Hyper-specialized Robots

A new robot from Japan can peel bananas. Chipotle is replying a robot named Chippy that can make chips. A robotic nose called NOSE can identify whiskey by brand 95% of the time.

Okay, maybe the labor shortage justifies Chippy. But peeling bananas and sniffing whiskey? These are not jobs that are crying out for automation, are they?

We’re reminded of robots designed to pass the Turing test. It’s possible to program a robot to trick human beings well enough to pass the Turing test at this point. The thing is, that only works when the robot is not programmed to do anything else.

Much the same thing is true of robots that seem to be able to dance or climb stairs or do backflips — although that can involve skillful videography along with programming. The point is that you can build and program a robot to do some very specific task that seems truly impressive. But it seems impressive only because we’re imagining that the robot can do the other things a person would also be able to do if they could do that task.

Peel me a grape?

A banana-peeling machine has very little value because there aren’t many jobs that require someone to peel a banana full time. This is not a robot with the delicacy of touch and precision required to peel bananas, and therefore it can also pick raspberries, rock a baby, and fold laundry. It can just peel bananas — without squishing them only 57% of the time.

It can’t make fruit salad.

The hope is that the steps involved in creating a machine that can peel a banana will someday lead to machines that can fold laundry, or at least check out groceries or perform QA at a fruit-packing plant. This and most other hyper-specialized robots are experiments providing proof of concept for some more general type of skill that robots might someday have.

When robots develop new skills, they still need motion control systems to keep them going. When your Rexroth drive and control systems need service and support, call us for immediate assistance.

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