Monday, May 4, 2020

Are You Watching? 3 Game Changers in Robotics

#1: Putting Humans in the Robot Loop – Game Changer

In these unique times, all things ‘robot’ have begun to move very fast. What business has been resisting about robots for the last decade is fast becoming a priority. Robots previously considered as job killers, all of a sudden look like a brilliant solution to those tasks dull, dangerous, dirty, and toxic. A crisis will have that effect.
The point is that we now need more robots working as fast, efficiently and as effectively as possible. However, the truth is that the world remains a complicated place for a robot. There are problematic times when even a robot needs a helpful human hand. We now realize that injecting human intelligence by positioning a ‘human in the robot loop’ makes a big difference. The requirements for a ‘live’ human-robot interface link is proving to be landscape changing in a positive way to successful robot deployments.
Being able to inject human intelligence into and through a robot via a human-robot interface link especially at the right moment or a critical moment has been found to be critical and highly beneficial. It may be as simple as helping get a robot get back on its ‘map’, resolving the getting around an unforeseen impediment or obstacle or taking over a conversation when an AI-powered retail robot has run out of pre-programmed knowledge and expertise.
Millions of robots are already deployed. And, the number will continue to grow. There are those that predict that robots will at some point outnumber cell phones as the ubiquity of robots increases in the newly emerging economic and social fabric. At present, however, we constantly hear that the robots are not ready for prime time. And, to a great extent, that is true. Reality still does meet expectations. We expect a lot of our robots. For both robot developers and users alike, the stakes are high. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning remain essential elements in future robot-based solutions. Adopting the benefits of a ‘human-robot interface link’, a ‘human in the loop’ with the robot via cloud-based software offers an immediate and powerfully functional solution in support of the demand for rapidly expanding the use and deployment of robots.

#2: Cloud-based Robotics Software:  Setting the Stage for Robot Ubiquity – Game Changer

Robot developers are fast coming to understand that relying on the on-board computing power of their hardware platforms, thinking that they can provide fully comprehensive, fully autonomous multi-purpose, multi-functional robots is not within their current grasps. The increasing sophistication of current robots is primarily the result of access to powerful cloud-based computing and software. As a result, a whole new class of software and services providers has evolved, focused on the creation of ‘cloud-based robotics’ software platforms designed to meet the increasing needs for rapid application development, monitoring, controlling and collecting data that analyzes the use of robots in fleets and at scale.
Cloud-Based robotics software will mature in at least these three ways.

A.   Software and services that will allow robot developers to focus their engineering talent and resources on their unique platform attributes while looking to off-the-shelf software to augment their platforms with the non-unique attributes. Using this class of software will lower developmental costs, advance speed to market and increase the reliability and thus the ROI of the robotic platforms.

B.   Introduction of Robot Access Interface Layer (RAIL) software allows ‘the common person’ to use and control robots and create their own personal applications. Controlling the attributes of robot behavior has until recently remained beyond the reach of the population at large. But that is changing as software that can be placed on a robot and interface with its primary functionalities such as speaking, moving, interfacing with other applications, and interfacing with the IOT devices that control homes and monitor health.
C.   Software that ushers in an entirely new concept of robots. Robots that do not need to be embodied as hardware devices on wheels in order to be of service and value. There are now soft robots. If you can imagine an animated, avatar style robot creature that is itself AI smart and is very much as capable of interaction as a hardware-based robot. In this instance we have animated creatures on a screen that are sensitive to touch, can recognize faces, recognize emotions, and dialogue in an engaging fashion. These robot creatures appear and act as if they are themselves alive and you sense that they seem to recognize that you actually exist. More importantly, delivered via information style kiosks …Mirror, Mirror on the wall…vibrantly animated on reactive flexible robot arms these robots are scalable in a future world environment that otherwise if all comes to pass, would be awash in mechanical robots running all over the place and into each other.

#3: Coming Sub 20ms Network Latency – A Game Changer

On April 23rd, 2020 the U.S. FCC approved the allowance of WiFi 6. Increasing the WiFi spectrum means up to 4 times more capacity, 40% increase in data throughput, and increased multi-streaming capacity. Adding 5G telecommunications and network slicing capabilities of software-defined networks, we are pressing to network latency speeds that will challenge human neural networks in speed and thus on to ’seamless’ human-robot communications.
For those of us that have been working in ‘robotics’ these times are proving to be the most energizing yet when you combine the role robots are playing today in fighting the COVIOD-19 virus and the anticipated role that robots will play in our post crisis world.

Michael D. Radice is Chairman of the Technology Advisory Board for ChartaCloud ROBOTTECA,  and  Mike can be reached by e-mail at .