Exploring the Everyday Role of Robots

The concept of robots often conjures up images from sci-fi or fantasy films and TV shows, such as Bender from Futurama or C-3PO from Star Wars, who mimic human behaviour and communication with ease. However, contemporary robots are vastly different from their fictional counterparts.

Although Steven Spielberg’s ‘AI’ highlighted the possibilities of super intelligent robots, the reality is that current robots are much more adaptable. This doesn’t mean that today’s robots are not useful – on the contrary, their usage is rapidly expanding, with industries like automotive being just one of many that are capitalizing on their abilities. Unexpected industries are now exploring the potential of robotic applications.

One might be taken aback to learn that interacting with robots is not a distant pipe dream, but rather a present-day reality. In fact, if you work in the service industry, you have probably already interacted with a robot. To gain insight into current robotic applications and their future possibilities, it’s worth taking a moment to examine the everyday robots that we encounter.

Types of Available Robots

Do you ever wish for an extra pair of hands to tackle your daily tasks? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a personal assistant who could accompany you while shopping, carry heavy bags, or engage your children while you attend to other tasks? Additionally, robots can play a significant role in accomplishing medical and educational goals by assisting people with disabilities or providing educational material. The potential applications are limitless.

Incredible as it may seem, current robots and their prototypes fulfill all of these functions. Here are some of the most fascinating examples:

  • Robots in Service Sectors:

    It’s surprising to know that the service industry is increasingly relying on robots for assistance. The Robot-as-a-Service (RaaS) industry is expanding rapidly due to its ability to meet customer needs and preferences. This is exemplified in China’s food industry, where robots are employed in restaurants and cafes to make coffee and serve food at tables. The hospitality industry is also utilizing robotic technology, with Japanese hotels employing speech and facial recognition to answer customer queries, handle requests, and check guests in and out. Additionally, robots are being used as butlers, concierges, and airport security staff. It’s clear that robots are playing an increasingly important role in our daily lives.
  • Robots at Home:

    In the past, shows like The Jetsons imagined a future where robots would be responsible for completing everyday household tasks. That future is now a reality, with a wide range of robots available to us. The most popular type of robot is the robotic vacuum cleaner, available in both basic and advanced versions that can analyze your home’s layout and determine the best cleaning strategy.
    Other robots include automatic lawn and pool cleaners, as well as those designed to assist in carrying items. There are also robots like Lynx, which is a robotic embodiment of Amazon’s Alexa. Along with these, there are also robots like ASUS’ Zenbo which can act as a companion, share emotional experiences, read stories to children, and even protect your home when you’re not there.
  • Robots in Education:

    It’s unlikely that robots will replace human teachers anytime soon, though they can serve as classroom assistants and provide instruction in areas like speech and music to young learners.
    One common use of robots in education is to provide high-quality education to children with disabilities, keeping them up to speed with their peers. For example, the robot Nao can connect with children with autism and cater to their specific needs to ensure their education continues. Additionally, robots developed by VGO can assist children who cannot attend school due to injuries or illnesses. These remote robots provide a virtual classroom experience without any inconvenience to the student.
  • Robots in Medicine:

    In order to provide the best care for patients, the medical field has always been quick to adopt the latest technological advancements. The DaVinci system, used in robotic-assisted surgery, has been the industry standard for 18 years. While currently, surgeons operate the instrument, research is underway to develop autonomous robots for the medical industry.
    Disinfecting robots are now being used to clean patients’ rooms using high-powered UV rays to eliminate bacteria, reducing the spread of airborne infections and the development of antibiotic-resistant strains. There are also new gyroscopically actuated robotic limbs that, in combination with bionic skins and neural implants, can replace traditional prosthetics. Similarly, exoskeletons are being developed to help those with various types of paralysis regain movement.
  • Robots in Assisted Living Facilities:

    Robotics has immense potential to aid elderly people, making it an exciting area for research and development. Robots can help with patient transportation, reducing the risk of accidents, and reminders to take medication, as well as enabling the elderly to stay connected with family, medical professionals, and caretakers.
    One exceptional example is Project Romeo, a humanoid robot capable of opening doors, climbing stairs, and reaching objects, providing in-house caregiver services. Another robot, Robear, designed like a teddy bear, can lift the elderly from their beds and into wheelchairs, providing safety and autonomy for seniors. A more conventional robot already on the market is a robotic chair capable of moving the elderly around, which can be controlled via a joystick if needed.

Popular Programming Languages for Robots

Advanced software and hardware technologies have allowed for the development of robots. Nevertheless, the software engineering community has not determined which programming language is best suited for powering these robots. It’s essential to consider the development team’s specific skills, knowledge, and preferences when making this decision.

It’s reasonable to say that there are several programming languages available for those interested in robotics programming. This is because robots can be programmed in various ways. ‘Sequencing’ is the first method, in which the robot is guided through an operation by a set of instructions. This type of programming heavily depends on the robot’s ability to follow instructions.

Offline programming involves robots receiving instructions from a computer and executing them in response to external stimuli. To achieve this, robots require a sophisticated programming language and a set of commands customized to the tasks or goals they must fulfill. Such robots are composed of the following parts:

  • C/C++:

    These versatile languages are considered the ideal starting point for those new to the robotics industry as they allow communication with lower-level hardware and facilitate real-time operation. They are object-oriented, imperative, and robust, which makes them less challenging to learn.
  • Python:

    Python, as a high-level programming language, is well-suited for robotics applications, education, and post-processing. Its primary advantage is its ability to generate scripts that can automate the entire robot programming process, eliminating the need to program each phrase independently. Python’s multiple robotic frameworks save time and effort while creating complex applications, requiring fewer lines of code. Moreover, Python enables testing and optimization of the program’s basic logic, making it an ideal language for robotics applications.
  • Java:

    Java is becoming an increasingly popular language for robotics development due to its easy access to a wide range of application programming interfaces (APIs) specifically designed for robots. This accessibility enables the creation of sophisticated robotic systems, with a variety of command, control, and voice synthesis tools available. Java is also frequently used to develop Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems such as machine learning algorithms and neural networks, which could play a significant role in advancing robotic technology in the future.

It’s recommended that the highlighted programming languages should be considered complementary rather than competitive. Each language has its distinct advantages, disadvantages, and specialties. To tackle various challenges, developers must become proficient in multiple languages.

In the field of robotics, it’s highly advantageous to have a strong grasp of various programming languages. Each language is responsible for a distinct aspect of the robot and its programming. Thus, if you’re interested in pursuing a career in robotics development, it’s essential to become proficient in multiple languages. Robotics projects can be highly complex, so you must be prepared for a challenging and demanding path.

Future Robots That Will Be Commonplace

The previously mentioned robots have certain limitations. Although they are remarkable in their own right, some cannot make complex decisions without human input. However, this will change as Artificial Intelligence (AI) advances, and companies begin creating robots equipped with AI to accomplish more intricate tasks.

Currently, the type of robots mentioned above is likely to remain a standard component of larger systems, such as those used for autonomous driving. This is due to the fact that the technology required to build robots with human-level perception, emotion, and intelligence is not yet sufficiently advanced to make this a feasible alternative.

The AI assistants from science fiction, such as C3PO, Bender, and Haley Joel Osment, are still a far-off reality, but it’s important to acknowledge this. As a result, we are likely to see an increase in the use of robots that are becoming more and more comparable to intelligent tools. This will undoubtedly improve our quality of life in numerous ways, from the food we eat to the healthcare we receive.

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