8 Predictions on the future of Robotics
- Jun 13, 2016
The field of robotics has shown exceptional growth as well as technological advancement in the last few years. The science fiction world of robots that was created by the celebrated authors like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury has become a part of the reality at least to a certain extent. Peek into a car manufacturing factory and you’ll see a number of robot arms working tirelessly to assemble various car parts together. That has speeded up the production process. It’s brilliant; we agree but there’s still some catches. One is the AI (Artificial intelligence) and another is their physical features. You’ll still be able to recognize a robot through its physical appearances, features etc. without giving in much effort for your discovery. This article is concerned only with the physical features of robots and will try to predict the improvements that might happen in the same field in the next 20 to 30 years. Yes; today we’ll be involved in guesswork but it would be a calculated guesswork for sure. So, let’s begin.
1. Shape and design
Currently, most industrial robots have rigid structures as well as frames made from plastic, aluminum and sometimes a mixture of both and alloys. The manufacturing methods involved are classic traditional ones including machining, composite molding, plastic injection and other standard electronics board manufacturing techniques. And then the software comes from a different source involving a complete different method. We predict a complete change in manufacturing process of robotics in the upcoming years. We can see some glimpses of that change already in present times with the introduction of 3D design and printing. Manufacturers can manufacture their very own spare parts or other parts using 3D printers rather than outsourcing such products. That has benefitted their production both from the point of view of time and money. But there’s still a lot to be done in the field of 3D printing where the choices of materials and designs are still limited. Well, we shouldn’t say limited these days because the options provided by 3D printing are still a lot when compared to that of the traditional methods of manufacturing through hands. But manufacturing intricate designs on a microscopic level is yet to be achieved through the help of 3D printing or through any other process. We can assume that in the next 25 to 30 years, some revolutionary changes will come into the field of 3D printing that’ll make those feats possible. Advanced manufacturing techniques will be implemented in production for sure. And why do we say 3D printing as that means of producing intricate microscopic designs? This is because frankly, we cannot see any other way through which that can be done. Can you? Well, if you can, you can inform us of the same; we’ll be happy to listen to it.
2. Flexible Structure
This prediction is somewhat linked to that of the above point. We did mention the choice of material of 3D printing in that point. Nowadays, the choice of material for 3D printing is limited to thermoplastics. There’s high probability that the options would increase in future. That would certainly have a drastic effect on the field of robotics. Just think about a situation in which the choice of articles is extended to metal or even organic matter. Humanoid versions of robots will gain a new adjective if the material used is 3D printing. It’ll now be a “human-lookalike”. The rigidity of robots can be curbed to a certain extent. Take for example a situation where you are working with a robot. You accidentally brushed against the robot and felt that cold metallic sensation. Will you like that? It can be estimated that in the next 25 to 30 years a drastic change will be made in the field of designing robot structure bringing in more options in choice of materials and designs; thereby, bringing in more flexibility.
How can it be possible?
The combination of elastic electronics and artificial muscles can make the production of soft robots possible. It might also involve the inclusion of some forms of input like liquid/gas to fill in various cavities thereby giving the impression of a human body. Production of 3D printed organic organs or parts might also be equally effective. Only time will tell whether it will be possible or not but the odds are in the favor of a positive outcome.
Stretchable circuits (an integral part of elastic electronics)
Image courtesy- www.robotshop.com
3. Skin of a Robot and its sense
We can guess what’s going on in that head of yours? You are probably thinking that this is excerpted straight from a science fiction novel or a story. How can a robot have a skin? How can a robot have sense? But then you think about it in a different manner. You reckon that it’s highly likely for a robot to have sense because of the way your Smartphone works these days. It can sense your location, your fingerprints, gravity and other stuffs. Well, they have a number o sensors implanted in their body that makes that possible. The same theory applies in the case of a robot. It might be possible to program the 5 sensory perceptions in a robot that are touch, sight, taste, smell and sound. In fact it’s already been done in many intricate bots starting from children’s playbots like Dash and Dot, Ozobots, I-Cybie, Lego Mindstorms bots, Root, Finch etc. to that of complex ones like the Valkyrie, Ambulance drones, RoboBee. We predict that it will be possible to enhance their senses in the upcoming future that will be tremendously beneficial for the mankind and it might be possible to program a few more in like a sense of movement, time, pain, pressure etc. Now let’s go back to the topic- “skin”. The possibility of construction an artificial skin made of organic matter can make a robot an integral part of the society. It might be possible for the robot to repair any external injuries sustained by it on its own just like the way human beings repair their cuts and bruises on external limbs and other parts. This seems a little far-fetched but it has high chances of occurrence in the next 25 to 30 years.
