. 

Romeo

Designed by Aldebaran Robotics, Romeo was thought out to assist people with limited physical autonomy. Though its developers are still improving its abilities and hope to get him to carry objects and even people, Romeo can already climb stairs, open doors, and reach objects. 

OceanOne

An impressive aquatic android, OceanOne is able to reach depths that its human counterparts can’t.  Developed by the Artificial Intelligence Lab at Stanford University, OceanOne features sensitive hands that retransmit haptic feedback, making possible a shared sense of touch. Though it was originally thought out to study the delicate coral reefs in the Red Sea without damaging them, OceanOne can also perform other tasks such as exploring shipwrecks, thus opening new possibilities for ocean investigations.

Is it just me or aquatic treasure hunting has just got easier than ever?

To sum up…

All good things come to an end. At least until next time. But today we have witnessed some of the most impressive robots and prototypes out there. Like any other respectable field, robotics is not free from controversy, unjustified fear (or justified?), and – above all- huge expectations. But, regardless of how you feel about robotics, keep in mind that technology doesn’t happen by magic. It’s the result of extensive research, testing and retesting, failures and new attempts, high hopes, joint efforts of experts coming from a wide range of fields, hard work, and HUMAN CREATIVITY

Technology-wise, it is impossible to predict how the future will look like. But, judging from what we have seen today, it feels like the future is already here, rolling over us relentlessly and wowing us. Robotics and robots do have our back!