6 Big Challenges Facing Robots

Have you been impressed with today’s robotics yet? No doubt this exciting field is growing at warp speed. But there are a few problems associated with robotics that will need to be resolved within the next 5 to 10 years.

The publication Science Robotics has officially identified grand challenges that the field will have to face in order to maintain its growth and development. This list is a result of the journal’s editors’ input from an online survey that was conducted. Here are six of those great challenges: 

6 Robotic Challenges

1) Bio-Hybrid Robots – One of the big expectations of robotics has been its integration into living systems. However, there have long been huge logjams in trying to reproduce the mechanics and the performance of living muscles and have them be a part of a living system.

There has actually been good progress in the making of artificial muscles. However, there are questions about their efficiency, robustness, and power density that needs improving. Having the ability to embed living cells into robots will overcome the obstacles of energizing small robots, as well as utilize biological factors such as self-healing and sensing. Trying to figure out how to integrate these systems is still a mystery.

2) Robot Swarms – Today we are seeing literally swarms of simplistic robots that conduct smaller various tasks, rather than having bigger robots do a number of tasks. This is becoming more challenging to manage these swarms more efficiently.

There is a great need to conduct our work more efficiently on different scales. While smaller swarms can be managed from a central location, the large swarms must be decentralized. But they must be more robust and more adaptable to changes that are occurring in the real world.

3) Navigation and Exploration – One of the great uses for robots has been the exploration of those places where human beings are not able to go, like in extreme depths in the sea, outer space, or even in disaster zones. What this means is they must become skilled at navigating and exploring unmapped, and often disordered and even environments that could be hostile.

The biggest challenges lie with being able to create systems that will learn, adapt, and even recover from failures in navigation and will be able to make new discoveries. This requires a high level of autonomy that allows robots to reconfigure and monitor themselves as they build an image of the world from several data sources of varying accuracy and reliability.

4) Social Interaction – For robots to begin entering human environments, they are going to have to learn how to deal with human beings. This will be very challenging because there are not many solid models that represent typical human behavior. In addition, we tend to underestimate the level of complexity to the things we do naturally.

Social robots must have the ability to recognize social cues such as facial expressions or intonations. They must also understand the social and cultural context of the location they are working with. And they need to model the mental states of those individuals they are interacting with in order to tailor their dealings with them. The objective is to have them be able to build both short-term and long-term relationships with real humans.

5) Medical Robotics – Medicine is a field where hopes and expectations are very for robots. Many believe that medical robotics could the most impact in the very near future. There are already devices that are helping surgeons, but the big challenge here is to boost the autonomy of these systems in these high-stakes environments.

An autonomous robot assistant must be able to completely understand the human anatomy in a huge assortment of contexts. They must also have the ability to employ situational awareness and even spoken commands. During surgery, autonomous robots could actually perform routine steps in a given procedure, leaving the surgeon to perform the most complex tasks.

6) Robot Ethics – As more and more robots become integrated into our society, there will be brand new ethical problems. This is particularly true as we become more dependent on robots.

As robots begin conducting more human tasks, some of these will be for the good of society, and some could be for the bad of society. Obviously, new laws will be needed for them and as always, not everyone will agree on these.