The Future Is Here
From the ping of a notification on the phone to the large hadron collider to unravel the greatest mysteries of the universe, has influenced humanity in an expansive way. The basic knowledge in science answers the most revered questions that humanity has ever faced. It is the proportion of equal mixtures of sciences that gave birth to the next big phase that humans have entangled themselves to– ROBOTICS. The birth of a new era emerged after there was an inception of an autonomously working machine that made man wonder about the limitations of his thoughts and wondered about its progressive possibilities.
There is no field untouched by robotics in the past three decades. Food processing, agriculture, health, defence, disaster management, automobile industries, e-commerce and R&D are the main areas where it has left an indelible mark. These applications have brought tremendous changes with its automaticity and easing the lives of human intensive labour and hence reducing the cost of application thereby reducing the time taken for the tedious tasks with minimum error and maximum precision. The Media like movies and books have always represented future as the automatic world dominated by self-actuating machines called Robots. And it will not be an exaggeration to say that the future is here for the Robots to take part with humans.
Starting on a lighter note with the field of food processing, the packed food industry has seen a boom in the past three decades. It is no surprise that it is not possible to pull off a million packets of chips packed and transported to the retailer in one day without some helping hand in between. The pre-programmed robots start right from aligning the washed potatoes with the machine that needs to cut them in precise pieces rejecting the odd shaped ones after proper segregation by another machine. These cut pieces are fried, packed in colourful packets after not forgetting to add an adequate amount of nitrogen to keep the chips crispy. So ultimately there is no human intervention to this point except for the fact that humans bring the potatoes to the processing area and they transport them to their respective stores too. That too will not be an intervention for long. It is not only the case with chips but other items like the soft drinks, fruits, vegetables, etc. The farm-to-table concept will be well handled by the robots.
In the agricultural sector, the mass of granaries are aided by the robots, especially while sowing, ploughing, nurturing and harvesting large fields. Remotely controlled heavy duty drones, the classified flying robots are employed in spraying pesticides and fertilisers on large fields. These also monitor the level of growth of the crops and give real-time update to the farmers which help them have an efficient crop harvest on a periodic basis.
The health sector is no exception too. The sensitive surgeries could be done in the most precise and accurate way with chances of survival doubling up compared to the barbaric operations done on the patients in the past that guaranteed least success rate. High tech robots like the Da Vinci surgical system can be operated by a professional doctor on patients. It ensures lesser stay at the hospital, quick recovery and faster return to daily work. Thus making the patients avail the high end quality of medical services. Nano robots are also used to tackle cell specific diseases that target and eliminate the disease causing host. Also robots are used in handling disease-infected samples in hostile and isolated environment to find cures. On the other hand, when it comes to the prosthetics, the bionic industries put forward the technology that can elevate the disabled to an enabled stature. The bionic arm being the prime example, which is a robotic arm. This arm is connected to that side of the person where the arm is amputated and the sensors are patched onto the skin with no surgeries performed and it is just plug and play later on. Bionic eyes and bionic legs have also taken the prosthetics industry by storm. The user friendly interface makes it even easier for the patient to get adapted to it.
The automobile industries have also moved up its ways through the hurdles posed by the emerging society which was only seeing the horse and bullock carts. Henry Ford says : “If I Had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”.
A vision which was impossible to be executed without the robots. Now with the meticulous hands of the robotic companion, the definite 3D models of superfast cars are fed to them through computers and at the assembly lines, other robots help the men to get the parts be fixed perfectly which wouldn’t have been possible earlier. Thus not encouraging mass production earlier and only the rich possessed the vehicles as all the models were limited edition. Not only cars for that matter, even aeroplanes, rail locomotives, metro rail, ships and all the heavy duty vehicles undergo the process of assembly line manufacturing, eliminating labour and time intensive work.
Defence and security has always been one of the top priorities of a nation which aids in the social welfare of its citizens. To further boost this sector to its limits, robotics has a very significant role to play. Recently, there have been many robots incorporated into the defence all over the world for different duties and purposes. The surveillance drones are set up at the line of control to monitor any ambushed attack from the enemies. There are automated mine and bomb defusers made available to the military. With remote operation, there is no risking the lives of bomb-defusing professionals. Also in the US, the defence sector is doing research on a suit that would be worn by the soldiers, which would act as an exoskeleton and aid the soldier walk on sturdy terrain and walk with the help of the motorised exoskeleton even when the soldier is injured heavily. Real-time health monitoring will be given to the base camp through this suit while in a war, hence acting as a shield to the soldier. Security will never be compromised with robotic systems like these at hand. In Kerala, for the first time, a robot called KP-BOT was introduced to interact with people in the local language and also guide them to the officials hence acting as a receptionist. Also it lets officials interact with each other through videoconferencing.
Disasters are unpredictable and dangerous costing human life and lead to the termination of basic necessities. So proper management systems need to be planned when it is predicted that a particular place will be hit by a disaster. As prevention is better than cure, some measures would be taken on that basis. But when everything goes out of control, the situation after the disaster also needs to be brought under control. Only firefighter or personnel from the defence sector cannot solve the problem; there, the robotic systems play a major role. RoboCue, a rescue robot from the Tokyo Fire Department, is designed to locate and safely retrieve victims from disaster sites, specifically bomb sites, but it could be useful for natural disasters as well. When Japan was hit by earthquake and when all the skyscrapers came crumbling down, remotely controlled robotic devices were used to know if someone was alive under the debris. Satoshi Tadokoro, one of Japan’s leading rescue-bot researchers, is responsible for the robot Snakebot, aimed to rescue lives under the debris. Similarly water resistant unmanned guided robots are used to know if someone is alive under the flooded houses. Drone ambulances were used to deliver the first aid kits and medicines while the surveillance drones helped carry out the analysis of causalties from the aerial view and aid the government in deciding the relief funds and other necessities that are required to be dispatched to victims.
E-commerce is the next big business model that is at its infant stage of development. And that is yet to see a tremendous expansion in the coming years. These e-commerce websites handle their shipping of orders in an interesting way. First the order is taken from the customer and a robot at the godown searches for the order and relocates the chosen order to the packing section. There it is packed and moved to the delivery shelf via a conveyor belt. The robot then transfers the packed product to the delivery executive on the day of delivery. With minimum involvement of humans, it is the most convenient way to organise and run an e-commerce company that receives more than 15 lakh orders every fifteen minutes.
Research and development have seen a lot of progress in the recent times and one of the accountable reasons being the field of space technology and artificial intelligence. In India, the ISRO is planning to land a self-automated rover called Pragyan with the help of orbiter lander Vikram in the Chandrayaan 2 mission on the south pole of moon, which has not been explored much before by any country to gather physical data of the lunar surface. On the same note, Blue origin, a space company owned by Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos is planning to launch a lunar lander called Blue moon to deliver multiple metric tonnes of payload to the lunar surface and conduct experiment on the south pole of the moon to collect resources for setting up moon as the launch base for continuing research on Mars. On the other hand, self-learning Andro-Humanoid robots will be the next big thing that will interact and help humans solve everyday problems. Innumerable researches are taking place in these fields ranging from self-constructing buildings to finding the biggest question of all time—where did we come from and where are we going. And there is no limit to that. With this much Robotic technology at hand to ease out the problems we face, we may confidently say that the future is not only here but we are living the future.