Urban space is expanding and so is the 21st-century technology. Smart cities, in particular, are increasing in size and scope giving rise to a complex urban space where things, data, and people interact constantly. Everything and everyone has become so connected that Wifi often fails to meet our 24/7 digital needs, online orders don’t arrive fast enough, traffic congestion is still blocking the roads and environmental pollution is still taking a toll on cities.
The speedy life and increased consumption in cities need something that can create the much-needed balance. Artificial humans or the robots are believed to bring that balance and move beyond in the urban space.
In the midst of the daunting fear in the minds of people about robots taking away the jobs or fear as big as the robots taking over the planet, experts from the field of robotics are optimistic. They confirm that these artificial humans will respond to the challenges in the economic, social, political, and healthcare domains positively. In fact, some of the smart cities have already proved the beneficial working of robots in various fields.
Let us delve into the world of robots and understand their existence well so that the human-robot collaboration brings fruitful yields in the years to come. Because it is not just important how robots work, it is also important that how we decide to use them for the betterment of the society.
Robots Are Here To Assist A Better Change
Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), a part of the MIT is working on creating innovative robots while focusing on automating its design and fabrication. CSAIL is working on manufacturing working robots that are flexibly designed and fabricated using 3D printing.
Furthermore, the effort showcased by CSAIL reveals that robots that are generally visualised as the ones that appeared in the ‘terminator’ will come in different sizes, shapes, and materials. The team of roboticists at CSAIL are making robots using soft materials, stretchy materials like rubber, cloth and even food compounds and liquids. They are taking inspiration from animals such as octopus that can move around and interact with its surroundings without a skeleton.
Soft materials can shape robots that are smaller, safer and more flexible than their rigid-bodied counterparts. Soft robots can eliminate the risk of damage during collisions, easily bend their limbs or squeeze into a narrow spot. The CSAIL team at MIT has developed soft robots that can swim like fish, slither like a snake and be swallowed to treat the wounds inside the body.
At present, robots have a limited battery life and perform simple tasks like lifting an object an shifting it from one corner of a room to the other. But as research and improvement with software and hardware continue, more robust robots will be developed that can travel long distances to transport goods and even arrive at disaster locations to rescue survivors.
Soon there will be robots that can read massive amounts of written information such as an entire library of books and simultaneously assist professionals such as doctors, lawyers arriving at more informed decisions. For example, MIT researchers have collaborated with hospitals to develop AI systems that can diagnose the right form of breast cancer. Their technique accurately diagnosed 97% of breast cancers as malignant thereby reducing more than 30% of the benign surgeries.
Now the integration of such robotic systems in hospitals indicates that they will not replace doctors. Instead, they will assist doctors in diagnosing the problem more accurately. This will also allow doctors to spend more quality time with their patients.
MIT Roboticist, Daniela Rus explains that people need to collaborate with robots instead of competing with them. There are some areas where robots can perform much better than humans. They can crunch numbers, do the math, remember everything, recognise patterns in data, lift heavy objects and move with precision. Whereas humans are better at tasks that call for creativity, abstract thinking and uncertainty.
The same thing has been acknowledged by another MIT expert, Kate Darling who investigates social robotics and conducts experimental studies on human-robot interaction. Elaborating the fact further she explains that robots do lag behind in some areas. For example, if we ask a robot to transfer skills from one context to another or deal with a problem that is unexpected they will fail to do it. And this is not just going to happen anytime soon in the future.
Robots can help us combat the biggest challenges of the world. Using the algorithms we can better understand climate change and analyse data from oceans, rainforests, and atmosphere. We can make provisions for excess food to communities that need it, respond to natural disasters and so much more.
A few years ago nobody thought about jobs such social media analysts, data scientists, app developers or mobile marketers but they do exist today. Similarly, the advent of robots will bring new and maybe even better work opportunities for the people.
Top 3 Smart Cities – The Emerging Test Beds For Working Robots
After having understood the role of robots, three smart cities of the world namely, Tokyo, Singapore, and Dubai exemplify the working of the robots in the real world. Mateja Kovacic, visiting research fellow from the University of Sheffield has selected these three cities as the emerging prototypes.
At present, Tokyo’s preparations are all set to host the Olympics of 2020. One of them is the launch of new robotic technologies that have been initiated by the government of Japan. Therefore, Tokyo is emerging as the urban testbed for the robots. Robot Revolution Realisation Council, founded by the government of Japan in 2014 is in charge of the entire process.
Japan’s main aim in introducing robotic technologies is an economic revival, international demonstration, and cultural branding. As the part of this aim, Olympics will be used to launch the latest innovation in the field of robotics. Robot taxis will be introduced for flexible transportation facility for the tourists. Smart wheelchairs will greet Paralympians at the airport. Different types of service robots will welcome customers and interact with them in more than 20 languages helping the foreigners communicate well with the local population in Japanese.
Singapore which is already taken to be a smart city is experimenting with robots with a different aim. The national government wants to introduce robots as a physical extension to the existing system thereby effectuating management and control of the city.
The vision thus served as the stepping stone for the delivery robots such as the Singapore Post Delivery via drone in collaboration with AirBus helicopters bus shuttles that are driverless.
Additionally, Singapore hotels are using service robots to clean room and deliver supplies. Plus, a pilot has been initiated to understand how robots could be used for pre-school education in the future.
Dubai showcases all its innovative efforts with the aim of creating the happiest city on earth. Introduction of robots is also a part of this ambitious vision. Dubai is experimenting the working of robots in public services, transportation, policing and surveillance.
In September 2017, the test flight for flying taxi was conducted which was developed by the German drone firm Volocopter – staged to “lead the Arab world in innovation”. Dubai aims at automating 25% of its transport system by 2030.
Currently, the city is working on experimenting with a humanoid police officer developed by PAL Robotics, Barcelona and OUTSAW vehicle from Singapore. If this trial is accomplished successfully, the city will further work on robotising 25% of the police force by 2030.
Gradual infiltration of robots may have a lingering fear on people’s minds, but if smart cities take every step ahead while correctly anticipating the possible challenges and its solutions, human-robot collaboration can augment many aspects of our work and life.