Robotics

Healthcare and the Robot Revolution

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Although the field of medicine is a thoroughly scientific venture, it’s a field that’s historically been slow to adopt new technology, as the high stakes involved mean small mistakes can have disastrous results

However, the benefits of certain technologies mean there is great interested in bringing technological advances to the field, and robotics has begun playing a major role in medicine in recent years. Here are some of the places where you’re likely to see robotics in medicine in the near future.

Surgery

Performing surgery requires precision, and capable surgeons are able to perform remarkable feats. However, human physiology comes with limitations. Perhaps the most famous robot being used in surgery today is da Vinci. High-definition video provides doctors with levels of resolution impossible using traditional surgery techniques, giving surgeons an enhanced ability to see the structures they’re operating on. The arms on da Vinci can perform tasks the human hand and wrist cannot, enabling new types of surgical maneuvers. Da Vinci can also make smaller incisions compared to human surgeons, minimizing infection risk and reducing the appearance of scars. It may still be some time before robots can perform surgery without human intervention, but efforts are underway.

Robotic Assistants

A significant portion of healthcare is ensuring patients receive the attention they need, and having humans check in on patients, especially the elderly, is a significant cost. Robotic assistants are beginning to fill this gap. Already, robots can provide a degree of companionship many elderly people need on a daily basis, helping to reduce feelings on loneliness that can have a profound impact on health. Furthermore, robotic assistants can measure signs of health in individuals and alert medical professionals if attention is needed. Although robots will never replace visits from family or check-ins from medical professionals, they can provide the type of day-to-day care that’s increasingly needed for aging populations.

Servicing Clinics and Hospitals

It takes a significant amount of human labor to keep hospitals and clinics up and running, and these labor costs contribute to rising healthcare expenses. Robots used in other industries are coming to healthcare centers. Instead of paying people to disinfect rooms on a regular basis, robots can instead perform the task. People staying in hospitals need deliveries of food and other items. By investing in robots instead of hiring new employees, health organizations can reduce their operating costs and pass these savings to patients.

Healthcare and the Robot Revolution TechNative
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Exoskeletons

Mobility is a major elements of healthcare, and helping people enjoy their lives is a major goal of those in the medical field. Wheelchairs have advanced significantly over the years, and modern chairs are more convenient and safer to operate, partially due to robot-like components. Medical exoskeletons, however, have become a focus, with several companies vying to bring products to the market. Exoskeletons allow people to handle environments that aren’t accessible to wheelchair users, and they enable users to blend into society more seamlessly. For some patients, being able to walk is a significant goal, and exoskeletons have the potential to let them achieve this dream.

Improved Manufacturing

Devices manufactured for medical use cost several times more than their non-medical counterpart. A simple scalpel, for example, might cost five times as much if it’s approved for medical use. Part of this is due to the increased precision mandated by medical use, and robots will help meet these high levels of tolerance. The approval process involved with medical devices is expensive as well, and testing is a significant expense. Robots designed to simulate human movement and physiology can help reduce these expenses, making it easier to try out and approve new products. This type of innovation can ensure doctors and patients receive better products, and it can lead to more rapid innovation.

Telemedicine

In-office visits will likely never be supplanted by robotics, but telemedicine has the potential to connect medical experts and patients remotely. Better camera technology is having an impact, and remotely controlled arms and other devices can allow doctors and nurses to perform certain tasks across a network. Telemedicine will allow patients to connect with doctors with extremely narrow specialties, allowing doctors to better treat specific conditions. Telemedicine also cuts back on transportation costs, which add up quickly when patients need to make regular trips to medical facilities.

Robotics haven’t been as fast to enter fields as some futurists projected, but they are having an impact in the medical field. We likely won’t be replacing our regular doctors with robots any time soon, but advances in robotic technology, combined with improved artificial intelligence, means that change is coming to the medical field in a big way.

The State of Robotics in 2018

Robot Doing Household Cleaning With Vacuum Cleaner

Robots have long captured the public’s imagination, as their blend of technology and seeming humanness leads to intriguing questions, excitement, and concern

In the mid-20th century, most people asked would probably imagine that, by 2018, we’d all have a robotic assistant in our homes and that most employees would be working alongside somewhat humanoid robotic counterparts. In reality, we’ve only recently seen some of the anticipated advancements in robotics come online. As modern robots become more and more capable, it’s important to understand the opportunities, questions, and potential threats robots pose.

Robotics is essential in modern manufacturing. However, industrial robots typically stay in one place, and they generally don’t look much like humans at all. Robots excel in assembly-line tasks, and it’s likely they’ll continue having an impact in manufacturing. Modern robotic components have improved in terms of precision, and better sensors enable robots to perform complex tasks that traditionally require humans. However, these types of robots are still inherently limited and expensive to develop. The goal for many researchers is robots that excel at more general tasks.

