The robots are coming – and their advance may prove just irresistible
This is the dawn of a new era. There will be a form of robot in every household in the next 20 to 30 years
Niall McCormick and Colmán Munnelly, founders of Irish educational technology start-up Colmac Robotics
You are hungry and tired and in need of dinner. You relay this message via iPad to Herb. He goes to the freezer, takes out a ready meal, microwaves it and then brings it to you.
Like it or not, robots are coming. It’s just a question of how long before they become part of the family.
There are already nearly one million robots in the world today. They are used for assembling products, handling dangerous materials, spray-painting, cleaning sewers, detecting bombs and performing intricate surgery.
This mechanised army is only going to get bigger in years to come, with robots revolutionising life as radically as the internet and social media has done in the last decade. Incidentally, the word robot comes from a 1920s Czech play. The Czech word for servitude, robota, entered the English language as robot and has been with us ever since as a description for an automated machine.
The Czech meaning is only going to get more real in the future, as we’ll all have personal servants. Fortunately, these slaves won’t be humans but machines. They’ll clean our homes, tend to our gardens, harvest our food, manufacture our goods and fight our battles.
Dr Watson, I presume
Your doctor could be a robot in the form of IBM’s Watson, surgery might be performed on you using a Da Vinci robot and even your anaesthetist could a robot. Already Johnson & Johnson has developed Sedasys to automate the sedation of adults.
Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos said he wants to deploy an armada of unmanned aerial vehicles or drones to deliver small parcels to customers. He believes Amazon Prime Air could be up and running within four to five years, pending extra safety testing and government approval.
Google recently showed its interests in robotics, snapping up Boston Dynamics in a string of acquisitions led by former Android chief Andy Rubin. Boston Dynamics is the creator of the world’s fastest running robot (it can reach speeds of more than 29 miles per hour).
The global phenomenon that is robotics is also taking a foothold in Ireland, with more and more companies specialising in drones and robotics popping up.
One such company is Cork-based SkyTec Ireland, which specialises in unmanned aircraft.
Pilots Steve Slade and Mike Griew founded the company 18 months ago following several years of research in the field of unmanned aircraft. The company uses unmanned aircraft to take high definition images and aerial photographs for use in industrial inspections, roof inspections, advertising and film production.
He says Amazon’s idea of using drones to deliver parcels is flawed.
“There is a lot of wow factor with drones. Drone technology is at first glance very enticing. In reality it can’t cope with difficult weather conditions such as strong winds.
“Batteries are a problem with drones having a limited flying time. Also the drone autopilot relies on GPS to keep the aircraft level. It needs GPS to it knows if it is being blown left or right so it can stabilise itself. The GPS can be out by one or two or three metres though which can be problematic.”