Many of us are familiar with the saying: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Well Google’s latest moonshot, the development of a whole new generation of more dexterous robots, may produce bright opportunities for government. These robots could potentially make feds’ lives both easier and safer as they take over the more difficult and dangerous tasks currently handled by humans.
Most robots in use today assist in manufacturing tasks, expediting the production of goods. Andy Rubin, the lead engineer behind Google’s robotic vision, stated in an interview with the New York Times that the company’s first objective is to create robots that are even more adept at manufacturing and logistical tasks. Rubin noted that further breakthroughs are still necessary, however, to improve the software and mobility of robots so that they can perform a wider range of actions. To achieve these breakthroughs, Google has spent the past six months acquiring 7 tech companies that are leaders in the field of robotic technology. The engineers of these companies have been asked to work together, sharing their ideas and expertise to create a new generation of not only manufacturing robots, but also service ones.
Service robots differ from manufacturing ones in that they are more mobile and can more effectively work around and with humans. These are the types of robots that will prove to be the most useful for government in the future. Current research under the National Robot Initiative, which is funded by agencies such as the National Science Foundation, NASA, NIH, and USDA, is exploring the different ways that service robots can assist in government projects and overall improve the lives of humans.
Here are some of the ideas that have been put forward thus far as part of the research under the National Robot Initiative:
- Robots capable of monitoring bridges, dams, and other pieces of infrastructure for signs of wear. Currently, it is very expensive to do this manually and dangerous for workers that are attempting to look for damage in hard to reach areas. Robots would reduce the costs of this task and keep humans from having to perform life-threatening evaluations of U.S. infrastructure.
- Robots that can harvest and detect diseases in fruits and vegetables. The use of robots in this area could prove to be very beneficial for the agricultural industry given that robots are able to perform these tasks faster and potentially with more accuracy.
- Robots with the ability to drive vehicles, use tools, and interact with humans following a natural disaster. By replacing robots with humans or having robots assist emergency workers following a disaster, you reduce the potential harm to rescue workers and increase their manpower, so to speak.
The use of robots in the above scenarios is still a dream of the future, but as Google and others push toward such lofty goals, we may very well achieve them or discover new innovations amongst the stars.