Sensors and Sensibility

Not long ago, digital cameras used to be prohibitively expensive. Today, however, even the cheapest smartphones on the market typically have two cameras built in, and the resolution these tiny cameras produce is impressive. Furthermore, other types of visual sensors, including lidar, can provide better precision and 3D sensing capabilities. As large companies, including heavyweights such as Google, Honda, and Boston Dynamics continue investing in robotics, their ability to interact with the world in a safe and sophisticated manner will improve. It’s perhaps no coincidence that today’s advances in robotics come at a time when the Internet of Things, itself based heavily on sensors, is thriving.


Traditionally, robots are portrayed as hard and mechanical, a reputation partially due to the types of robots used in manufacturing. This can make robots seem unapproachable and even dangerous, as small mistakes can lead to significant injuries. An emphasis on soft robotics is changing these perceptions and will prepare robots to thrive in medicine and other fields. The public in general is somewhat wary of robots. Being able to hug one and have it hug back might defray some of these concerns.

The term “killer robots” is one the tech field would like to stay away from, but the potential of robots in warfare is immense. Simply put, it’s fairly easy to attach a few actuators to a basic robot and program it to fire a weapon, and a small fleet of armed robots can wreak havoc on soldiers and civilians alike. Twenty-six nations have called for an outright ban on fully autonomous robots, but the ease with which remotely controlled robots can be converted into autonomous ones might mean these developments are inevitable. We’re generally happy to have robots build items we use or, perhaps, deliver our meals, but there are grave concerns about robots tasked with deciding who lives and who dies.

One of the concerns about robots in warzones is based on the reality experts have largely accepted: The software powering robots is still based on old technology. In the 1950s and 1960s, it seemed inevitable that software would be able to replicate human-like thinking. Today’s artificial intelligence, however, is still based on older concepts and doesn’t seem to be moving, in a qualitative manner, toward human-like reasoning and creativity. The concept of neural networks, which power many of today’s most advanced AI systems, dates back to the 1940s, and sophisticated approaches, including backpropagation, dates to the mid-1970s. Although we can program increasingly sophisticated AI systems, technology is still limited, and expectations about advances in robotics need to take this into account.

Economic Aftershocks

In the 1970s and 1980s, Western societies were concerned about robotics eliminating all manufacturing jobs. The incursion of robots into the workforce, however, proved to be a slow process, and Western countries moved more toward non-manufacturing fields. However, robotics is now threatening the massive service industry, and it seems inevitable that jobs will be lost as robots become more sophisticated. Societies will need to deal with the aftermath of this move. If the number of people a restaurant employs drops significantly, where will displaced workers go? If labor can be automated, how will this added wealth be distributed?

When companies aim to create robots that look like humans, they can often come remarkably close. However, nobody has yet been able to craft a robot that acts convincingly human for more than a few seconds. The uncanny valley phenomenon, where robots look eerily close to humans, raises a question: What do we want robots to look like?

Should a robotic assistant be designed to look like a human, or is a robot that looks more like Wall-E or Honda’s Asimo more appropriate? Replicating human speech is a remarkable achievement, but perhaps we’re better served with robotic voices that sound distinctly robotic, as blurring the line between humans and robots might have undesirable effects.

Perhaps the most pressing issue with robotics is determining what regulation is necessary. Recent incidents involving partially self-driving cars has brought the issue to light. While in development, robotic systems will almost inevitably fail. But what safeguards exist to ensure companies are acting responsibly, and do governments need to step in to create guidelines? The first company to develop a safe self-driving car stands to benefit tremendously, and this potential financial benefits can encourage negligent behavior. As robots become more capable, society at large will need to address how to encourage innovation in a safe and ethical manner.

From self-driving cars to person robotic chefs to in-home assistants, robotics holds tremendous promise for changing society. However, robotics has also lead to drone warfare, and other types of remotely operated robots have lead to concerns about a future where warfare is cheap and too easy to justify. It may be some time before we all have a personal robot assistant to help with day-to-day tasks, but there’s little doubt that we’ll be seeing robots more and more frequently.

Next generation Pervacio Robotics to debut at MWC 2018

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Pervacio will showcase its next generation Pervacio Robotics© technology at MWC 2018

Having announced the launch of its new Automated Cosmetic Defect Check tool at Mobile World Congress (MWC), Pervacio will also showcase its next generation robotics technology at the industry-leading event.

Sanjay Kanodia, founder and CEO of the mobile device solutions specialist, says: “Pervacio Robotics© supports organizations that have embraced the move from a manual processing model to a semi-automated, software-driven solution by helping them achieve service delivery transformation through robotic process automation.

