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The use of robotics in business is far from new. Industrial robotics have been employed in manufacturing plants for decades. Likewise, Amazon was among the early adopters of these technologies in their warehousing systems. And even household robotics, including Roomba, have been around for some time. But the robotics of the future are far more advanced than these early models. As the emergence of the “Come-to-Me Economy” has shown us, convenience is king, and bold businesses are betting big on innovations in robotics to be a major driver of change. And this applies to nearly every possible sector.

Major innovations in robotics are occurring today because of a perfect storm of change. First, technological advances have paved the way for these innovations. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can be seen as notable catalysts. But likewise, the Internet-of-Things (IoT) offers tremendous potential for the field of robotics to explode. In addition, COVID-19 has served to push social trends toward safer practices and a come-to-me economy. The conveniences of robotics certainly align with these trends, further encouraging development. It is within this climate that many experts anticipate robotics will thrive.

“What we’re really focused on is this principle idea of amplifying, rather than replacing, human beings. And what it means to amplify a person, particularly as they’re aging—what we’re really trying to do is build a time machine.” – Gill Pratt, CEO, Toyota Research Institute (TRI)

A robot preparing some food in the kitchen
The conveniences of robotics are driving the innovations of robotics – and that’s not a bad thing.

Innovations in Robotics – Home Assistance

If there is anywhere the convenience of robotics is needed, it’s among older adults. With populations aging across the globe, and caregiver resources dwindling, a solution is needed. With this in mind, Toyota Research Institute (TRI) has invested over $1 billion in robotics and AI products. One of its latest displays involves a ceiling-based robotics system that is able to assist individuals with household tasks. Equipped with bubble gripper attachments, it can interpret how to handle any object. It is also capable of learning complex tasks through human demonstrations in VR systems. TRI anticipates this system can be designed into buildings’ infrastructure during construction. In doing so, the conveniences of robotics could be implemented for a variety of group homes and retirement centers of the future. By assisting older adults, the robotics system essentially allows users to function the same way they did years ago. Hence, TRI envisions their system as a type of robotics time machine.

“Additional new elements [in ROAR] … include an input zone that can receive manually loaded baskets and a safety shield that protects kitchen staff from hot fryers … Now we can really integrate not only with the POS system, but also all the delivery apps,” – Buck Jordan, President and Chairman of Miso Robotics

Innovations in Robotics – Restaurant and Culinary

Whether at home or in a restaurant, innovations in robotics are making a splash here as well. Both Samsung as well as Miso Robotics are designing ceiling-based robotics systems to help users cook. Miso Robotics now offers its robot, Flippy, for a price tag of $30,000. But it plans to evolve into a Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS) model where users can simply pay monthly fees. Flippy is capable of cooking 19 different meals, most of which fall in the fast-food variety. But it also has the potential for additional features. These include the incorporation of food delivery apps, inventory systems, operations tracking software. The utility of these robotics systems within restaurants and culinary kitchens is obvious. But such systems also offer homeowners conveniences of robotics as well. Not only might your meal be delivered right to you, but it might be prepared from your own kitchen. This could be a reality if innovations in robotics are able to make such conveniences affordable.

“Having perfected the product and applications, based on industrial trials over the past year, we’ve brought a batch of more complete and innovative applications to this year’s China International Industry Fair.” – Dr. Wang Shiquan, Co-founder and CEO of Flexiv

Innovations in Robotics – Health and Personal Services

Some of the most impressive advances in robotics have occurred in healthcare, specifically within the surgical suite. In fact, remote telehealth surgery has been one of the major conveniences of robotics offered in recent months. But let’s take things a bit further and into more mainstream health activities. Flexiv, experts in adaptive robotics and force control technology, has recently introduced its robot, Rizon. This highly precise, fast-paced robotics systems is not only capable of discriminate item placement. But it’s also capable of providing user a tissue massage. That’s right…a massage. A fusion of robotics and AI, Rizon offers some conveniences of robotics that are unexpected. In the future, we may not even need to leave our home for a top-notch massage at the end of a long day.

“[Without new technology], we cannot change our society to be more inclusive. A smart suitcase is a great showcase [for] how AI and technology [can] change the lives of people with visual disabilities.” – Chieko Asakawa, Computer Scientist and Researcher, IBM

Innovations in Robotics – Travel and Hospitality

Of course, the conveniences of robotics extend outside the home as well. In some hotels, innovations in robotics have been used to assist guests with their luggage. And it will likely be soon that amenities within these destinations will include some robotics services. One interesting robotics application comes from IBM, Carnegie Mellon and researcher Chieko Asakawa. They have designed a piece of robotics luggage that can actually help you navigate to your destination. Equipped with sensors, cameras, and AI, the robotics suitcase is able to map the immediate environment. It then uses this information and your destination to direct you in the most efficient way. Specific vibrations within the handles of the luggage indicate the direction users are to travel. While this may seem like one the unnecessary conveniences of robotics, it’s not. As Asakawa points out, such innovations in robotics are essential for inclusive societies.

Robotics – A Response to Global Needs

Innovations in robotics have been driving change for some time. But the rate of change that is expected with these advances is substantial. Retailers are already employing in-store robotics for top-of-shelf inventory monitoring and restocking. This alone could save companies billions of dollars in lost sales in aggregate. Likewise, commercial cleaning robotics are being broadly implemented in the aftermath of the pandemic. But one of the largest drivers involves a social and cultural shift in expectations.

 

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