Humans will over time share the planet with intelligent robots, able to perform efficiently all trivial, but also highly specialized tasks.
Today, robots are mostly used in medicine. Their main application is in difficult operations, namely head surgeries that cannot be performed with the traditional method, or in complex laparoscopic surgeries which require delicate handling. What enhances the business value of robotics is the fact that commercial computer hardware is the key to building a reliable robot, from fast processors to cheap flash memory and high-capacity hard drives. Moreover, robots serve niche markets, with annual sales of about $5.5 billion for industrial robots (the type that automotive companies use to weld and paint cars) and about $1 billion for robots used in education, entertainment and cleaning homes.
Robots are also effectively used in supply chain management. Globalization, outsourcing and information technology have enabled many organizations to operate collaborative supply networks where each business partner focuses on its specialization and on a few key strategic activities. Particularly, in supply chain management, robots facilitate distribution networks by being used in warehouse activities like cross docking, palletizing, kitting, tagging, and identifying products. In that way, a highly automated warehouse has become a core part of the supply chain.
Recent studies have shown that the information flow from the environment to the robots, and then from the robots back to the environment can be measured by recording what the robots see and what they do. In that way, better robots can be designed and built thus maximizing the information flow within the organization which automatically implies more flexible, capable systems, quicker operations and higher profit margins.
Another effective application of robots is their use to visually assist consumers with sight deficiency in huge retail stores. Specially-designed robots guide the consumer through the aisles waiting to take instructions through a small directory of products, which is attached to its handle. The consumer asks and the robot replies by voice. Then, the robot uses its radio-frequency identification (RFID) reader in order to locate the desired products. The store’s RFID tags assist the robot to navigate the lanes as well as to locate products.
In the future, robotic-aided emergency surgeries would be performed in space shuttles according to a simulation of the harsh environment and extreme conditions occurring in space which has taken place in a ten years experiment undersea. Moreover, the event of performing operations in remote locations on Earth has already been examined and the experiment has been considered very successful. NASA develops the necessary technology in order to perform a remote operation of an astronaut during an interplanetary travel with a remote control robot surgeon. Of course, such a development may benefit many patients on Earth.
The general trend for computers seems to be faster processing speed, and greater memory capacity, allowing for the assumption that the robots of the future would function closer to the human decision-making ability. Moreover, a recent study on behalf of the U.K. Office of Science and Innovation’s Horizon Scanning Centre holds that robots might reach a point of intelligence at which they could demand freedom from ownership, clearly insinuating independence.
Conclusively, enhancements to robotics technologies in the future could yield smarter machines, greater robot productivity and increased quality of life for people. Apparently, once robots have the ability to perform a wider array of tasks, and the voice recognition software is improved so that computers can interpret complicated sentences in varying accents, we may in fact see robots doing our housework and carrying out other tasks in the physical world.