A report recently published in the journal PLOS One, has shed light on a matter I want to discuss on the Htet Tayza blog today; the future of industrial robotics.
The vast majority of people see robots as the stuff of science fiction. Furthermore, society at large believes that if robots were ever to become a reality, such an event would take place decades, even centuries in the future. However robots already exist, and we use them to fuel global expansion and prosperity.
We have developed a range of industrial robots that act as key cogs in the construction of items such as cars and digital technology. Industrial robotics is coming to play an increasingly prominent role in global industry. According to Statista, worldwide shipments of industrial robots are forecast to exceed 207,000 units in 2015, up from around 159,000 in 2012, largely due to their increased use in the automotive sector.
Robots building robots
This revolutionary technology has always been held back the fact human intervention was to required to create and maintain industrial robots. However, the BBC recently reported that engineers in Zurich and Cambridge have created a robotic system which has the ability to evolve and improve its performance without human intervention.
The system uses robot arms which build robot “babies” that get progressively better at moving with each generation. The “mother” robotic arm builds “baby” robots which consist of plastic cubes with motors inside, which it can glue together into a number of different configurations.
Once the baby’s built, the mother assesses how far it can move to improve its design, so that the next baby it constructs can move further. The robot mother created ten generations of robotic children; the tenth version had the ability to move double the distance of the first version, before its power drained away.
Aiming for “innovation and creativity”
Dr Fumiya Lida of Cambridge University, who led the research with colleagues at ETH University in Zurich, explained the goal of this project to BBC News. Dr Lida said: “We think of robots as performing repetitive tasks, and they’re typically designed for mass production instead of mass customisation, but we want to see robots that are capable of innovation and creativity.”
Andre Rosendo, who worked on the project, explained how this would work in real life. He noted, “you can imagine cars being built in factories and the robot looking for defects in the car and fixing them by itself.” Rosendo elaborated that “robots used in agriculture could try out slightly different ways of harvesting crops to see if they can improve yield.”
Future of industrial robotics
Therefore this project aims to create industrial robotic technology which can adapt to its surroundings, and it has already gained a significant measure of success. This shows that industrial robotics is focusing on fixing the flaw that has always halted its advancement, by creating technology which can improve itself without human intervention.