How many times in the past week do you think your life was affected by a robot?
Unless you have a robot vacuum cleaner, you might say that robots had no real impact on your life.
But you’re wrong. Let’s take a look at some of the ways robots are being used right now but that you probably have no idea about.
So what is a robot?
Before we start, we need to define what actually is a robot. There is no official definition of what constitutes a robot, but many roboticists (like me) consider it to be a machine that moves, or has moving parts, and that makes basic decisions while interacting with the world.
Hence, your vacuum cleaner that you leave to do its job while you are away is a robot. It senses the world around it and makes driving decisions as it sucks and sweeps.
But your washing machine is not a robot. You tell it how to wash when you select the cycle and it gets on with it. There are grey areas and the definition is debated, but let’s leave it there.
On to your past week.
Food sorting robots
If you eat rice, chances are that every grain you consumed was sorted by a robotic machine with a lightning-fast vision system.
Rice-sorting machines are miracles of automation and most people have no idea they exist. Did you actually think rice grows as uniformly (in colour and shape) as it appears in the bag you buy at the supermarket? It doesn’t.
Every grain of rice passes through a robotic machine that uses very high-speed cameras, lights and a computer. The image of each rice grain is analysed by that computer and a decision is made…