Robotics in Business – The Future?
Any robotics expert will tell you we are on the cusp of a major shift within the field. Robots are set to move beyond their current niche position on the assembly line to take up a much broader range of roles across many industries. This is often termed as the shift from ‘industrial’ to ‘service’ robots within the workplace.
Here are just a few of the ways we might expect to see robots used within businesses in the future.
With the world’s population constantly expanding, the agricultural sector faces the need to raise food production with a very limited supply of labour, while trying to ensure it is environmentally sustainable. From carefully weeding crops and picking fruit and vegetables, spraying fertiliser to pruning and packing, there is a robot for seemingly every agricultural task. Adoption is yet to become mainstream but there is a huge potential for robots to make a big difference in agriculture.
Robots are traditionally thought of as rigid, metallic structures and although they have been used in limited medical procedures, surgeon robots have, perhaps surprisingly never really gained much traction. However, a new development in the field, called soft robotics, could change all that.
Soft robotics are made from silicone and equipped with air chambers, allowing them to elongate and bend in various directions, much like how an octopus moves with its tentacles. This allows the robot to squeeze through narrow openings and past delicate organs without doing any damage. This flexibility and soft material allowed one to be used for the first ever operation on a human body at Kings College, London in December 2015.
Amazon is already famous for using robots within its distribution centres. The main tasks these sorts of robots handle is picking out goods on shelves, transporting them around warehouses (which can add up to many miles travelled per day) packing them into boxes and loading them on to vans.
Panasonic invented a robot in 2011 that can wash your hair and give you a head massage. The next year, a US company launched a robot capable of actually cutting your hair for you. Speculation abounds as to why this technology has not yet caught on!
Porters – It logically follows that if robots can do jobs within warehouses, they can surely do the same within hospitals. In 2015, South Glasgow Hospital introduced a fleet of “porter” robots which whizz around the hospital delivering meals to patients, mail, linen, medicine, etc. They can even autonomously use the lift.
Are you keeping up to date on the progress of robotics use in your business sector?
Adapted from an article by Charlotte Jee, www.techworld.com