Alarmist news reporting warns of robots eventually replacing human employees. There isn’t cause to worry just yet, so banish all thoughts of Rossum’s Universal Robots rising up against their human overlords. It’s not all doom and gloom. From companionship to pizza delivery, robots can handle lots of simple and not-so-simple tasks that demonstrate how they can help humans.
When considering the potential benefits of robots, start by thinking through your daily routine. Is there anything you would gladly let a robot take over? Though they’re relatively small in size, there are robots making a big impact in areas of everyday life.
Gardening: If you enjoy watching your Roomba trundle around after dust bunnies, just think how awesome it would be to have an outdoor robot that kills weeds in your garden. Franklin Robotics’ Tertill uses solar power and four-wheel drive to wage war on your weeds on a daily basis. This waterproof garden tank rumbles around rain or shine.
Pizza: Maybe you’ll use the time you saved in the garden to pick up a pizza. Or maybe not; Domino’s customers in Hamburg, Germany, have the option of getting one delivered by robot. The six-wheeled, curb-climbing Starship Technologies vehicles trundle along sidewalks at around 4 mph with a payload of around four pizzas. According to Wired, onboard sensors allow the unit to avoid both foot and auto traffic as it crosses streets and navigates routes up to a mile from the pizzeria. While other companies are using drone technology for deliveries, Starship Technologies says it has tested the system in 6 countries and 59 cities and states that there are advantages to keeping robots on the ground, such as “No high-speed crashes, no tangling with the FAA for regulatory approval, no reliance on technology that’s still in development or overly expensive.”
Need a Hand?
Venom Extraction: Do you have a tank full of scorpions to milk? There’s a robot for that. According to The Society for Experimental Biology, a research team in Morocco has a lightweight and portable scorpion-milking robot that is gentle with both the insect and the human handler. While SEB notes that scorpion venom is beneficial for “immunosuppressants, anti-malarial drugs and cancer research,” they also state that “the extraction process can be potentially life-threatening.” Hopefully, this invention will decrease life-threatening risks, making electrical shock or accidental envenomation a thing of the past.
Travel and Telecommuting: Robots can now stand in for you at conferences, as described by Wired. Tired of commuting to work? This Oculus Rift-based VR project from MIT gives you the option to control robots remotely via telecommuting.
Music: What about how robots can help humans in the arts? Lonely musicians should take note of Nigel Stanford’s automated bandmates.
At Robotic Arm’s Length
Along with helping with daily tasks, robots can also keep you out of danger. As well as unmanned systems removing land mines, there are other robots designed for danger zones. For example, the University of Nevada, Reno, has aerial robots designed to fly around toxic environments like the abandoned Manhattan Project sites, mapping hazards for eventual cleanup, as described by Unmanned Aerial Systems Magazine. Instead of exposing operatives to radiation, chemical hazards and extreme environments, remote operation places robots at the sharp end of disasters.
How about robot security guards patrolling the neighborhood? Business Insider suggests that Silicon Valley firms may soon be patrolled by security guards that never need a bathroom break. These robots are not built to tackle but to scan; through an array of sensors, the mechanical guards monitor the environment. When challenged with unusual activity, they sound the alarm to deter intruders or bring help.
Will robots ultimately replace the need for human labor, or will they enhance our lives in ways we never imagined? It remains to be seen, but the possibilities seem endless.