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Unveiling the Unlikely: Surprising Sectors Transformed by Robotic Innovations

POSTED 11/06/2023

As a leading optical component supplier fully immersed in the robotics and automation fields, we've always been passionate about the creative ideas and inventions emanating from the sector. While it's second nature to associate autonomous systems with typical users like automobile manufacturing and electronics, there exist less obvious industries where they've found an unpredicted home. Here, we embark on a journey through these unanticipated realms, shedding light on their adoption and revealing a degree of forward-thinking that might just defy your initial expectations.

In previous blogs, we've mentioned extraordinary bots. Whether it's dancing machines or futuristic machine movie stars, the fascination with these marvels has been on the rise. That said, they are not confined to the domain of entertainment. More and more people are switching on to the cost and efficiency benefits of embracing automation, and as a result, robots are leaving an impression in the most unexpected places.

Reimagining Retail

Take Zara, for instance. TikTok is abuzz with users capturing their awe as robots deliver and retrieve parcels from behind transparent screens. The popular Spain-based retailer has earned the title of 'high tech' thanks to its innovative method. With a loyal fan base, the beloved clothing brand relies on robotic devices and AI to address the ultra-long queues that were becoming synonymous with their stores, resulting in reduced waiting times and an enhanced customer experience.

Bots Make Biodiversity Boom

Now, remove yourself from scenes of urban settings and imagine stumbling upon a robot deep in the heart of the natural rainforest – a scenario that seems almost surreal. Yet, that's precisely what ABB Robotics envisioned when it partnered with the non-profit organisation Junglekeepers in the US, introducing us to a two-armed machine, YuMi. Designed for remote operation, YuMi plays a key part in accelerating reforestation endeavours in the Peruvian Amazon, making the process "faster and more scalable [1]." The innovation allows Junglekeepers’ dedicated rangers to redirect efforts toward other important duties, reshaping the conservation landscape in an incredible way.

‍Tech-Savvy Teachers

Robots have made many appearances in our classrooms in various forms over the past few decades, but the concept of mechanical educators taking charge of educating school children is now being realised. Responding to teacher shortages in the USA2, an elementary school in Missouri is pioneering the use of a bot named ABii, designed by Van Robotics, to improve children's maths and reading abilities. But, ABii's capabilities go beyond basic tutoring. Its AI-driven software actively monitors pupils' engagement via their computer's camera and adapts its teaching style accordingly to ensure they remain focused. This intelligent adaptation keeps students engaged effectively [3].

Revolutionising Hip Replacement

Robots have a long-standing presence in health sciences, but their increasing sophistication has led to an expanded function. A prime example of this advancement is hip replacement surgeries by the American Hip Institute. Leveraging 3D imaging, the institute's surgical approach incorporates robotics to significantly enhance accuracy, with a focus on three critical tasks: femur cutting, cartilage removal from the acetabulum, and precise bone shaping to perfectly fit the titanium acetabular cup [4].

Bridging the Skills Gap

For years, the persistent challenge of addressing the STEM skills shortage has been a topic of discussion for everyone, including us. Now, machines are stepping in to bridge that gap. In acknowledgement of global labour deficiencies, numerous companies have turned to automation to meet production demands, and the results are remarkably positive. The shift not only enhances workplace safety but also drives increased salaries for specialised roles, such as machine learning engineers, which are in high demand [5].

Getting Into Character

Similar to the widely recognised science-fiction action film series Transformers, Japan's response to these 'robots in disguise' takes the form of Gundam, a Japanese military sci-fi media franchise. In Yokohama, Japan, engineers achieved a phenomenal feat by bringing a colossal robot to life – a towering, large-scale Gundam weighing 25 tons and reaching heights of nearly 60ft [6]. The impressive creation is so immense that, according to Inverse (April 2023), it was officially certified as the largest robot of its kind by Guinness World Records [6].

I'm a Real Bot!

From monumental giants to miniature wonders, a new breed of living bots has emerged, known as Xenobots. The remarkable creations represent a groundbreaking achievement by researchers from the University of Vermont, Tufts University, and the Wyss Institute. Measuring less than a millimetre in width, they are tiny, computer-designed clusters of cells crafted from biocompatible materials, specifically stem cells derived from the African frog, Xenopus laevis7. These novel entities aim to unlock the secrets of cellular communication and, in the future, gain control over it [7].

Enhancing Mobility

We briefly discussed exoskeletons in the manufacturing sector in our blog on Industry 5.0. However, Samsung is venturing into a different realm that could profoundly impact the lives of people with physical limitations. The South Korean company is heavily investing KRW 240 trillion ($179bn) in the robotics field by 2024 [8], with specific attention on boosting mobility support. The announcement comes in the wake of the introduction of their Bot Fit medical walking assistance device, created to assist the elderly, individuals with limited movement, and those undergoing rehabilitation due to injuries. The assistive wearable robot, previously showcased as the GEMS Hip, is set to make its debut at CES 2024 in early January 2024 [8].

Knight Optical’s Role in Advancing Robotics & Automation

While human involvement remains essential in all these applications, it's undeniable that the synergy of humans and robots working together has proven to be an efficient means of moving processes to the next level. ‍ At Knight Optical, our commitment to delivering custom-made optical components seamlessly aligns with the ever-evolving needs of this dynamic sector. With a keen eye on the horizon, we eagerly anticipate the continued growth and transformation of the arena, and we're ready to provide high-precision optical solutions every step of the way.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] https://www.designboom.com/technology/remotely-operated-robot-yumi-abb-restore-amazon-rainforest-junglekeepers-06-23-2023/

[2] https://www.npr.org/2023/03/23/1164800932/teacher-shortages-schools-explainer

[3] https://edition.cnn.com/videos/business/2023/06/16/ai-classroom-robot-pkg-061012aseg1-cnni-business.cnn

[4] https://www.americanhipinstitute.com/blog/robotic-hip-replacement-recovery-time-and-post-surgery-care-32234.html

[5] https://www.roboticstomorrow.com/story/2023/05/how-the-talent-shortage-is-helping-and-hindering-the-field-of-robotics/20501/

[6] https://www.inverse.com/entertainment/gundam-factory-yokohama-life-size-engineering

[7] https://builtin.com/robotics/xenobots-living-robots

[8] https://www.sammobile.com/news/samsung-bot-fit-wearable-robot-launch-ces-2024/