Living in the 21st century, it’s hard sometimes not to wonder whether we are living “in the future.” With many sci-fi predictions, from debit cards (Edward Bellamy in Looking Backwards, 1888), to electric cars (John Brunner in Stand on Zanzibar, 1969), to video chat (Hugo Gernsback in Ralph 124c 41+, 1911 – he called it the “telephot”) all coming true, it seems that even the most outlandish predictions are likely to happen.
One field which has very quickly moved from sci fi thought experiment to mainstream industry is robotics. At Tej Kohli Ventures, we are excited about the possibilities of surgical robots, which in May 2016 beat human surgeons for the first time ever.
Robots are more predictable and deliver more consistent results without human error. And when considering the enormous cost of training and paying a surgeon, not to mention the time spent bringing him or her up to the highest standards, they could help us reach even more patients. For Tej Kohli, net worth maximization has long given way to a focus on helping as many people as possible.
But is automation the solution for every need?
Moley Robotics’ “Moley Robotic Kitchen” has just showcased its robot chef prototype. At the moment, only the very richest can afford full time personal chefs. But with a robot which uses extended humanoid arms to cook any meal from scratch, serve and garnish it, we may never need to teach our children how to cook!
The robot, which mimics even Michelin starred dishes to perfection, will be on the market in about two years – but will cost over $100, 000. However, now the technology is out there, we can expect it to become more affordable over time.
Making music is often thought of, throughout all cultures, as a special skill peculiar to humans. Excellent music is thought to express the musician’s soul – and of course, robots aren’t considered to have souls. But could robots replace classical violinists and head-banging lead guitarists?
Robot collective Khepera III can play famous Beethoven piano pieces, with each robot acting as a finger. Even way back in 2007, Toyota created a robot which plays Elgar tunes on a real violin to audiences across Japan. And band Z-Machines features a 78-fingered guitarist, a 22-armed drummer, and a keyboardist which uses multiple green lasers to hit each key. They need British musician Squarepusher to compose their tunes –but this band, created by University of Tokyo engineers, doesn’t need anyone to play with them. And designer Kenjiro Matsuo claims that it’s not that hard, saying “Many people can try to make this kind of robot in their house now.”
Robot personal assistants are almost passé. there are so many coming out. Arguably, your smartphone serves as an automated personal assistant, managing your calendar, updating your contacts, organising your files and finding information for you at a second’s notice.
But now, companies like Rethink Robotics are using “behavioural robotics” to create fully trainable assistants for home or office use, which comes with common sense programmed and awareness of human presence.
Is our future entirely automated? We’ll have to wait and see. But the constant innovations in the robotics industry mean that it’s certainly much more automated than the present.