The Future of Robotics: What to Expect After 2020

With automation rendering many people jobless and artificial intelligence causing social upheaval, there is a lot of apprehension about a “robot takeover” so to speak. After all, we’ve seen it in movies and TV. Sci-fi pop culture has made us believe that robots will soon rise and lord over us.

But is this really the case? Are robots capable of taking over the world? It may be too early to tell at this point, but the current trends in robotics point in the opposite direction.

AI will reign supreme

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been dubbed as the electricity of the 21st century, and it looks like it will continue to be. But as opposed to a ‘Wild West’ landscape now where anything and everything goes, experts posit that there will be a transition to a more controlled regulatory environment. As governments proceed to assess the implications of AI, it’s highly likely that there will be an influx of mandatory legislation that will inevitably slow down the pace of progress and innovation, heavily impacting robotic automation.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms are likely to face safety regulations, resulting in the slowing down of the development of vision systems that are important to AIs. It’s also possible that it may affect the developments of industrial robots, especially in terms of the enhancement of complex functions like kitting or parcel sorting, which could prove to be useful in supply chains. Of course, this is just all speculation, but in the event that the prediction comes to fruition, it could put a check on the AI industry that has enjoyed an impressive CAGR of 26 percent.

Robots in all shapes and sizes

Contrary to what we see on TV, robots don’t only take shape in humanoid form. Talking and moving robots that function as humans exist, that’s for certain, but mechanical bots come in varying shapes and sizes to execute tasks for which they are designed for. For instance, there are consumer robots that we buy and use for fun or help us with everyday tasks. These are the robot toys, AI-powered robot assistants, and robot vacuums that we use in our day-to-day. There are also micro-robots, which while minute in size, are still rendered useful as they are designed according to a specific application, with micro mouse or swarm-robots being prime examples.

This variety in structure is made possible because of the ever-improving components now found inside the machines. Thanks to parts like printed circuit boards (PCBs) — boards that mechanically support electronic components inside machines — the mechanical strength of robots are enhanced. Designers and engineers have more flexibility when it comes to building robots, as there are also different types of PCBs to choose from depending on the machinery they have to make. Issues like overheating are no longer a source of worry given how today’s metal core PCBs are designed to withstand intense activity within machines. For example, they are used in aeronautics to support the components inside planes, space shuttles, and satellites, and have to be able to withstand extreme conditions. With PCBs getting increasingly sturdy and versatile, there’s no doubt that they’ll be integral in the advancements of robots for years to come.

The rise of self-sufficient robots

No matter how sophisticated machines can be, they will only be truly useful if they are more self-sufficient. This is where autonomous robots come in — machines capable of carrying out tasks or performing behaviors with a high degree of autonomy. These robots will be particularly useful in a range of fields from space exploration to household maintenance and logistics. However, we will only get to enjoy them once they are able to learn on their own.

The good news is that this might not be far off. Scientists and engineers have managed to build humanoid robots that can complete puzzles through trial and error. In fact, the robot wasn’t programmed to fit pieces into the puzzle, it solved the problem on its own. This just goes to show that roboticists are making strides in honing machines’ ability to self-teach, which is pivotal if we don’t want to continue “babysitting” robots. It may take time until machines are able to fully navigate their environment on their own, but for now, we have to get accustomed to living in a world where we can co-exist with these robots.

Featured image from Unsplash.com website.

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