In this article, AZoRobotics explores the use of artificial intelligence in robotics, covering the challenges, applications and future prospects.
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Artificial Intelligence in Robotics: A History
While artificial intelligence in robotics seems like a relatively recent technological revolution, it has origins in robotics that date back to the 1940s. During this era, Warren McCulloch & Walter Pitts proposed a mathematical model, known as the McCulloch-Pitts neuron, which provides a mathematical representation of a biological neuron. Their work forms the basis of the artificial neural networks we use today. Also, during this time, Norbert Wiener coined the term cybernetics and is considered one of the first to hypothesize that intelligent behavior could result from feedback mechanisms.
As industrial robots emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, artificial intelligence in robotics developed as systems that were designed to help these robots execute automatic tasks. Later, in the 1980s, scientists developed advanced algorithms that led to rule-based knowledge representations that further pushed forward the capabilities of artificial intelligence in robotics. Now, artificial intelligence in robotics can perform decision-making tasks based on predefined rules.
During the 1990s and 2000s, artificial intelligence in robotics underwent significant advancements. Technologies such as machine learning and neural networks allow robots to learn from data. During this period, artificial intelligence in robotics benefited from developments in reinforcement learning, support vector machines, and deep learning.
By the 2010s, perceptual and reasoning capabilities were being integrated into artificial intelligence in robotics. This era saw the development of self-driving cars, autonomous systems, and drones.
Most recently, artificial intelligence in robotics has advanced as far as to allow robots to collaborate with humans; these robots are knowns as cobots.
How is Artificial Intelligence Used in Robotics?
There are many applications of artificial intelligence in robotics. Perhaps most famously, artificial intelligence in robotics has allowed for the advent of autonomous vehicles, such that are becoming more commonplace on our roads.
Artificial intelligence in robotics has also been leveraged to facilitate industrial automation. Artificial intelligence now allows industrial robots to perform complex tasks automatically, which has helped to automate the industrial sector.
Healthcare is another sector that has greatly benefited from advances in artificial intelligence in robotics. In this industry, robots powered by artificial intelligence assist with surgery, rehabilitation, and more.
The military has also adopted artificial intelligence in robotics, using it in robots designed for bomb disposal, surveillance, battlefield support, and dangerous tasks that would place a human soldier at risk.
Artificial Intelligence in Robotics: The Challenges
While the field of artificial intelligence in robotics continues to grow and new applications continue to emerge, there are some significant challenges that artificial intelligence in robotics must overcome before it can reach its full potential.
First, as artificial intelligence in robotics becomes more complex, it requires more computing power. The demands of increasingly powerful machine learning and deep learning algorithms are great, and scientists must continue to work to ensure that applications that leverage artificial intelligence in robotics are designed with sufficient computing power.
The challenge that has faced scientists working on artificial intelligence in robotics for many decades is that while robots have been developed with increasingly sophisticated capabilities, they are often inferior to how a human would conduct the same task. There is an urge to develop applications of artificial intelligence in robotics that exceed the performance of humans. While this has been achieved, in most cases, humans still perform better. Over the coming years, artificial intelligence in robotics is expected to continue to improve so that more platforms will be established that perform better than humans.
Artificial Intelligence in Robotics: The Future
There are many exciting developments in artificial intelligence in robotics. Tesla’s Optimus AI project is one of the most notable. The project will draw on its expertise in self-driving technology used in its Tesla vehicles to develop humanoid robots with the ability to execute tasks in a variety of domains, such as manufacturing and customer service. If successful, the picture depicted by science fiction writers for many decades, of a future with robots in our homes, would be one step closer to reality.
Amazon is also working on artificial intelligence in robotics that could be game-changing. In 2021, Amazon released a robot named Astro intended for use around the home. Astro can be used as a security device and also has many features of the Amazon Alexa - such as playing music, making video calls, and responding to questions. Now, Amazon is working on its Burnham project, which plans to integrate powerful technology powered by Burnham into its robot.
It is expected that the updated Astro robot will represent a step forward in artificial intelligence in robotics. It is possible that the robot will utilize large language models and advanced artificial intelligence to allow it to understand and respond intuitively to the needs of a household. It has been suggested that the robot would be able to alert emergency services if someone falls or the stove is turned on.
References and Further Reading
A Brief History of AI: Where We Come From – 1940 to 2020 [online]. Somma. Available from: https://somma.ai/en/a-brief-history-of-ai-where-we-come-from-1940-to-2020/
AI in robotics: Problems and solutions [online]. Venture Beat. Available from: https://venturebeat.com/ais-got-talent-meet-the-new-rising-star-in-media-and-entertainment/
Amazon’s Astro robot has been spotted in the wild... bringing people beer [online]. The Verge. Available from: https://www.theverge.com/2022/2/22/22945814/amazon-astro-home-robot-photo-video
Amazon’s working on a secret new home robot that could be more like Rosie [online]. The Verge. Available from: https://www.theverge.com/2023/5/12/23721400/amazon-astro-smarter-home-robot-ai
Elon Musk unveils humanoid ‘Optimus’ robot at Tesla’s AI Day [online]. The Guardian. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/sep/30/tesla-optimus-humanoid-robot-elon-musk-ai-day