• Question: what does the future hold for robotics?

    Asked by evilbugs to Alex, Claire, Kate, Marcus on 25 Jun 2014.
    • Photo: Marcus Johns

      Marcus Johns answered on 25 Jun 2014:

      Hmmmmm, good question. There’s a whole range of ideas that are currently being developed.

      On the humanoid robot front, there is now a robot that uses artificial muscles to move rather than electric motors. Unfortunately these muscles rely on a change in the length of metal dependent on its temperature, which may mean that they can’t be used to replace muscles in a human just yet.

      There’s are also robots than can build clones of themselves and ones that work as a ‘swarm’ with different robots fulfilling different functions – these could one day clean your bedroom really well and quickly! The first link above has a video of ‘self-replicating’ robots although all they can currently do is build a copy from the same basic units that are provided to them rather than building a copy from scratch. The second link has a really cool video of 3 different robots co-operating to get a book from a book shelf.

      It’s expected that by 2020 there will be robots in many households for helping out with basic tasks such as cleaning and that by 2050 robots based on supercomputers will start rivalling human intelligence. By 2021 heavy industry robots – such as cranes that don’t need a human controller – will be in use and 2035 could see the introduction of robot soldiers on the battlefield. It’s also expected that robots – known as nanobots – will eventually be produced on a very small scale that could be injected in us to carry out surgery in our bodies.

      Whether these robots one day decide to take over the world remains to be seen!

    • Photo: Alex Lyness

      Alex Lyness answered on 25 Jun 2014:

      Woah evilbugs, you love your robots!

      I think over the next Century new types of computing power, more efficient batteries, better wifi, composite materials and manufacturing techniques will combine to make some incredibly cool robots.

      We already have robots now you can buy to do domestic chores, like Roomba the robot cleaners (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roomba) and similar technology can now cut your grass too. As far as humanoid robots go, trying to make something that looks and behaves human often ends up just looking creepy.

      At the moment by far the coolest things I’ve seen are ‘swarm’ robotics. Which are made of groups of very small robots that are specially aware and can all talk to each other at one to perform tasks. A bit like school of fish, none of them bump into each other. They can work and do tasks together a bit like Pikmin (I don’t know if you’ve played that nintendo game?).

      Check out this link: http://www.wimp.com/robotsdrone/ where some ground robots talk to a flying one and probably my favourite tech clip on youtube is the flying swarm of robots delivered by MIT, which can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQIMGV5vtd4 Cool eh? and that was 2 years ago… imagine what they can do now?!

      Some of this work is funded by the US Army so it’s probably top secret. 😮