Two of the technologies that are defining the 21st century are robotics and artificial intelligence (AI.) Both fields provide solutions to critical issues in multiple industries. Here, the defining differences between the two fields are discussed, as well as exploring the advantages of combining both technologies.
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A Brief History of AI
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a topic garnering much attention in science at present. This field of computer science has its roots in antiquity, where origins can be found in attempts of ancient philosophers to describe human thought as a symbolic process. Still, modern AI was born in 1956 at a conference at Dartmouth College in the US, and 1997 was a turning point in public awareness of AI when Deep Blue beat Gary Kasparov at chess.
AI has found a plethora of applications in multiple industries over the past couple of decades, with new, more powerful computers driving the field forward. Technologies such as machine learning have helped to exponentially increase the field’s potential.
A Brief history of Robotics
The earliest known conception of a robot was in 3000BC, in ancient Egypt. By the 2nd century BCE, Hellenic Egypt could boast many hydraulically operated machines that could speak, gesture, and more. Notable developments in the 19th century included Edison’s talking doll as well as steam-powered robots built in Canada.
It was not until the 1960s that the first modern robots were implemented commercially, with Joseph Engleburger forming the company Ultimation after acquiring a patent off George C. Duvol, regarded as the father of modern robotics. At the same time, robotics was making strides in academia.
Today, robots are an almost ubiquitous part of the supply chain process, with robotic arms found in factory production lines everywhere, providing degrees of automation previously not possible. Wheeled and tracked robots are used in multiple industries, and legged models such as Boston Dynamic’s “Spot” are proving exciting for the future of the field.
How Do AI and Robotics Technologies Differ?
Artificial intelligence is a branch of computer science that concerns creating “thinking” machines that perform tasks otherwise carried out by human operators. There is no physical aspect to artificial intelligence outside of the computer hardware that contains the AI software.
Robotics deals with the design and implementation of robots. These are programable machines that can perform a task semi-autonomously or independently of a human operator. They can either perform tasks via received commands or by utilizing their own inbuilt memory. Compared to AI, robots are not “thinking” machines and cannot perform tasks outside of their programming.
What are the Key Applications of Robotics and AI?
Robots are used in heavy industries to produce and handle factory-made products. Other applications include military use for bomb detection and combat capabilities in war zones, alongside space and water explorations, and medical purposes. Robotics technology has become integrated into several sectors, with nanorobotics, consumer robotics, and oil and gas automation commonplace.
Artificial intelligence is used to provide software for gaming, basic language processing, aid systems, visions systems (such as in drones and medical aid systems), speech recognition, and handwriting recognition. AI is also used in smartphones and laptops, performing tasks related to systems information and algorithms. Additionally, machine learning is utilized to create “smarter” AI.
Some specific consumer examples of AI include home assistants such as Siri and Cortana, the search function on Google, self-driving cars, email spam filters, and Chatbots.
How are they Used in Combination?
There is enormous potential in integrating the two fields, which is a major drive in both robotics and AI. Artificially intelligent robots are one of the major technological aims of the robotics and AI industries.
Artificial intelligence has many advantages for robots. It helps them grasp information, store it, recall it for later use, and learn from it. It enhances the decision-making skills of the robot and allows the robot to convert information to an application when called upon to perform a specific task. As AI improves, so does the ability of AI-integrated robots.
Two types of artificial intelligence are compatible with robots: software intelligence, which controls the hardware, learns and adapts with experience, and hardware intelligence, which allows the robot to imitate human operators.
Some applications for AI robots include social care robots with advanced processors and chatbot-like social and conversational skills.
The Driverless Future of Construction Robotics
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Military robots can identify threats and replace infantry soldiers, and at the same time, those that can explore dangerous environments like volcanoes and nuclear reactors prevent human risk. With regards to medical applications, surgical robots do not make as many mistakes as their human counterparts.
Another major scientific development in AI that has been applied to the field of robotics is Computer Vision, which effectively allows a robot to “see”, playing a critical role in areas such as health and security. It enables visual comprehension by independently identifying, analyzing, and understanding information that the robot perceives. This aids applications including facial detection and recognition, object recognition, and optical character recognition.
Combining robotics and AI overcomes the intelligence and environmental interaction limitations that each technology possesses individually.
Future Outlooks for AI and Robotics
As the two fields evolve, they will likely become increasingly intertwined. With the robotics industry expected to be worth USD 74.1 billion and the AI industry projected to be worth USD 309.6 billion by 2026, both industries are significant global players in the 4th industrial revolution. Innovations in AI and robotics have the potential to revolutionize technology and society in the future.
Continue reading: How Robotics and Lab Automation Unlock Chemistry and Advanced Materials Research and Innovation
References and Further Reading
Lewis, T., (2014) A Brief History of Artificial Intelligence. [online] livescience.com. Available at: https://www.livescience.com/49007-history-of-artificial-intelligence.html
Cs.stanford.edu. (2021) Robotics: A Brief History. [online] Available at: https://cs.stanford.edu/people/eroberts/courses/soco/projects/1998-99/robotics/history.html
Builtin.com. (2021) What is Artificial Intelligence? How Does AI Work? | Built In. [online] Available at: https://builtin.com/artificial-intelligence
Oberoi, E., (2021) Key differences between robotics and artificial intelligence. [online] Skyfilabs.com. Available at: https://www.skyfilabs.com/blog/difference-between-robotics-and-artificial-intelligence