Robotics is growing everywhere : at home, in factories, in schools, in hospitals… But robots are not only coming from technology progresses. A lot of institutes, companies, and universities are working in various research areas to make robots more useful for the future.
What are those research areas ?
Control of the robot :
Imagine if your body could control a robot ? A lot of researchers are currently working on this application. It can be a mind control or a nerve control.
The second point is currently bringing many opportunities. Some companies are developing exoskeletons for disabled people, so they can use their arm, or their leg again.
Most robots you can see are "blind". That means, they just do what they've been told to do, and never stop or react to environment changes.
Perception is here to make a robot being aware of what's going on around it. This can be done with torque sensor, laser detector, limit switch, video processing, …
The goal here is not only to see or feel the environment, but to recognize forms, faces, paths, so the robot can be a lot more intelligent. Manipulation tasks and navigation are then better handled.
Motion planning :
You certainly have heard of autonomous cars. How do autonomous cars know how to go from point A to point B, while avoiding all obstacles, and providing comfort for the passengers ?
Or, for a 6 axis robotic arm, how do the robot knows how to grab a tool, and perform tasks without hitting material and humans ?
The answer is : motion planning. Motion planning, combined with perception, allows a robot to be fully autonomous by always computing new paths to move and adapt its behavior to its environment. (For curious developers, check out OMPL, an open source motion planning library)
A robot is above all a mechanical system.
When developing a software, for example a simulation tool or a video game, you don't need to care about physical constraints. Everything is moving nicely, tanks can fly and you can stop a robot while moving it at full speed, nothing will break.
Well, in real life, it doesn't exactly work this way… You do need to care about physical constraints.
Researches in mechanical fields will bring new materials for robots, and new ways of making mechanical systems more robust and powerful. You can think of elastic material, 3D printing, new enhanced composite material for robustness, new mechanical design for simplifying complex problems, and so on.
Human interactions :
Robots need to interact with humans, to increase work collaboration, and allow robotics to be a part of people's everyday life.
Researches about this subjects can be linked to robotics : recognizing humans with perception, or imitating physical human capabilities (voice, arm or leg movement).
But for this field, researches are not only technology oriented. A lot of researchers in psychology, philosophy, human behavior, and many more, are working to see how humans perceive robots interactions (for example kids, or people in hospital). Those observations provide great information for robotics researchers and engineers, so they can improve robots in a way that humans will benefit from.
Artificial intelligence :
This field is all about making robots more clever and making them guess what to do and how to solve new problems by themselves.
Artificial intelligence is one of the greatest trend for now. Researches include a lot of algorithms, mathematics, perception, cognition, and the list goes on.
Imagine a robot learning from its mistakes. It could adapt its working process to any environment, learn how to speak to different people, and make people's everyday life so easy.
Robotics research : to the next robotics revolution
Robotics research is opening so many robotics applications !
All those researches, combined with engineering effort to bring robotics to needed applications, are leading the next robotics revolution.
Next step : make robotics accessible to everyone, by bringing all those research fields in a low cost robot. That's exactly what we are doing by creating Niryo One. We want to let you benefit from the last researches progresses, without having to sell your car and your house !