‘Definition of programmable machines will be replaced with thinking machines’

In an interaction with Express Computer, Jayakrishnan T, IEEE Member and CEO of ASIMOV Robotics, shares insights into the latest trends in robotics and how emerging technologies are evolving robots

By Gairika Mitra

 What are the latest trends in robotics?
Robotics is all set to transform the world by the introduction of digital work force in combination with the major game changers like collaborative robots, big data analysis, IoT, high speed internet and cloud computing. These are in fact the major building blocks for the upcoming industrial revolution 4.0 which will pull out the robots from manufacturing industry, to day-to-day activities; from iron cages to working alongside human beings; from repetitive tasks to intelligent jobs.

The new trend in robotics does not limit the revolution to physical robots. Rather it automates hundreds of administrative processes to be done by computers, this is typically called RPA. Since the outcome is a well-structured digital information, it can further be used to improve the performance of automation.

As the robots are more and more close to human beings in the form of assistive or collaborative workforce or as a companion, they will be able to provide highly personalised services. And as data becomes the key driver of both physical and administrative task’ automations, blockchain will fortify the challenges in data access and governance to ensure the regulatory and compliance aspects.

How has the healthcare sector transformed with the emergence of robotics?
The world had been approaching fast towards the Industry 4.0 revolution and big data analytics even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Interestingly, the new world order has not only pulled all these advancements and developments towards health tech, but also have ensured its involvement in all other technology sectors like  manufacturing, logistics, retail, banking, education, hospitality and so forth.

Personal hygiene, social behaviour, environmental hygiene, quarantine etc have become household terms. As humans have withdrawn into their homes, technology is coming to the forefront to support humans –  in performing mundane,  repetitive and even risky tasks and to maintain the new normal.

Apparently, people have been forced to go on an overdrive mode to quicken the pace of adaptation to new-age technologies in order to fight against the pandemic. Direct consultation, caregiving and nursing has become highly challenging while doctors, nurses & healthcare workers are unable to provide needed care without the risk of getting infected by the quarantined patients. Health workers are not only at risk of acquiring infections but also of being a source of infection to patients. The increasing number of infections has made it even more difficult for healthcare professionals to manage the crisis with depleting resources. Thus, we must leverage technology and build the foundation for a better tomorrow.

What is the impact of robotics on logistics and supply chain?
The advent of e-commerce has revolutionised the retail industry to replace traditional stores. Along with this growth, a new set of challenges also evolved due to the fundamental changes in material handling, packing, storage and transportation. Challenges also arose due to competition between players to optimise delivery time, tracking and to manage warranty and return of products.

To address these challenges, irrespective of their market share, almost all players have started introducing technology solutions. The supply chains must be highly responsive and grow up to the customer expectations. Inventory management cost effective shipment and quick deliveries are the prime concerns. Because of huge and diversified inventory, even warehouse management can be a reason for the delayed shipment. Adoption of the latest technology was the only way to sort out these issues in the e-commerce and logistics industries. The development of robotics and automation during the last few years has enabled practical and cost-effective solutions to address these challenges.

Today, hundreds of intelligent robots are being used to automate e-commerce warehouses. These robots can lift the products as a batch and deliver it to the retail section or packing section. They employ multiple sensor fusion as well as AI and ML algorithms to perform autonomous navigation and intelligent behaviour, as well as to arrange and prioritise the delivery of the most needful items.

These robots are capable of operating as single unit as well as within a collaborative system to deploy collective and centralised intelligence. Apart from material movement, robotic systems also play a key role in sorting and packing of goods. As driverless transport and drone delivery become a reality in near future, from production through delivery of product at your doorstep will be 100 per cent automated

What is the role of emerging technologies in robotics?
Even though robotics and AI are mutually complementing, they have separate existence. Going back to the basic definition of robots as programmable machines, it is not necessary to use AI for undertaking repetitive and defined tasks like pick and place application. Also, for tele-presence and tele-op robots, AI is not required. AI can address many problems outside robotics, related to perception, logical reasoning, language processing, statistical analysis, etc. Search engine recommendations is a typical example of this.

 But when it comes to autonomous or semi-autonomous robots, AI is inevitable as the robot has to sense, interpret and respond to stimuli from the environment. They can be considered as artificially intelligent robots. For these robots, AI is extensively used to perform autonomous navigation, meaningful manipulation, audio visual interaction, recognition and synthesis gestures and expressions, etc. In long run, these robots may also be able to improve their performance matrix through machine learning. Driverless cars and humanoid robots fall into this category. However, as robots are increasingly become a part of our lives, it is granted that the definition of programmable machines will be replaced with thinking machines.

Artificial IntelligenceASIMOV RoboticsJayakrishnan Trobotics
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