While the public imagination still perceives robots as humanlike novelties relegated to the pages of science fiction films and novels, the reality of robotics is significantly more practical. Whether it’s manufacturing or healthcare, countless industries have become dependent on robotic systems. While implementation ranges from mundane to life changing, it’s clear that the role robots play will only expand as technology improves. That said, their current uses are perhaps more varied than even speculation or imagination could conjure.
One of the earliest examples of robotics in the workforce came in the world of assembly line manufacturing. Their role in automobile production is so ingrained that they’ve effectively replaced human workers in many positions along the assembly line. While this is often cited as a danger due to the resulting job displacement, it’s a simple fact that vehicles have become both safer and more affordable as a result of streamlined manufacturing through robotics.
Because of their repeatable precision, robots can quickly perform the intricate welds that give strength to a modern car’s frame, along with other tasks like applying paint and installing interior features. Because they are both precise and inexhaustible, robots complete cars faster and put out a more consistent product, a vital aspect given present safety requirements.
Robots have effectively revolutionized the world of medicine by enabling doctors to lend the expertise around the globe without being physically present. Robotic arms are equipped with scalpels and other surgical equipment, which can then be remotely operated by a surgeon thousands of miles away. Remote surgery via robotics is an indispensable service to patients in regions made inaccessible by climate, disaster, or sheer terrain. Likewise, it helps to bridge the gap in countries where healthcare advancements have lagged because of global wealth disparity. Additionally, robots have made some surgeries safer overall. Because robotic arms are more precise than the human hand, once-invasive operations can now be accomplished with smaller incisions and less damage to the surrounding tissue, improving both survival rate and recovery time.
- Police and Military Applications
Given its inherent dangers, robots designed for law enforcement and military deployment are a natural progression of their growing role in the workforce. While most minds immediately jump to unmanned drones, military and police robots actual date back much earlier. Military forces have made use of robots for bomb disposals since the 1970’s, with the first example being the “Wheelbarrow” bot deployed by British forces in both Iraq and Northern Ireland. Since then, similar remote-controlled robots have been adopted by police forces to handle explosive containment and removal. The aforementioned drones are valuable tools not only for targeted strikes, but also as scarcely detectable surveillance platforms capable of penetrating enemy territory where manned craft would otherwise run the risk of exposure through ever-advancing radar.
- Scientific Exploration
Both space and the ocean have proved difficult for research teams to explore. While manned missions are possible, they are severely limited in their scope because of the need to provide food, oxygen, and other resources that shorten the extent and duration of expeditions. Robots, on the other hand, are only limited by their battery and the ability of scientists to transmit control signals and data back and forth. Several robots have been used to explore the surface of Mars, providing more valuable data than missions performed by orbiters. Deep sea robots have enabled scientists to catalog not only the flora and fauna of the ocean floor, but also to explore shipwrecks from both antiquity and the modern era, as well as ancient seaside towns long lost to encroaching coastal waters.