World of Modern Robotics

Robotics have acquired the centerstage of Industrial activity and are making a way into day-to-day life. They are performing various impossible tasks in deep space, oceans, defence applications, working in radioactive environment, extreme temperature furnace, and many other areas, where human presence is challenging. In healthcare, robotics has applications in performing critical surgeries, in financial world, major financial institutions across the world are resorting to robotics-based process automation.

Humanity has been long fascinated by the concept of robots and artificial intelligence. It has been a collective pipedream to automate mundane tasks which one would prefer to not have to do themselves. Every day, this dream inches closer to reality. One of the companies currently on the precipice of solving many of the Human Problem through dynamic and high mobile robot is Boston Dynamics. Their dynamic and extremely mobile robots have great applications for solving human problems. Some of their most famous products include BigDog, Spot and Atlas.

BigDog: In 2005, Boston Dynamics created BigDog, a quadrupedal robot, in collaboration with Foster-Miller, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Harvard University Concord Field Station. BigDog used four “legs” for movement instead of wheels, which made it more versatile in terms of the terrain it could be deployed in compared to other machines that used wheels. BigDog was designed to carry 150 kilograms alongside a soldier and could move at 6.4 kilometers an hour while traversing rough terrains at up to 35 degrees incline. It was tagged as “the world’s most ambitious legged robot” at its inception. The project for BigDog was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). They hoped that BigDog would be able to serve as an automated pack mule to accompany soldiers in terrain that was too rough for vehicles. However, the project was later shelved because BigDog was deemed too loud to be used in military operations and combat.

Atlas: The Agile Anthropomorphic Robot popularly known as “Atlas” is a bipedal humanoid robot that stands at 5 feet (152.4 cm) tall. Atlas is based on a previous Boston Dynamics humanoid robot project called PETMAN, and is designed for a variety of search and rescue tasks. In a series of videos posted on YouTube by Boston Dynamics, Atlas was shown performing incredible feats of agility and balance such as being hit by a very heavy ball while standing on one foot and not tumbling over. These feats were previously unimaginable for other humanoid robots while Atlas was seen performing them with relative ease. Such acts quickly led to people on the internet calling Atlas the “Parkour Bot” and it’s difficult to disagree with that assessment.

Spot: On June 23rd, 2016, Boston Dynamics unveiled a new quadrupedal canine-inspired robot called Spot. It weighed only 25 kgs and hence, was lighter than any of their other products. During November, 2017, a video of Spot using its front claw to open a door for another robot was the number 1 trending video on YouTube with over 2 million views. Later that same month, another video of Spot attempting and persisting in opening a door in the face of human interference was also uploaded. This however, caused the viewers to perceive the robot’s actions as “creepy”, likening it to a sci-fi robot which would not give up their missions to seek and destroy. However, these comparisons were made in good fun and Boston Dynamics did reassure the public that such occurrences were not possible given the way Spot was created. In November of 2019, Massachusetts State Police became the first law enforcement agency to use Spot as a robot cop while also being a part of the unit’s bomb squad. Boston Dynamics have been pioneers in the field of robotics and have been instrumental in advancing said field. Their innovations have truly bridged the gap between the present and the future and they only continue to raise the bar higher.

Global Robotics market is growing fast and is estimated to cross $100bn in few years from now. Various Companies are at the forefront of changing human experience with the e.g. Skydio, Zipline, Outrider, Shape ways etc. In India, Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR) is working in the area of Robotics and AI. Various Start-Ups are redefining the space e.g. GreyOrange, ASIMOV Robotics, Gridbots, KUKA Robotics (India) Private Limited. Prime Minister’s Science, Technology, and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC) is working on the growth in AI and Robotics domain. Developed Nations have achieved their growth on the basis of their technological prowess. India’s vision of $5 trillion economy and more, will be facilitated by deep technological niche and will help India to build and export some of the world class product & technology embedded on technological niche.

Parminder Singh

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