Whatever their form factor, robots are making a difference, particularly in the medical field. They routinely assist in minimally invasive surgeries such as neurologic, orthopedic, and laparoscopic procedures. Intelligent exoskeletons even help paralyzed people walk again, noted Ayanna Howard, CTO at Zyrobotics and Chair of the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology.
She said robots can also perform jobs where there are human resource shortages, such as teaching.
Robo-Teaching and Defensive AI
Howard’s company builds robots that help children in ways that include leading them in workout classes so they can get more exercise. Howard programs the robots with the “emotional AI” cues the kids would expect from a parent, teacher or friend when they exhibit a certain behavior.
“As in real life, the robot coach will become ‘frustrated’ or ‘pleased’ with the child based on his or her performance,” Howard explained. She said robotics could eventually bring about the “democratization of education” by supplementing scarce teaching resources.
“We’ve come to a point where all college students should have at least a Computer Science 101 education,” said Howard. “But if there aren’t enough instructors, I can see robots being called upon to teach CS 101 classes to the student masses.”
Getting this education is important, she said, in part because in February, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order asking federal government agencies to dedicate more resources to research, promotion and training on AI.
“It’s partly a defensive move,” said Howard. “There could be negative intent by others [outside the U.S.] using AI. So we have to invest, too. Otherwise, there will be an imbalance of power, weighted toward those who might want to use it against us.”
Automated Service Delivery
Some robots are being deployed as security guards, helping deter crime and protect the lives of peace officers. Knightscope, for example, builds, deploys and supports autonomous crime-fighting security robots that operate 24/7 in 15 U.S. states. The company said its robo-cops have already “secured over a dozen crime-fighting wins.”
Radford believes robots will be used increasingly for delivering services like these. He envisions a day when individuals don’t own their own vehicles, but instead call up a self-driving car on demand. He also thinks it likely that hospitals might soon use automation for bed transport and food service delivery to patient rooms.
Howard anticipates AI applications in the financial trading market.
“In the future, more AI researchers and data scientists are going to be hired than stockbrokers,” she said. The reason is that there’s too much data for a stockbroker or investor to consider without some AI modeling.
“We may still need a stockbroker to interact with the investor, but we’ll need more AI and researchers at the back end,” said Howard.
AI Programming Challenges
There are plenty of hurdles for AI and robotics to overcome, said Radford.
“Many of the dirty and dangerous jobs we want to use robots for take place in highly unstructured environments. These are the most difficult to automate,” he said.