Artificial robot skin
Image courtesy- www.robotshop.com
4. Robot Organs
Imagine a situation in which it’ll be possible to manufacture organs from organic matter through the 3D printing. The same organs are possible to implement in the manufacturing of robots that might bring them closer to the society. The same organs can also be used for transplantation of various organs in specific human patients. This last aspect will be of tremendous benefit since it results in a drastic reduction of medical cost and can save a person’s life. But this entire point is dependent on the use of organic matter for 3D printing. We predict that it will be possible in the near future. There are a few examples in real life where such things are done namely bioprinting. It can be said for sure that the future of prosthetics is in safe hands and the ongoing research in the field of bioprinting will be of tremendous benefit to the same.
Image courtesy- www.robotshop.com
5. Artificial Neurons and Neuro Chips
A neuro chip is said to be the spearhead of artificial life. Well, it has all the potentials to be at the fore front of artificial life if it’s developed according to plan. The goal is to develop the neuro chip in close resemblance to that of the human brain, not in appearance but in action. If a neuro chip is successfully developed and implemented, artificial neurons should follow. Various educational fields such as computational neuroscience, neurobiotics etc. are striving hard to achieve that goal. It can be predicted that an advanced neuro chip along with artificial neurons are not that far away in the foreseeable future.
Image courtesy- www.robotshop.com
6. Natural Development
Learning from past experience is the natural tendency of almost all human beings. The main point is that they are leaning such things on their own. The same thing has to be applied in case of robotics. Let’s take the example of a simple situation in which you accidentally touched a hot iron with your fingertips. What did you do? You moved it away as soon as possible, without even realizing the fact. Your reflexes kicked in and made you do that now. The main thing is you are now aware of the same thing. You would consciously try to avoid such things in future. Do you think that the same thing applies in case of robots? Sadly, the answer is still a no. Robots can do only those things that they are instructed to do. There are some highly advanced gadgets available in the market that are said to have a mind of their own but that’s pretty underdeveloped and in our opinion, they are the result of a random algorithm, meaning that a limit exists at some point. Maybe in future this limit will be curbed and the boundaries will be extended beyond the level of infinity. A simple quote can clear this entire matter:
“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad”- Miles Kington.
7. Self Assembly
Do you know about the Despicable Me cookie bots? The bots were hidden inside cookies and as soon as the cookies reached a specific address, they assembled themselves and got to work. Pretty cool, isn’t it?
Despicable me cookie bot
Image courtesy- despicableme.wikia.com
But cookie bots are part of the fictitious world. Is there any possibility of the existence of such robots in the real world? We’ll say a yes. An origami bot that works on this same exact principle is used for medical surgeries. It can be predicted that a certain form of nanotechnology would soon come into existence in which a small bot can join together creating a larger object. It’s basically a concept in which a robot makes another robot. Probably it seems a little far-fetched but it might be very possible to implement this idea in the fairly distant future. Honestly, have you ever wondered the reason due to which a humongous airplane with a humungous weight on land flies in the thin air of the atmosphere? How can it bear the weight of such a large as well heavy object? You would not have believed it if you hadn’t seen it in your eyes. Similarly, many people hadn’t believed the possibility of a flying machine before the invention of airplanes. But finally it did happen. We made the impossible possible. The same can also happen in the field of nanotechnology.
8. Advanced Power
This is the main problem in this technological era- Power. The problem is somewhat in control when the device in question is a wired device that’s always connected to a stable as well as stationary power source through a wire. The problem is mainly in wireless devices where the power source cannot be stationary. This feature has to be improved to a certain extent. Some would say power banks and we agree that they solve this issue to a certain extent but there’s a limit to it. A more distinct solution is needed. It can again be predicted that some advanced power sources would be discovered in the foreseeable future that’ll solve this shortage of power to a certain extent. Remember: no power means no functioning of gadgets.
The discussion might seem pretty avant-garde to many of you but we are actually not kidding to be honest. There are high chances that such developments in the field of robotics will happen in the next 30 years. So we can also say that demand of robotics professionals for various jobs and research purposes might peak to maximum at that point. Even now it has reached to a stand out level of excellence because of its lucrative career prospects. Robotics education hence can be pretty important for this generation kids and for many others to come. So get a Lego kit and start building your very own robot versions. Good luck!
Futurite aims to bring high quality STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education to school students in India. Our mission is to use cutting-edge technologies such as Robotics and 3D Printing to impart a thorough grounding in STEM subjects and concepts to school students while making their learning experience fun, engaging and hands-on. Futurite has been operating in Dubai successfully (as Premier Genie) since a number of years, working with over 25 of the top international schools and teaching 1000+ students. Futurite has been founded by alumni from IIT, IIM, JU and HEC Paris.
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