State of Innovation
For decades, there has been immense research to bring robots at home. There is great deal of use that robots could serve at home. For instance, robots could be used to do chores : cooking, washing, cleaning and others. They could also be great company if fitted with intelligent sensors to monitor environmental changes or perhaps changes in our mood and feelings. Today, imaging and video technology has advanced so much that robots could scan us and identify how we feel. Not to mention the development of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, that could assist robot to memorise about our behaviour and learn about us at personal level. Robots could then adapt itself to suit to our temperament and ease our life by being helpful, sympathetic, kind.
Autonomous robotic applications have been benefiting us for a while. However, recently – there is ever so much interest to achieve more using robots. For instance, Automated Guided Vehicles AGVs are used almost in every large manufacturing factory and production lines. These AGVs are powered with 3D LiDAR scanners, cameras to identify the surroundings and tailor their route. These AGVs walk around to scan machines and processes for monitoring activities. There are also used for delivering items around the factories.
Applications of robots to help us at home are still limited. The furthest that innovation has got so far is trivial only, assisting us no more than in hoovering and cleaning activities. Robotic innovation for home applications could also have been limited due to restricted fundings for related Research and Development activities. It is also worth noting that there is only so much manufacturers could expect ordinary public to spend for a domestic robot. Robots need to look good rather than a simple box to secure attention from consumers. If a cost effective domestic robot is produced that could walk, smile and talk or perhaps wiggle its tail similar to pets, then it might not struggle to prove itself as an integral family member.
Requirements for domestic robots
Robots much be able to be fitted with tactile sensing technology. If they could sense, feel and make decision by touching then they could very soon be helpful at homes. An analogy of tactile capability is a typical situation when we dive our hands into a large bag or purse filled with accessories and touch every things down to the bottom of the bag in search of lost keys. We could not see but we could feel by touching objects.
Powered with tactile sensing, robots could then feel the plates, cups, glasses and put the food on our table. Not only this, robot could develop the ability to interact with us physically. Robots could effectively play with children and behave intelligently. Robots with tactile capability could potentially replace Nurseries and Care homes. It is often mandatory to leave the vulnerable in care whilst other household are away at work or on holiday. The possibilities of robotic implementations are truly endless provided they could acquire sensory capabilities.
Engineering robots with tactile capability
Similar to innovations in many other areas, it is possible to bring know-how from multiple disciplines to equip robots with sensing powers. For instance, material such as latex could be used as ‘skin’. Latex could be filled with air so it acts like a balloon. Small Time-Of-Flight TOF Range cameras could be fitted inside latex. Such sensors provide signal based on distance ( latex internal surface might squeeze towards TOF sensor ) from camera when an object comes in contact with latex-based fingers. Such an arrangement could be adapted into fingers and palm and fitted as ‘End-Effector’ on robotic arm. Any deformations on the latex skin whilst touching could then be interpreted via software algorithm to detect shapes and objects.
At Ioteach, we are continuously innovating Ed-Tech to design educational courses that could genuinely benefit learning journey. Robotics is an area in engineering which is often hard to learn at KS5 and earlier stages of education. If you require assistance, then register as a member and express your interest. Ioteach could then work with you to provide suitable educational resources.