At MWC we’ll be demonstrating how advances in robotics technology mean we can now offer a cost-effective end-to-end solution on an even bigger scale with the capability to grow in line with a customer’s business needs.

In 2017 Pervacio was the first company to introduce a fully integrated robotics solution for mobile processing warehouses operating in the forward and reverse supply chain. Twelve months on, the latest generation Pervacio Robotics© improves the effectiveness of ‘straight-through processing’ via faster process speeds and at a lower cost than other current market providers.

Addressing the issues of rising costs, high-cycle processing times, inconsistent quality and impaired agility, Pervacio Robotics© represents a lower risk option than sourcing and building a bespoke in-house robotics solution. Thanks to a more predictable process schedule and reliable approach to mobile device processing, Pervacio’s technology ensures that procedures are less prone to errors. It also incorporates full auditing and reporting capabilities.

In taking its modular automated solution to the next level, Pervacio has introduced warehouse receiving and visual inspection capabilities, reducing human interaction – and so lowering costs – even further.

Mobile World Congress 2018 will also see the launch of Pervacio’s Automated Cosmetic Defect Check. The latest addition to the Revolution suite of patented products, this new automated tool enables businesses to realize significant operational efficiencies whilst also minimizing the costs associated with the return and trade-in of cosmetically damaged devices.

Full details about the next generation Pervacio Robotics© and the new Automated Cosmetic Defect Check will be available from Pervacio on stand CS70, Congress Square.


About Pervacio

Established in 2004, Pervacio supports businesses in the mobile phone supply chain and consumer market. Its aim is to contain the cost of device management and improve customer service. Pervacio provides a software management platform to device suppliers across the retail, enterprise (government and security) and warehouse sectors. It works with the world’s largest device manufacturers and mobile carriers, including Samsung, Bell, Sprint, DoCoMo and T-Mobile. Further information is available at www.pervacio.com.

Follow Pervacio, Inc. on Twitter @PervacioInc

Robotics: 10 Companies Shaping the 21st Century

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The field of robotics is exciting for many reasons

The versatility of the field makes it especially intriguing. Companies aren’t competing for the same goal; they’re attempting to solve different world problems. Although the number of robotics startups seems grow every day, some are already having an impact while others are preparing to unveil exciting new products. We take snapshot of 10 companies that demonstrate the depth and breadth of the field.

Generic Robotics

Generic Robotics is poised to make an impact in a critical field: Surgery. Their SimuTouch technology aims to combine force feedback with other senses, making it a valuable platform for letting people practice surgical procedures in a simulated environment. Repetition is key for learning skills, and robotics can help ensure training surgeons are reading to go when they first start working with people. Furthermore, robotic assistance is poised to take over surgical theaters, and simulated training will help current surgeons get up to speed. Combined with their SimuTeach and SimuSolve technology, Generic Robotics is likely to have an impact in other fields as well, including dentistry and veterinary care.

Ekso Biotics

While the concept of combining humans and robots still seems like science fiction, it’s actually a reality in more than 180 rehab centers. Ekso Biotics, which has been in operation for more than a decade, offers a number of suits and other technologies that give patients extra strength, helping them relearn how to walk and perform other tasks. In particular, their technologies are helpful for patients who’ve suffered from strokes or spinal cord injuries, two fields where modern medicine has seen real limitations.

Their EksoWorks technology, on the other hand, is designed to keep workers in fields ranging from construction to automobiles safe while providing them with superhuman strength and other abilities. Even if robots don’t fully replace humans in certain fields, human-robot hybrids are likely to become a staple in industry.

SoftBank

Japan’s SoftBank has long been a leader in innovative technology. Although it might seem unusual for a banking company to enter the field of personal robotics, SoftBank has developed Pepper, a smaller humanoid robot, to greet customers as they arrive and, in some cases, to stay permanently in homes. Able to recognize basic human emotions, Pepper adapts his behavior, and SoftBank touts his ability to communicate in a human-like manner. Japan has a problem with aging, as low birthrates mean a significant portion of the population is elderly and younger generations are typically busy with work and unable to provide the companionship many older people need. As this trend continues, Pepper, or similar humanoid companions, are likely to become popular throughout Japan and exported elsewhere in the world.

Robotics: 10 Companies Shaping the 21st Century TechNative
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Rethink Robotics

When thinking about robotics, we tend to focus on their physical capabilities. The software that powers them, however, serves as their brains and even hearts in a sense. Rethink Robotics aims to transform industrial robotics with its Intera 5 platform, which features force-sensing capabilities and various grippers and cameras. It can be trained by demonstration for a range of tasks, making it easy to get up and running in practical scenarios. Furthermore, there are several means of programming it through software, letting beginners and advanced users alike fit it to a range of tasks. Task-specific robotics have been around for some time, but the new era of more general robotics, such as those developed by Rethink Robotics, are poised to have a significant impact in many fields.

