The fictional idea of ‘robot revolution’ seems to be true now with AI robots being visible around us, performing small tasks. In the last few decades, robots have grown from being specialised devices for industrial applications to even helpers in household chores. The recently deployed Google’s robots that clean tables are a great example of letting ML develop on its own.
According to a report by Markets and Markets, the AI-Robots market size reached a whopping USD 6.9 billion in 2021 and is expected to multiply by around five times in the next five years and reach USD 35.3 billion by 2026 (CAGR of 38.6 %). The demand for AI robots especially got a boost during the pandemic where social distancing became a norm.
Here are a few autonomous robots that are currently deployed at the experimental level and have the potential to become a norm in 2022. Read on:
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Alphabet has deployed 100 everyday robots across Google offices in North Carolina. Created by X – The Moonshot Factory, the robots use a combination of ML techniques, which include reinforcement learning, collaborative learning, and sensors to perform tasks. The robots can learn by themselves and even adapt to the environment. They can adapt to the unprecedented factors around them and act accordingly. Everyday robots perceive their surroundings using LiDAR sensors. The robots can learn complex tasks by themselves in a day – like opening a door, which can take about four months of programming. The white robots have an arm called the gripper above its wheeled base, which is a multipurpose attachment. These everyday robots are currently sorting trash, cleaning tables, moving chairs in and out the conference rooms, and even opening doors, among other tasks.
Meenakshi Mission Hospital & Research Centre (MMHRC), Madurai, Tamil Nadu, deployed 16 Teladoc Health Vita robots in 2021 during the pandemic. Acquired from US-based Teladoc Health, the robots autonomously carried out basic clinical examinations like testing of heart rate and blood pressure. The capabilities of these robots extend to being IoT devices too, where they were used to control advanced diagnostic equipment like CT and MRI scan machines. The Teladoc robots collected and processed data from multiple diagnostic equipment, analysed it and helped doctors make precise clinical decisions.
MMHRC integrated the Teladoc robots to cath labs, ICUs, emergency, isolation wards and picture archiving & communication system (PACS). This installation helped the Tamil Nadu hospital examine over 40,000 in-and-out patients during the critical months of the pandemic.
South Korea’s Hyundai auto group deployed Spot, a safety service four-legged robot developed by Boston Dynamics, for pilot operation at their auto plant. Equipped with deep learning-based vision technology and task management, the robot was applied with autonomous navigation, artificial intelligence, teleoperation technologies, and computing payload that is useful in industrial tasks. A subsidiary of the auto group, Kia Motors, introduced the pilot operation to assess its effectiveness and applicability. Spot has an integrated 3D LiDAR light detection and ranging device, thermal camera and can detect persons around it and monitor potential fire hazards. With AI technology, the robot can detect dangers, alarm managers, provide real-time photos of on-site situations, maintain an activity log with the control centre, and even sound an alarm as a rapid response in case of an emergency. The robot provides great support to the late-night security patrols as it creates a safer environment for the workers.
The best part is that it is a legged robot (not a wheeled or tracked robot) and can move through extreme terrain, including narrow mountain trails and rocky boulders.
Robotic grass cutters
Changi Airport, Singapore, has deployed seven robotic grass cutters to help in maintaining all grass turf which is as big as the size of 1000 football fields. The airport’s aim is to make grass maintenance, a labour-intensive service, completely man-less. The robotic grass cutters have been acquired from Italian company Ambrogio and Swedish firm Husqvarna. The solar-powered robots are programmed to maintain specific areas and automatically head back for a recharge.
For an airport, it is essential to maintain a grass turf as it prevents soil erosion at the airport, absorbs surface water run-off during storms and even proves to be a cushion in case of aircraft veering off. The maintenance is extremely difficult as short grass that is too short can draw birds to spot prey and pose a danger to aircraft, and long grass can become a sanctuary for wildlife hiding from predators.
During the test runs, each of the seven robotic grass cutters covers an area of 1.2ha – approximately the size of one and a half football field.
7-Eleven’s delivery robot
South Korea’s 7-Eleven convenience stores have started testing autonomous delivery robots in southern Seoul. Currently, the robot will cover delivery runs within a radius of 300 meters from a designated store till January, and the operation area will be expanded after the results. 7-Eleven will observe the way in which the robot operates in urban environments, especially when intertwined with obstacles like street poles and pedestrians.
The 7-Eleven’s robot was created in partnership with Neubility. With high-rise buildings and sky-scrapers, GPS based-autonomous driving proves useless, and LiDAR-based autonomous driving solutions are very expensive. The development cost of Nubility’s multi-camera system in its robot is one-tenth of the LiDAR solution cost.
Robots have become smarter and more autonomous over the years and might be a lot around us. Experts opine that they might learn mundane tasks without programming but will always lack moral reasoning. With morality being culturally specific and a continuously evolving thing, developing a perfect AI-robotic system is a major challenge.