Robots: The Rise
Robots and tech shows go hand in metallic hand.
Whether it’s a rubbish bin attached to a radio-controlled car painted silver in the ’80s, a person in a robot light up costume in the ’90s, a Roomba cleaning up the naughties or more recently Pepper- robots never fail to draw a crowd, spark the imagination or make me wish I could take one home (person in a costumer excluded).
This year robots were linked quite nicely to the theme of Intelligent Connectivity with announcements of 5G connectivity and advances A.I.
It really seems like the perfect storm for everyday robotics…but is a robot at home, or the office, any closer?
Robot Barrister Or Robot Barista?
The plastic humanoids with wheels seemed to multiply again at MWC. This year it felt like maybe I will finally get the robot for my home that will do more than vacuum and a robot for my office that will do more than act as an iPad on wheels.
With the sheer volume of robots at MWC it meant the odds were pretty good. They came in all different shapes and sizes, with objectives from keeping you company or getting you to the shops to threading needles.
Whilst the common concept for robots was the humanoid shape, you could quite easily include the concept vehicles from BMW a ‘form’ of the robot, it does move around whilst using embedded and connected, A.I to make decisions automatically.
However I am going to narrow it down to the 2 robots that were immediately available and with daily applicable use cases ready to go now.
Robots For Every Office & Home
Up first is Temi, a robot that has been on the cusp of release for a few years and has now materialised into reality, bringing along a lot of charm and excitement with it.
This robot is a modern interpretation of an assistive robot which is essentially a large tablet on a wheeled pedestal which is not only beautifully designed but especially practical for its purpose. Initially it is heavily focused on the consumer, with integrated carry tray (which has Qi wireless charging) for your keys or coffee, an impressive audio system that could replace your home sound system, 2 way video capability and intelligence enabled using Amazon’s Alexa.
As a consumer device it’s a great robot that can follow you around while you hold a video call with friends and family, be the centre of the party by blasting out tunes and dancing at the same time, carry your popcorn to the couch for your next movie night, act as a sentry when you aren’t at home and access the full library of Alexa skills. Also, it’s pretty well priced…. at close to the same price as a top of the line iPhone.
These great consumer features can also easily transfer over to make a great business robot for those looking at getting robots in the (office) workplace, who want to impress staff and clients with ‘innovation’ or to test out what tasks could a consumerised robot offer in an office environment.
Beyond the fun and exploration Temi could be a great enabler of distributed care especially aged care.
Originally Temi was conceived as a robot to provide assistance to the elderly and could quite easily fit back into that environment allowing elderly patients to be engaged with their carers more frequently.
Personally, I am looking forward to our Dev team getting their hands on a few of these to see what they come up with.
More Human Than Human
Moving to the other scale of robotics, more humanoid and more intelligent, is the XR-1 from CloudMinds.
As soon as you see this robot you get slapped with a vision of the future, its size and shape automatically invoke a sense that this humanoid robot is built for service not just fun.
The XR-1 uses ‘Cloud Robotic Intelligence’ which gives it access to multiple AI services and rich domain knowledge along with realtime deep learning. Essentially giving it access to a global brain and knowledge base to quickly identify and act based on certain scenarios.
It’s ability to manipulate its extremities is truly amazing. At MWC it was demoing how it can literally thread a needle much better than a human.
The opportunity to mix near human dexterity with a cloud intelligence certainly opens the doors for some pretty exciting futures where the work environment is suitable for both human and robots to use the same tools, accessories, machines and interactions.
The XR-1 showed this off not only with its needle and dancing skills but also by serving coffee alongside a human companion. Using a multitude of on-board cameras, microphones, and sensors — including a 2D-facial recognition camera on its forehead — it was able to recognise, grab and pass cups of coffee with relative ease and speed.
The great thing on display was that the human and robot could not only work side by side but also fill in for each other or swap roles.
Of note is the information processing could happen in the cloud, and over 5G this robot would be able to make use of cloud computing to process all of the information it gathers.
In effect it can send all of its visual, audio, telemetry and other data to be digested in the cloud, which would then send it back to to the robot allowing them to react, take orders, and in this case make your coffee.
This means that with 5G speeds and ultralow/zero latency the XR-1will be able to send a receive data almost instantaneously allowing it to simultaneously take orders while putting the finishing touches on double choc, skim latte.
As exciting as this was to watch, the coffee wasn’t that great… but the robotic potential is.
Which makes me think. A robot with a cloud brain, almost zero latency and the ability to listen, process, respond and gesture should forget about being a barista and become an amazing barrister, or at least an assistant barrister.
Next time you visit our Delv offices, if the robot asks you for a coffee I would recommend declining, but feel free to ask it for legal insights!