From being a figment of Isaac Asimov’s imagination, the world has come a long way in overcoming the initial stigma of robots. The practical applications in people’s daily lives have now drowned out some of their fear of robotics technology.
Flying cars, self-lacing shoes, or hoverboards may not be in existence just yet, but the following list shall give you a glimpse of how far the world has advanced in terms of robotics.
Drones are probably the most recognizable advancement in recent times. The extensive media coverage has increased public awareness of their existence. From them being used by law enforcers in defense robotics, consumer-grade drones are now available in malls and online stores, making them very accessible to the public.
Drone shots are now a part of people’s everyday lives. #FOMO is triggered on every travel vlog without drone footage.
2. Bionic Arms (Prosthetics)
The robot dance comes from the perception that robots are very slow to move. The world may not have Alita: Battle Angel level of agility just yet, but it’s definitely making progress. Just look at Tilly Lockey’s bionic arms. She lost her arm to meningitis and has been using prosthetic hands since the age of two.
Mechanical arms are also being used today in production lines to increase the output of factories. From assembling cars to classifying eggs by weight, different fields from different industries have seen benefits in deploying robots on the production floor.
In the medical field, robotic arms have also been used to treat and perform surgeries on patients. The outbreak of Sars-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 has forced some hospitals to speed up their deployment of robots to properly and promptly care for their patients. Accounting for 11% of reported cases in the United States, healthcare workers suffer from physically interacting with highly infectious patients.
3. AI Photography (Machine Vision)
Artificial intelligence will have nothing to process without input from their surroundings. From the initial goal of making robots see the world as human beings do, machine vision has now found its way into people’s daily lives.
Perhaps, the most accessible application of AI-assisted vision is on mobile phone cameras. Computational photography has gotten so good to the point that it made point-and-shoot cameras obsolete. Some even went to the extent of claiming that it has reached or even exceeded the performance of bulky DSLR and mirrorless cameras.
One can, of course, apply the power of AI on photos taken by DSLRs, especially on their RAW outputs, but the portability of mobile phones makes this a hard sell for the average vlogger.
Face detection, powered by AI and machine learning, is used in photo galleries to group related pictures by place, the objects in the photo, or by the people captured in frame. Social media giant Facebook is using it to detect if anyone is using your photo (at least those with your face) without your consent.
On a more socio-political level, machine-learning-based image processing is also being used to investigate human rights violations around the globe.
4. Voice Assistants
You might have already tried asking Siri to crack some jokes at some point in your life. You’re enjoying it not because the jokes are funny (often, they’re not), but because it amazes you how she is able to understand basically anything you’re saying. Advancements in speech recognition and natural language processing has made that happen.
Since then, a number of competing AI assistants have emerged. Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Samsung’s Bixby are just some of the successful implementations out there.
More than just cracking jokes, Google has demonstrated that their voice assistant (Google Duplex) can do tasks that are usually delegated to human executive assistants. One example is booking appointments by making calls to restaurants or barber shops. It’s amazing how it didn’t just book an appointment by sending date and time. It actually made a call, and was even able to negotiate an appropriate time for the meeting. All through that, it sounded just like a real person. Google admitted, however, that it had some human intervention, well at least for now.
They may not have a physical form for now, but the future’s looking bright for those who dream of having an AI companion in life. Don’t judge.
5. Self-Driving Cars
Though not as immediately accessible to the general public as the other items on this list, self-driving cars are now deployed in some communities across the globe.
Google (Waymo) and Tesla (Autopilot) have been doing some test drives for quite some time now, which gives the world hope that it may be available in the near future.
From defense robotics to a joke-cracking fiancée, robotics is now a part of people’s daily lives. It has helped them offload some of the most repetitive, mundane, and dangerous tasks so they can focus on more desirable jobs, such as engineering, programming, management, and equipment maintenance.