Over the winter break I had the chance to see the robot evolution, no not the doomsday scenario we constantly see being played out in Hollywood, but an exhibit at the Museum of Industry and Science in Chicago, Illinois.
By: Jack Sawyer
Supported by Google, this exhibit showcased the latest advancements in robotics covering a range of impressive abilities and applications. One of the robots that stood out to me was a robot that acted as a card dealer. It was comprised of a head that stored a vision system and two arms attached below. Each arm had three joints allowing it to perform sophisticated maneuvers and cover all areas of the poker table. This robot was particularly interesting because it provided an example of where a machine could replace a human as well as improve the position for both the player and the casino. Robots don’t make mistakes when dealing cards, they don’t need to be given tips, and most importantly, they don’t have a bias (unless programmed!). These factors lend themselves to making a robotic card dealer an attractive proposition for the future.
With global spending on robotics expected to hit $94 billion this year, where else could we see robots coming into our everyday lives? To answer this question, we can look to the recent Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Robots usually make an appearance at CES, in the past we have seen robots that cleaned your house, reminded your grandma to take her medicine, and even a bot that watered your garden - however they all shared a common constraint: they were single purpose entities. This year was different as we are now seeing the emergence of multi-purpose robots. We can see an example of this in Aeolus from Aeolus Robotics. Aeolus can act as a security guard, be your personal assistant with Alexa integration, clean your floor, and even unpack and sort your groceries. Expected to release at the end of 2018, this robot exhibits an unprecedented level of dexterity and subsequently, it will be exciting to see how consumers respond to it and where it will take us going forward.
Video from Mashable Daily.
Last year we saw a surge in demand for personal assistant devices such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home. With the onboard assistants, Alexa (Amazon) and Google Assistant (Google) getting smarter and smarter, they have brought about greater utility to the consumer. As a result, people are becoming more accepting of having a connected device in their home that is consistently on. But what comes next after a smart speaker? If we have learned anything from our relationship with technology it's that we always want more. Smart speakers are great, but they can’t clean your house or bring you your favourite drink while you are watching Netflix. As a result, I believe we will start to see the adoption of robots in households as they would greatly expand on the capabilities of a smart assistant.
Google Home (Left) and Amazon Alexa (Right)
My trip to the Museum of Industry and Science showed me that although robot can be slow and sometimes get confused, the list of their potential applications is growing rapidly. This became further evident when seeing multi-purpose robots at CES. Multi-purpose household robots represent a significant advancement in robotics and its adoption into the mainstream. An ever expanding list of abilities will only increase the value of robots while justifying their cost. As we reach this point, we will begin to see a stronger presence of robots in our day to day lives.
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