Six Ways AI is Changing Robotics

We’ve had a long-standing fascination with robots. From the Terminator to Transformers to Wall-E and the Iron Giant, they’ve cared for us (Rosey on The Jetson’s), protected us (Robocop), and threatened our very existence (Hal, the Sentinels (both in the Marvel Universe and The Matrix), and Skynet). We’ve always been fascinated by AI and robots and how they may change our reality.

Currently, our robots can only carry out pre-programmed instructions and are only as good as their programming and functional capabilities. However, AI enables today’s robots to thrive and adapt in dynamic environments, make intelligent decisions, learn through experience, and react with their world in real-time. No longer are they rigid and narrowly focused machines; they’re becoming intelligent, adaptable, and collaborative entities.

The combination of AI and robotics will increasingly:

  • Break ground in new industries
  • Offer unprecedented opportunities for engineering specialization
  • Be team players
  • Up their control-freak reputation
  • Solve your problem better than you’re doing now
  • Increasingly raise the bar on achievement

Breaking New Ground

Today, robots are already the shining stars of manufacturing. However, AI-charged, they’ll now move into new industry segments. We’ll increasingly see them taking on expanded roles in healthcare, retail, life sciences, construction and industry materials, space, and search and rescue. While there are already a few robots within these industry segments, AI will transform their roles by improving decision-making and significantly adding to productivity and efficiency gains.

Expanding Engineering Specialization

AI and robotics are two transformative technologies garnering explosive career interest. As AI-fueled robots continue to gain greater autonomy, there’s a direct correlation in the number of opportunities for education and careers.

AI simplifies programming, enabling greater depth in education programs that don’t just focus on programming skills as they did in the past. However, while important, understanding AI isn’t the only skill those managing and maintaining robots need. The laundry list includes math, algorithms, system engineering, robotics hardware, database modeling, data warehousing, data processing, machine learning, problem-solving, programming languages, computer science, an understanding of intelligent user interfaces (IUI), and critical thinking.

A degree in robotics, mechanical engineering, or electrical engineering, at minimum, will be necessary for a career in this field. However, the technology is still new and there are a multitude of opportunities to get in on these early stages.

The Role of Team Players

AI-driven robotics with advanced sensors and AI algorithms are central to human-robot collaboration. The collaborative robots (cobots) work alongside humans in shared workspaces and must recognize and adapt to human movement.

While there is often controversy regarding the potential rejection of AI robots, there is also the belief that a robot could be a good colleague, especially given its ability to communicate with humans through natural language.

Their multi-modal capabilities mean that language and text, vision, haptic feedback, and even smell are added to robot abilities, deliberately mimicking humans so that we relate to them more. The collaboration will continue to improve as the workforce becomes more accepting and trusting of their robot colleagues.

Ever the Control Freak

We program robots to take control when possible, and AI will dramatically enhance that capability. AI/robotics integration results in intelligent control systems that address complex task execution and precision.

Robots are now learning from experience because of AI, resulting in greater accuracy and efficiency that was impossible until now. No longer will these intelligent robots “stay in their lane,” as the boundaries of those lanes continue to disappear. Using lidar, 3D ultrasonic sensors, and cameras, for example, they can work within their environment autonomously.

How much control they have won’t necessarily be limited by what we teach them today, but also what they do with that education on their own.

Problem Solving in a Snap

Have a complex problem? AI robots can analyze data, identify patterns, and optimize solutions based on real-time feedback. This is priceless when tasks change dynamically. A good example is space exploration, where there’s always the chance of unforeseen challenges. Decision-making and problem-solving AI robots can weigh available options and decide how to proceed based on pre-programmed rules and learned behaviors, applying logic while optimizing their actions over time.

Over Achievement

Robots perform tasks faster, with greater precision and fewer errors than their human counterparts. This ability makes AI/robotics an important asset for businesses to become and stay more competitive. These robots are achieving autonomous navigation, complex problem-solving, and the promise of a future where intelligent machines work closely with humans on an ever-expanding number of challenges. These achievements will result in unprecedented efficiency, adaptability, and autonomy.

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