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Smarter, Faster, Stronger – The Rise of the Super Robots

What is driving the 'robot age' and how can businesses leverage the capabilities being produced?

By James Nunns

Artificial intelligence is one of the 21st century’s dominant fields of innovation. So it’s no surprise that cutting-edge robots and other advanced smart machines fall under the rapidly expanding Internet of Things, which is projected to reach 25 billion devices by 2020.

Every day we’re reading headlines on machines getting ‘smarter’ and robotics transforming a variety of industries, but what’s driving this ‘robot age’ and how can businesses successfully integrate and leverage this advanced automation?


The Year of the Bot

It’s clear that artificial intelligence (AI) is a new industrial revolution, one that’s driving the rise of robotics. But AI won’t just be an industry – it will be part of every industry. This recent explosion of autonomous machines is the result of amazing advances in

Serge Palaric, Vice President Sales Embedded & OEMS, NVIDIA Europe.

Serge Palaric, Vice President Sales Embedded & OEMS, NVIDIA Europe.

deep learning. Due to significant investments and research, we can mimic the process of the human brain via sophisticated, multi-level, “deep” neural networks. These networks are made possible due to the development of graphic processing units (GPUs) that now have enough power to accelerate deep learning algorithms for training or inference.

The technology behind it all is complex, but the ability for computers to learn, write software and perform artificially intelligent tasks, is revolutionising the world we live and work in today. It’s what’s powering drones, autonomous robots, artificial intelligence and more. Drones that don’t just fly by remote control, but navigate their way through a forest for search and rescue; compact security surveillance systems that don’t just scan crowds, but identify suspicious activity; and robots that don’t just perform tasks, but tailor them to individuals’ habits.

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How Robotics is Transforming Specific Industries

In my view, artificial intelligence and its role in robotics is game changing, thanks to its potential to unlock solutions to problems that have plagued us for ages. We’ve already seen huge advancements across a variety of industries including healthcare, manufacturing and logistics.

In the United States, researchers at the Harvard Biorobotics Laboratory are harnessing the power of GPUs to generate real-time volumetric renderings of patients’ hearts. The team has built a robotic system to autonomously steer commercially available cardiac catheters that can acquire ultrasound images from within the heart.

At Stanford University, researchers in the Computational Vision and Geometry Lab developed a robot that can autonomously move with human social etiquette — such as deciding the right of way on the street or helping to guide impaired people in busy public spaces like airports or train stations.

Across the pond in the UK engineers at the University of Birmingham created Betty, a robotic office worker programmed with the latest artificial intelligence software. Betty now works as an office manager at Transport Systems Catapult, monitoring staff and checking environmental conditions. She can identify desks, chairs and other objects as she moves around the office along with observing her colleague’s movements through activity recognition thanks to an embedded 3D image processing unit inside that creates a map of the surrounding area.


Building AI and Robotics Into Your Business 

Case studies such as Betty make it sound like robots could be a threat to human jobs, but collaboration is still essential for businesses, so robotics will only supplement what people do.

In order to realise AI’s positive potential, it’s important to make the technology accessible to as many people as possible – so that a broad range of developers can apply good values to this new computing model. The availability of CUDA and JetPack, including the latest TensorRT, are just a couple of examples of the steps we are taking to achieve this goal.

When it comes to adopting the technology for one’s business, we’re already seeing forward-thinking companies using AI and robotics as a competitive advantage. So in order to still be relevant and meet customer needs, businesses need to start building this into their strategies.

This is positive news for humans because adopting this type of technology will speed up many mundane manual processes – freeing up time to think creatively, develop business strategies and have more face time with key prospects and customers.


The Next Frontier

Whilst AI and robotics are predominately being used in manufacturing and production it won’t be long before we see the technology expand into retail, finance and even education. In retail, robotics will be able to play a crucial role in blending the physical and online shopping world. Imagine walking into your favourite store and a robotic assistant immediately being able to understand your favourite brands, clothes and sizing. It will make the shopping experience even more personal and tailor made to you.

It is clear that we can’t ignore the rise of robotics. They are set to transform the future of business and it’s up to us to identify areas where robots can enhance the workforce – whether it’s taking on mundane, repetitive jobs; freeing up time to focus on high value-adding tasks or simply being able to process information at a faster rate. The key for companies is getting the balance right between machine and human, ensuring human intervention still comes into play at key moments.

The robots aren’t just coming – they’re here now and this technology is set to transform the way we do business for years to come.


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