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The Future of Robotics: How Will Robots Change The World?

April 26, 2022 - Ellie Poverly

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In 2030, robots could be exploring alien worlds and performing surgeries from halfway around the globe. Robotics is one of the fastest evolving fields of technology, and it’s shaping the future of travel, work and exploration. Peripheral advancements in AI, computing and IoT are helping elevate things even further. Robotics holds some exciting innovations that will play a central role in daily life worldwide. 

Transportation

Few technologies in recent history have been as highly anticipated as autonomous vehicles. Ambitious scientists and engineers have pursued self-driving car technology for centuries. In fact, in the 1500s, Leonardo Da Vinci designed a cart that could move on its own. DARPA’s autonomous vehicle challenge in the 2000s sparked a wave of modern R&D surrounding self-driving autos. 

Self-driving cars get smarter every year, yet they remain rare on the roads in the 2020s. What makes robotic transportation a challenge is AI computing and human randomness. Robots work best with structured, predictable data. Human behavior is never certain. Today’s autonomous vehicle researchers are developing AI models that can accurately and consistently respond to obstacles on the road, especially pedestrians. 

Throughout the 2020s, this unique robotics niche may finally get “over the hump” and go mainstream. Tesla has blazed a trail for rudimentary autonomous vehicle tech with its autopilot mode. This developed public policy to regulate self-driving cars and increased public adoption. Other leading self-driving car companies are making substantial headway, as well. Waymo began operating its autonomous taxi service in Phoenix in 2020. In 2022, the company announced it would be removing test drivers from the vehicles. 

In the 2030s, robot-powered vehicles may be on the road in major cities worldwide. These cars will make travel more accessible, reduce emissions and improve policing behaviors. 

Education

Educational robotics is experiencing some fun and exciting innovations right now. The COVID-19 pandemic led educators and parents to analyze education and the role of technology in learning. Robots have long since been a valuable learning tool in classrooms, especially for STEM education. This role will only grow over the years and decades ahead. 

One of the most fascinating educational robots is Moxie, developed by Embodied. This educational robot made headlines when it was released in 2021, gaining attention for its unique design and use of AI. Moxie is designed to be a socialization robot for children. It helps young kids learn social skills, empathy, critical thinking and communication. 

Children can play games with Moxie, read with it or even engage in natural, ongoing conversations. The robot’s friendly animated face displays a range of facial expressions. It remembers previous conversations and can recognize kids’ faces, allowing them to form a real bond with it. Companion robots like Moxie will likely become much more popular in the years ahead. This is especially probable with the rise of remote learning. 

In the future, teachers and instructors may be robots. At CES 2020, Samsung’s STAR Labs announced a groundbreaking project called NEON. The project consists of lifelike AI models with unique personalities, specialties and even full physical appearances. The NEONs are still in very early development, but Samsung hopes they will one day take on everyday roles, including acting as teachers. 

Industry

Industrial robotics is booming right now. In fact, the current challenges facing manufacturing and construction are driving robotics development. For example, the construction industry is short an estimated 2.2 million workers, but demand for new homes and infrastructure has rarely been higher. Manufacturing is in a similar position with over 2.1 million unfilled jobs, accounting for $1 trillion in lost revenue. 

Robots are the perfect solution to these challenges. Manufacturing was one of the first applications for robotics, and it remains a strong candidate for increased automation. The structured, repetitive nature of many manufacturing tasks makes it easy to integrate robotics. AI and the Internet of Things (IoT) are advancing to a point where manufacturing could be 100% autonomous by the 2030s, from assembly to quality control. Jobs in this sector will shift to robot maintenance and operations. 

Robots are also improving the lives of construction workers and everyday people. For example, startups are hard at work developing autonomous construction vehicles. These machines will help workers do their jobs more safely and efficiently. Autonomous cars could even reduce stress and injury rates. In fact, a Chinese construction company made a critical advancement in 2021. Robotic paving vehicles resurfaced a stretch of China’s busiest highway, the Nanjing-Shanghai expressway. 

One of the most exciting advances in construction robotics is 3D printing. This technology could transform the industry. Construction 3D printing has been around for several years now, but only in the 2020s did it begin to take off. 

In 2021, 3D printing company ICON announced it would be developing the world’s largest 3D printed neighborhood in Austin, Texas, set to break ground in 2022. This project consists of 100 homes with sustainable materials and solar panels integrated into the roofs. This first major success in construction 3D printing is crucial. This technology will be paramount in the future, especially as demand for new homes continues to rise worldwide. 

Medicine

Healthcare is one of the frontiers of robotics today, with innovations pushing the boundaries of science and engineering. Robots will transform medicine in the years and decades ahead, with everything from remote robotic surgeries to AI nurses. By 2030, robots could be a commonplace sight in the halls of hospitals around the globe. 

One of the most fascinating niches of medical robotics is robot surgery. Patients might die in some parts of the world because they don’t have access to a doctor who knows how to treat them. Remote robotic surgeries could change that. In 2022, researchers at MIT announced a new system that would let doctors remotely treat stroke and aneurysm patients. Time is critical with conditions like these — patients can’t wait for a doctor to fly halfway around the world. MIT’s remote robotic surgery system could save lives.

Robots are helping out in other ways, too. The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a surge in demand for UV disinfection bots. These autonomous machines rove through buildings killing bacteria and sterilizing surfaces using UV light. This protects everyone working in and inhabiting hospitals and reduces the spread of disease. 

Robots may even begin assisting nurses in hospitals and eldercare centers. In 2019, a team of researchers from Trinity College Dublin tested a prototype of a nursing robot named “Stevie” at an elder care center in Washington, D.C. Stevie could play games with residents, talk with them and even participate in karaoke night. This robot is unique because its AI also has built-in care features. For example, if a patient says a keyword like “help,” the robot will call for medical assistance. In the future, robots like Stevie could help promote socialization and mental wellness in patient care while also assisting nurses. 

Exploration

Robotics is driving exciting new advances in exploration, from the depths of the sea to the surface of Mars and beyond. New frontiers of exploration are particularly challenging because they involve areas where humans simply can’t go without the help of advanced technology. 

Some may be surprised to hear that Earth’s oceans are one of the least explored places in our corner of the solar system. Scientists have studied less than 20% of the world’s oceans. By comparison, we have photographed 99% of the moon’s surface. There are likely entire species in the darkest depths of the sea that scientists haven’t even discovered yet. Robots are helping explorers traverse these realms of the deep, where water pressure is far too high for scuba divers to withstand. 

Among these incredible projects is the Orpheus robot from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI). Orpheus is designed to explore underwater regions between 20,000 and 36,000 feet below the surface. The data and images these robots report will help scientists study the deepest corners of the ocean. Orpheus could pave the way for exploring other planets and moons suspected to have water on them, including Saturn’s moon Titan and Jupiter’s moon Europa. Robots could very well discover alien life on these worlds. 

The Future of Robotics and Our World

Robots could someday be our drivers, companions, co-workers, teachers, surgeons and exploration pioneers. The capabilities of this technology will only grow as scientists and engineers continue to innovate and evolve robotics. Robots are already a central part of everyday life in many capacities. They will likely improve the quality of life for billions of people and even help us reach new horizons on our planet and beyond.

Revolutionized is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commision. Learn more here.

Author

Ellie Poverly

Ellie Poverly is a science writer specializing in astronomy and environmental science and is the Associate Editor of Revolutionized. Ellie's love of science stems from reading Richard Dawkins books and her favorite science magazine as a child, where she fell in love with the experiments included in each edition

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