Rise of the Robots: How Robotics Are Rising to New Challenges in the COVID-19 Era

Rise of the Robots: How Robotics Are Rising to New Challenges in the COVID-19 Era
Rise of the Robots: How Robotics Are Rising to New Challenges in the COVID-19 Era
The manufacturing industry knows robotics. Robots operate on factory floors worldwide, performing an ever-increasing number of tasks, both autonomously and alongside human co-workers. Yet it’s not just in manufacturing or inside a factory that robotics are making their impact felt. Robots are creating new opportunities in multiple industries and in multiple environments. Here are few of areas outside of the factory where innovative robotic solutions are the answers to specific needs.

Solar-Powered Robots: The Farmhands of the Future?

One place where we might not expect to find a robot is the sprawling fields of a farm, and yet one Reddit-posted video shows exactly this. Based in Switzerland, EcoRobotix is focused on building automated farming machines to aid in agricultural efforts with low economic impact. Based on this video, the company also makes some really cool-looking robots.

The EcoRobotix’ Avo Autonomous Weeding Robot sprays each individual weed with a squirt of herbicide. Whereas weeding was once a grueling, manual process, requiring humans to be uncomfortably bent over under a usually hot sun, the solar-powered EcoRobotix robot uses sensors and GPS to navigate through fields, feeding off the solar rays as it works. 

In this application, this particular robot appears to be a boon for the formerly grueling manual labor of field maintenance. But the impact of robots in unexpected places does not end here.

Photo courtesy of EcoRobotix

Cave Robots Boldly Go Where No Robot Has Gone Before

Cave exploration can be a dangerous and strenuous task for any human being, and one might think that for a robot, it would be all but impossible. Yet one effort, by The Kumar Labs, has worked to create robotic spelunkers. Designed with the goal to automate the process of mapping abandoned mine shaft tunnels and explore areas that are impractical or inhospitable for human beings to access, the Kumar Labs robots have been tested in both lab environments and in the educational subterranean environment of a research mine.
The robots are designed to move quadrupedally and are powered by a Nvidia Jetson AGX Xavier as their primary computer. They  use a Ouster OS-1 64-beam Lidar sensor for navigation, planning, and mapping. Although a cave might seem suitable for a robot, given the potential for connectivity issues and traversability constraints, this advancement in robotics may provide the ability to explore further into the Earth than ever before.

Robot Waiters: Food Delivery Service that Doesn’t Require a Tip

Since we now have robotic farmers and robotic explorers, it doesn’t seem as surprising that our food might be brought to us by robot soon as well. Given the physical safety demands in this time of COVID-19, some folks are already experiencing this. In order to deliver food to Chinese coronavirus patients in Shanghai, one hotel is using a robot made by Kennon Robotics to facilitate the delivery.

Photo courtesy of Keenon Robotics

A story in the Nikkei Asian Review shares how the kitchen staff is able to enter the room number on a touch screen and send the food delivery robot on its way. According to the article, Keenon Robotics sold about 3,000 units in 2019, which can be used to deliver any number of medical supplies and equipment as well, and expects that number to rise significantly due to the increased demand for use with COVID patients. Such robot waiters arestill only in China right now, but it will be interesting to see if they will have a visible impact in the Western Hemisphere, and what role they will play in the post-COVID society.
Despite the chaos that has impacted 2020, it is crystal clear that robots are having a remarkable increased impact in multiple areas of our economy today. These champions of social distancing are playing an increased role in COVID-19 environments. Given these innovative examples and the knowledge that more innovations are happening in robotics daily, we can expect to see more of these impressive stories in the future and look forward to a new world with our robotic colleagues. Be sure to subscribe to Automation.com and get all the latest in robotic news, articles and products and follow the fascinating journey of robotics with us.

About The Author

Cory Fogg has served as Content Editor for Automation.com for the last four years, covering the latest advances in technology and automation trends. 

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