Xin Yi on Friendly Robots

Modern robots were first invested in the 1950s and have rapidly become omnipresent in the past decade, and would be more so with the advancement of both technology and the human society. The Friendly Robotics Project fits into this environment by aiming to transform the way robots and humans interact.

20 years ago, robots were expensive and beyond the reach of the common public. They were largely used by the manufacturing industry, where they perform relatively routine tasks. These robots act more like machines, except with greater precision and agility. However, the invention of smaller and more powerful hardware, especially the integrated circuits, have allowed robots to be so much more capable. Just like how no one in 1950s believed that a room-sized computer could one day transform into something that could fit in our palms, few had expected robots to be an integral part of our daily lives. From mundane tasks of cleaning to the mind intensive stocks prediction, robots have relieved us of many duties. Nevertheless, alongside the benefits are the challenges brought about by these clever robots, one of which is the loss of jobs, especially amongst those with little education and technological know-how.

Friendly Robotics is the solution. It is a revolutionary advocating for humans to become the master of robots, not the other way round. The idea is to allow the command of robots offsite, where one can easily control multiple robots through an easy-to-use platform. An illustrative use case would be the agriculture industry, where one controls the robots in the farm to do the sowing, watering, planting and harvesting from the comfort of one’s own home. Friendly Robotics would create this interactive platform that receives commands from the user and send it to the robots while continuously tracking the robots’ and the environment’s statuses. It would deal with, and spare the users from, the backend issues ranging from the pairing of robots to the user to the latency and bandwidth allocation.

Apart from the above mentioned, there is much more potential with this service. With the meteoric rise of cloud gaming, I believe social interaction between gamers and real-life robot would soon emerge as the new trend in the hundred-billion industry, and the Friendly Robotics Project would fit in nicely. Imagine a future where gamers no longer play with virtual characters in simulated settings, but with real-life robots in physical environments. Relating to the farming example, a gamer would indirectly be controlling a robot and directing it to complete the different tasks, in an actual farm that might be situated hundreds of miles away from the gamer.

At the end of the day, this internship has taught me the technicalities involved in building a network that allows for remote human-robot interaction. And most importantly, it has offered me many insights about the robotics industry and understand how we really can make robots work for us, that is no longer a naive dream.

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