We talk a lot of the risk that technology, especially robotics, can eventually replace the job of the men. Beyond the fact you hope or fear that this comes true, robotics has made huge progress in recent years, still a lot of challanges remain to overcome. Science Robotics has listed 10 grand challenges, here they are.
1. New materials and manufacturing methods
Robotics is experimenting with new materials like artificial muscles, soft robotics and new manufactoring methods to combine more functions in an single material. But most of the multifunctional materials has not overcome the test phase yet.
2. Bioinspired and “robocop” robots
Artificial muscles have already recorded meaningful progress, but their robustness, efficiency, energy and power density need to be improved. The use of living cells in robots could allow to overcome the difficulties tied to the use of small robots, as well as the use of biological funtions as the self-healing and the incorporated perception, but the introduction of such components is difficoult.
3. Power and energy
Energy storage is a serious bottleneck for mobile robotics. Progress in battery technology are accelerating, but fundamental problems have been largely unchanged for years. There need to minimize robots’ power utilization and give them access to new sources of energy, transmitting power to them wirelessly.
4. Robot swarm
A swarm of simple robots, assembling into different configurations to tackle various tasks can be be a cheaper and more flexible alternative to large specialised robots, but we need more efficient forms of control at different scales. They also need to be made robust and adaptable to the changing conditions of real world and resilient to deliberate or accidental damages.
5. Navigation and exploration
A key use case for robots is exploring places where people cannot go, like deep waters, the space, or disaster zones. That means they need to become adept at exploring and navigating unmapped in highly disordered and hostile environments, which will need systems that can adapt, learn, and recover from navigation failures and able to make new discoveries.
6. Artificial Intelligence for robotics
Deep learning has taken machines’ ability to recognize to a new level, but we need to develop further model-based reasoning to create adaptable robots, with an artificial intelligence aware of its own limitations and that can learn quickly how to learn new things.
7. Brain-computer interfaces
Brain-computer interfaces will enable seamless control of advanced robotic prosthetics and will manage in a faster and more natural way how to communicate instructions to robots. But we need to develop compact, low-power, and wireless devices. If such interfaces will outperform simpler techniques like eye tracking or reading muscle signals.
8. Social interaction
If robots are to enter human environments, they will need to learn to deal with humans. This is difficult, as we have very few real models of human behavior and we tend to underestimate the complexity of what seems naturally to us.
9. Medical robotics
Medicine is one of the areas where robots could have significant impact. Autonomous robot assistants will need to be able to recognize human anatomy in a variety of contexts, using situational awareness and spoken commands to understand what’s required of them. Micro-robots that operate inside the human body are also very promising, but they are still in a very early development stage.
10. Robots ethic and security
As we overcoming problems and robots are increasingly integrated into our lives new ethical conundrums arise, like the risk to become over-reliant on robots. Losing certain skills and capabilities, making people unable to take the reins in the case of failures of robots.
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