From lifesaving robotic arms pioneering angioplasty in India to new manufacturing hookups for self driving hotshots, there’s a lot of exciting news in robotics this year already.
Here are our 5 favourite stories from the first fortnight of 2018:
Great news for cardiac patients in India, a country that has an estimated 50 million patients suffering from coronary artery disease and conducts 500,000 angioplasties a year, far outweighed by its need of 3.5 million people waiting for an angioplasty.
Technology that has taken 12 years to perfect by engineers at US-based Corindus has been introduced by Ahmedabad-based Apex Heart Institute, improving much needed healthcare accessibility. AHI is the first and so far the only clinic in India to commercially introduce the CorPath GRX, a vascular robotic system for coronary artery interventional procedures, and the first outside the US.
A robotic arm performs angioplasties with an accuracy of sub-one millimetre (mm), against a maximum possible 5-10 mm in case of humans, and costs Rs 75,000-100,000 more than conventional angioplasty.
There is a global shortage of percutaneous coronary interventions (PCI) capable operators and Corindus Vascular Robotics is now working with the Mayo Clinic to launch preclinical studies exploring the use of tele-stenting, a robotic treatment for coronary interventions, which can be operated by physicians in remote locations and could emerge as the solution to take the therapy to rural areas.
Autonomous cars were all the rage last year, and hopefully this year will see fully autonomous vehicles come to fruition and hit the roads, so what's next? You've probably seen drones around here and there - the little unmanned aircraft which are already used for a variety of tasks from delivering goods to 'control crowds with tear gas, and even perform airstrikes.' 'One of the big themes for the next year will be the convergence of unmanned aerial systems and robotics with networking and the internet of things,' Hanumant Singh, professor of electrical and computer engineering said. The combination of these technologies, he explained, would allow for sophisticated drone control systems.
We should also be on the look out for helper robots, going a step further than your Amazon Alexa and be ready for robo-pets such as Kuri, 'a home robot being developed by Mayfield Robotics that’s reminiscent of a doe-eyed, miniature R2-D2.'
More exciting news in India, where keen tech savvy school kids are learning to build robots with DIY kits and online courses. SP Robotic Works is one of several educational tech startups in India working to bridge a critical gap in conventional education, teaching technologies such as robotics, the internet of things, and virtual reality.
Although robotics is a broad concept including areas such as automation, embedded systems, mechanical engineering and IoT, among others, these Ed Tech startups start with the basics. They design small kits containing breadboards, wires, sensors, and other such components, and get children to play with them. Students can register and purchase kits, priced between Rs5,000 and Rs15,000, and learn the basics through videos. They then move on to learning basic programming and concepts in physics, and gradually develop their own robots.
The possibilities of combining a child’s imagination with the capability to actualise a functioning robot are beyond delightful. Plus with such a head-start in their training, we can only the great experts these young enthusiasts will become in future.
Your efforts to ingratiate yourself at work may soon be futile when being met with a cold hard algorhythm. Increasingly companies are turning to automated machine learning software to take on managerial tasks that can be automated, freeing up managers to use their time and attention elsewhere.
This month Shell is rolling out the “Shell Opportunity Hub”, a machine-learning software designed by Boston-based Catalant Inc. to match workers and projects across its business-to-business marketing arm which has 8,000 employees.
Several startups and established firms offer tools to automate and optimize the allocation of work shifts and assignments, enabling one person to manage many more workers than before.
“Our goal here is to optimize managers’ time,” said Bill Bartow, VP of global product management at Kronos Inc, which earlier this month announced software that evaluates vacation requests without human intervention and assigns tasks based on a mix of worker preferences and qualifications.
These management tools are part of a broader shift to increasingly apply artificial intelligence to hiring and other human-resources work. The human resources and workforce management software market has grown 23% in the past two years to reach $11.5 billion last year and is projected to grow another 25% by 2020, according to research firm Gartner.
There is evidence computers may be better suited to some managerial tasks than humans, who are susceptible to cognitive traps like confirmation bias. Sue Siegel, GE’s chief innovation officer, said she wouldn’t rule out one day working for a machine.
Would you trade your boss in for a robot? Tell us in the comments.
5. Self Driving Startup Enters a Three Way Manufacturing Hook Up
Pittsburgh-based self driving startup Aurora Innovation announced this week it has signed deals with both Volkswagen and Hyundai to get its self-driving software into commercial service.
One of the last significant startups not committed to a long term partnership, Aurora Innovation has now committed to two. Launched just last year it’s a catch for the lucky new partners, with an impressive trio of founders making up for its youth. Drew Bagnell was a leader on Uber’s autonomy team, Sterling Anderson used to run Tesla’s Autopilot programme and Urmson was a founding member and longtime technical leader of Google’s self-driving efforts.
With all this in just the first few days of the year, we look forward to more interesting robotics stories to come in 2018!