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I have loved baseball my entire life.  It was natural for me to be very intrigued about the new pilot technology recently deployed by minor league baseball. I am of course talking about robot umpires. Robots will soon be everywhere. For the Atlantic League, collaborative robotics are now calling strikes and balls despite some push-back. And soon, this same technology will likely be introduced throughout Major League Baseball. But is using robotics in real life such a bad idea? After all, if collaborative robotics can improve life as we know it, what’s the big deal?

For decades, industrial robotics have advanced in multiple sectors throughout the world. And while they have touted greater efficiency, precision, and cost containment, they herald much more than this. They also highlight how collaborative robotics will soon invade every aspect of our life. In fact, they already have. But how far will robotics in real-life go? By all accounts, the sky seems to be the limit.

morgan sword quoted on collaborative robotics
Upping the game with collaborative robotics.

A Snapshot of the Collaborative Robotics Industry

When it comes to collaborative robotics, the numbers don’t lie. The growth of robotics has enjoyed double-digit growth for some time. In fact, the industry grew by 32 percent in 2017 alone. Additionally, the collaborative robotics sector, where robotics exist alongside humans, is booming. In 2020, the estimates for collaborative robotics will exceed $1 billion as an industry. And roughly a third of all robotics by 2025  may all be collaborative robotics. Robotic umpires are simply another application of a growing consumer segment, as anyone with Alexa is well aware of.

robotics in real life
Robotics in real life. It’s too early to say, but they may call the shots someday.

Among the countries currently leading the use of robotics in real life, five top the list. These include the U.S., Germany, South Korea, Japan, and China. Each of these nations is pouring in public and private funding for the new collaborative robotics application developments. And robotics is no longer just being developed for manufacturing and production. Increasingly, they also popular for personal use, health, entertainment, and companionship. Robotics in real life may eventually outshine their industrial counterparts in the near future.

collaborative robotics, colin angle quoted
We should take it as a sign of the times and start looking at robotics as solutions to some of our problems.

Some Notable Innovative Collaborative Robotics Companies

While there is so much recognition of Alexa and Roomba as robotics applications, newer uses of robotics in real life may not be. Certainly, industrial, manufacturing, military, and logistics robotics are being advanced. There is also a huge interest in other areas involving robotics in real life. In addition to robotic umpires, several other startups and established companies are investing in collaborative robotics applications. The following are some that you might find intriguing.

  • Toyota’s Robina – The model is after “The Jetsons’” maid Rosie. The development of this collaborative robotics device was for the assistance of older adults. In addition to interactive gestures and communications, Robina is capable of several caring tasks in helping geriatric populations.
  • Petronics – This Chicago-based collaborative robotics company makes a product called Mousr, among others. Mousr is a robot mouse for cats that appears unique and different with every interaction. This is an expansion of robotics for real life for pets that you might not have expected.
  • Embodied – This startup out of Pasadena, California, has developed high-level companion robotics for individuals. These collaborative robotics mimic human-like caring and compassion to promote better mental and social health. This can be helpful for several age populations ranging from disability to the elderly.
  • Tombot – Based in Santa Clarita, California, this collaborative robotics company designed robotics puppies for dementia patients. In addition to providing companionship, Tombot’s devices can facilitate animal-assisted therapy to enhance the quality of life.
collaborative robotics, daniel wilson quoted
With all the technological advancements surrounding us, we still get stuck with the notion that some things ”only happen in the movies”.

Robotics in Real Life – Coexisting Is the Key

The collaborative robotic system being used in the Atlantic League today was designed by Trackman Computing Systems. A doppler radar determines strikes and balls then umpires get the relay via an iPhone application and headphone. Thus, ultimately, umpires still have a final say, which is important when technical errors occur. As a result, umpires, as well as most players and managers, have embraced the new collaborative robotics technology.

Appreciating this need for transition, robotics in real life will proceed more rapidly if done in a truly collaborative fashion. Robotics should enhance life rather than interfere with it. As evidenced in MLB, umpires appreciate the system because it makes their jobs easier. The same may be the case for many areas where robotics will soon play an increasing role. Whether it’s a companion, a pet, or a robot helping you tidy you home, these are positive advances.

Still, as a former catcher, I loved the challenge of “grooming the umpire” to my pitcher’s preferred type of strike zone (e.g. how low is still a strike).  It is an art that can make a difference in a game.  With robots, this art will get lost.  It will be no fun arguing a bad call with a machine and there will certainly be no “grooming.”

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