In the 21st century, robotics has an important place in the area of technology, allowing people to solve complex problems both in production and in daily life. Thanks to the increase of computational power, the boom of the Internet of Things, and decreased costs of the main components, we can expect significant changes in robotics functionalities as soon as in the next few years. In other words, robotics is now on the verge of a new technological breakthrough.
A Brief History
Right from the beginning, humankind has tried to optimize their work and invented various mechanisms to carry out their tasks. “Mechanical servants” are mentioned in Homer’s Iliad from the 9th century BC. In the 2nd century BC, China’s craftsmen created sophisticated automatons for that period of time, including a “mechanical” orchestra.
In the medieval era, inventors dedicated a lot of time to the creation of mechanical devices that were able to simulate simple actions.
However, the terms “robot” and “robotics” were introduced only in the 20th century. Initially, these terms were used in the science fiction works of famous writers. Karel Čapek introduced the word “robot,” and Isaac Asimov was the first to use the word “robotics.”
The terms created by Čapek and Asimov stuck and are now used globally. To a large extent, science fiction writers acted as drivers of the development of robotics in the 20th century, demonstrating an amazing vision of the future that is admired even now, years later.
Not everything described by the writers has found its way into our lives. Robotics is slightly behind the reality created in books a few dozen years ago. However, today, this industry is at the stage where things that seemed to be impossible just a few years ago can become a reality.
We can’t say yet that the era of robotics is already here, but tech evolution has opened up great new opportunities. This is linked, first and foremost, to the concept of the Internet of Things and the idea of the personalization of technologies. In the past, robotics has largely focused on industrial robots, but nowadays, we can expect the mass production of consumer robots.
Opportunities and Challenges
Despite significant progress in the last ten years and positive forecasts for the near future, the robotics industry faces certain challenges that need to be solved in order to ensure smooth development.
The main challenges for robotics include the following:
- Interaction with the environment and interoperability. Both industrial and consumer robots should be able to interact with the environment around them. This is not only about the ability to pick something up, build, and repair. It is also about interaction with people and other devices and the ability to receive, integrate, and process information supplied by various sensors.The lack of common standards makes communication between devices complicated. Your drone won’t be able to transfer any information to your lawn mower, smart car, or intelligent fridge. Although it does not really seem like such communication is needed to begin with, having common interoperability standards will simplify development and allow robots creators to focus on more important tasks.
- Providing safety. The first law of robotics, as defined by Isaac Asimov, states, “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” That comes from a book. However, this is now a challenge that needs to be solved in the field. Robots should be able to coexist and collaborate with people efficiently and safely.
- Lack of skilled staff. The development of robots, both industry and consumer ones, requires a team of experts who know their way around electronics engineering, process flow diagrams etc. However, this is not enough. Your team should have experience in development systems and embedded software, understand the concepts of computer vision, security, and telecommunications, and have a grasp of the Internet of Things’ ecosystem and its characteristics to make sure your robot is not isolated and, as a result, a no-seller.