In 2016, robots will probably be able to complete many tasks, from fighting fires at sea to exploring the universe, researchers say.
This year, scientists in Amsterdam developed robots that 3D-printed a steel footbridge; Korean researchers designed and built a robotic exoskeleton which people could control with their minds; and a robot in China managed to set records by walking 134.03 kilometres (83.28 miles) without stopping.
The International Space Station (ISS) has robotic hands on the outside, which aid astronauts during space-walks. Space robots like Robonaut 2 (a humanoid) help astronauts by doing simple or even dangerous tasks around the orbiting laboratory. There is also Opportunity, Mars rover, and Curiosity, which are robotic laboratories that explore the surface of Mars, collect data and send it back to Earth to be analysed.
In the not-so-distant future the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) plans on sending another robot to the Red Planet. NASA’s R5 robot or Valkyrie – which was initially built for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Robotics Challenge to perform search and rescue operations – may now be sent to space.
Currently, the Northeastern University in Boston and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are working on improving the Valkyrie robot. To create the software, the two institutions will receive support and funding from NASA. The end goal is to develop a humanoid that could explore Mars.
If they do not make it to space, robots may ‘choose’ a career in firefighting. The U.S. Navy might use robots to fight fires in the middle of the ocean. The Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR) – developed by researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute – is a six feet (1.8 metres) tall robot that can see through smoke and detect heat using thermal-imaging technologies. SAFFiR also has a laser range-finder to help it calculate the distance between an object and itself, and it can hold a fire hose too.
Boston Dynamics – a robotics company – released a video in 2015 showing Atlas (humanoid) running through the woods. This humanoid raises hopes with regards to the utility of bipedal robots. Last June, Atlas competed in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) along with other similar bots. Atlas’ movements are currently powered by an electric chord that powers a hydraulic system. The electric chord plugs into the humanoid’s back.
However, Atlas still has to improve a lot before it will be able to run at high speed through the forest, without tripping over. Scientists at Boston Dynamics are also trying to figure out how to better power Atlas, since the current battery only lasts for about an hour.
Image Source: nasa