Bringing Science Fiction to Life: Robotics in the 21st Century and Beyond

by | May 5, 2015

Not so long ago, the idea of robots being a part of everyday life was science fiction, but every day it becomes more and more of a reality. As Andra Kay, manager of Silicon Valley Robotics described, “the evolution of robots is not a case of better than human – it’s a case of very, very different than human – it’s a case of something almost alien” to work in conjunction with mankind.

Kay introduced us to some of the incredible advances of technology, and the field of robotics in general. Robot vacuum cleaners are among the most widely distributed humanoids, but there are actually 100s of robotic humanoids that have been developed, manufactured, and put to use all around the world. Snake robots are being designed for surgical uses, magnetically guided microbots could revolutionize construction and manufacturing. And more than that – AI is improving.

Robots are learning to understand the objects around them, and how to orient themselves around objects. (You wouldn’t want your solar-powered robot to drive itself into the shade, would you?) They are learning collaboration and communication, which paves the way for collaborative robots that can work together with humans. They are being programmed for disaster response tasks, to remove humans from highly dangerous roles.

As human beings perhaps we are drawn to trying to replicate ourselves – but Kay illustrated that robots are completely separate entities, and are designed to support human life, not mimic it. Fetch is a robot designed to work in warehouses for pick and pack, not because humans can’t do it, but because they don’t want to.

Aren’t we living in an extraordinary time, when robots are not just cartoons on the television, but actual creations coming to life to make our lives better, safer, or even simply more enjoyable?