To go without a Future Friday post about robots would feel like breaking some sort of rule, so here we go. Mike, one of ihiji’s co-founders, came to me with this topic. Many innovations and tech updates we get today seem to be launching fast but it’s actually a very long process of research, funding, and testing. This may sound like an “uh-duh” moment, but aren’t we all used to getting phone app updates within weeks? These projects – space, driverless cars, 3D printing, etc. – they all date 10, 20+ years back. The time companies take on these colossal projects make sure that we get the best, safest products to use and assist us.
So today I’m talking about consumer electronics, specifically consumer electronics that are robots. You know, kind of like Rosie, the maid robot that the Jetsons had. Surfing around the Internet, I found a number of new robotic products that are meant to assist people. For example, the SootherBot was designed to give children high fives and distract them while medical professionals administer treatment that may be traumatizing or painful. Testing showed that children who experienced the SootherBot recovered more quickly and were more relaxed. Another example is Ecovac’s Winbot Series 7, which is a window cleaner robot that uses suction to hold onto glass so that it can clean windows, inside or outside.
A few concerns that come up when I was reading about the future of robotics: was it cost-efficient, was it going to replace us, and was it safe? A lot of money is poured into the research, building, and testing of these robots- are they really going to pay off and help us like we want them to? There are a number of assembly line factories that are transitioning to robots. There are two sides of the argument: humans being replaced by robots and humans getting time to learn other things that they wouldn’t because they had to do mundane tasks a robot could do. Safety is a major concern because I think we’ve all seen enough movies to imagine the possibility of a robot malfunctioning and doing the opposite of what we tell them. Everyone has seen *insert robot takeover movie here*.
This is where I introduce Baxter, a robot developed by the people at Rethink Robotics. According to the website, Baxter is different from any other industrial robot because he “exhibits behavioral-based ‘common sense’ capable of sensing and adapting to its task and environment.” I watched this TED talk with Rodney Brooks about ‘Why We Will Rely On Robots’ and he introduces Baxter if you want to see how he works. So what does this mean? He’s quite large, doesn’t have two legs (yet), but could this be true? Will we one day rely on robots? We kind of rely on a “robot” already (look at your smartphone). But Baxter, a robot, will he be your next coworker?
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