Boston Dynamics

Perhaps the most famous company developing robotics is Boston Dynamics. Several videos showing their robots’ capabilities that have gone viral and their CEO and Founder Marc Raibert’s inspiring TedTalk has been watched over 2 million times. At the heart of the MIT spin-off’s success is their robots modeled on animal-like walking and maneuvering, abilities that place their products in the uncanny valley despite having completely robot-like appearances.

Balance and an ability to respond to pushes and other unexpected events make their products appropriate for real-world environments, and pairing them with sensors makes their robots surprisingly capable. With military funding and a track record of innovation, Boston Dynamics products will undoubtedly be seen in a host of environments in the coming years.

Starship Technologies

Founded in December of 2015, Starship Technologies aims to fill a specific gap: Delivery. Transportation costs are already low thanks to established technologies, but the last mile of delivery relies on humans, making it much more expensive. Starship Technologies is focusing on autonomous devices capable of handling the difficulties of urban delivery. Armed with GPS capabilities and cameras, these devices have already been used in the small scale, and they can be controlled remotely by a human operator if they encounter problems along the way. Furthermore, integrated microphones and speakers make them useful communication devices as well. Don’t be surprised if the next meal you order is delivered by a robot. Janus Friis, co-CEO & co-Founder believes they have “built the world’s leading semi-autonomous delivery robot”.

The robots are designed to manage local delivery of packages, groceries and food. The robots will deliver up to 10kgs/20lbs worth (three shopping bags) within 15-45 minutes, to homes within a 2-mile radius on demand. By the end of 2017, the robots had completed thousands of deliveries and travelled over 100,000 KM worldwide to date. Starship Technologies have many plans for 2018, aiming to surpass more robot driving milestones.

Moley Robotics

In terms of money and health, nothing can beat a meal cooked at home. However, time and talent limitations mean many people rely on takeout or dine-in for convenience. Moley Robotics is focusing on a radical idea that can change our relationship with food: Robotic kitchens. Paired with their automated kitchens will be access to a large library of recipes available, and internet connectivity will let homeowners try out several new meals per day if they choose. Furthermore, the company is teaching its robots meals prepared by world-famous chefs, enabling people to taste a version of meals diners pay a significant premium for on a nightly basis. Inventor Mark Oleynik’s vision was to enable everyone to have “your grandmother’s dish that you love” on demand.

Imagine  – Now you can have it cooked by the robot anytime you want. And also your great -grand children can watch the ‘grandmother’ preparation and taste the same dish. I think it’s a nice option to save family traditions for the future generations, isn’t it?

OpenBiotics

Robots have the ability to change the world, but there are two limitations to current initiatives: Cost and intellectual property restrictions. OpenBiotics aims to provide a suite of software tools for robotics and, even more radical, open-source hardware designs. The group touts its success in cost and weight and has already unveiled a model that costs less than $100 and weights less than 200 grams. A more anthropomorphic model provides a more human look while still costing less than $200 and weighing less than 300 grams. Manufacturers, researchers, and others interested in robotics can download plans and software needed to replicate OpenBiotics designs at no cost.

Cambridge Medical Robotics

Surgery requires precision and a steady hand, two aspects where robotics have a clear advantage over their human counterparts. However, humans still have the ability to rely on experience and judgment, so humans still perform the vast majority of surgeries. Cambridge Medical Robotics appears poised to be among the first offering robotic surgery options by using human-controlled robotic surgery systems. An emphasis on training means their offerings will be thoroughly tested by entire surgical teams when used for surgery, and the physical design of robotic devices may enable innovative and less invasive forms of surgery in the coming years.

Robotics: 10 Companies Shaping the 21st Century TechNative
Cambridge Medical Robotics

Blue River Technology

Technology has long been a driver for agriculture, enabling farms to feed the world’s growing population. Since nearly all of the world’s best farmland is already being used for agriculture, efficiency is a top concern. Blue River Technologies helps smaller farms eliminate human labor demands, letting farmers sell at a lower price point while still maintaining a profit. Computer vision, combined with artificial intelligence, lets their products identify weeds individually and inform decisions for how to best deal with them.

Herbicide resistance among weeds is on the rise, making it more difficult to maximize crop yields. Automation and reduced herbicide use can help slow this trend and make food more affordable for the developing world.

Robotics is a rapidly moving field and who knows what’s next. One thing’s for sure – it’s here to stay and despite the fear mongering, the future looks bright.