Artificial Intelligence has catapulted in recent years, and the advancements being made in this field make me feel as if it won’t be long before we have robots walking amongst us all the time! There was a point in time when the only forms of robots that we could see were toys or vacuum cleaners, or if we were lucky an AI-enabled lawnmower in some tech-trendy individual’s backyard! But we have come a long long way since then. From a basketball-playing Japanese robot at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics to a Microsoft-powered robot that cleans up littered cigarette butts on the beach – the potential and scope of robots grow exponentially day by day. The world at large is slowly moving away from the perception of robots as evil beings who want to take over the Earth, and accepting that they may have vast and undeniable utility in even our day-to-day lives. Whether programmed for fun or functionality, robots are always intriguing to watch and examine! And, we’ve curated some really innovative ones that completely blew our minds away!
At the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, world-class athletes were showcasing their talent, but a robot stole all the limelight during a basketball game between the U.S. and France. Demonstrating the early stages of the machine-dominated dystopian future, the seven-foot robot developed by Toyota engineers scored a perfect three-pointer and half-court shot. The eerily designed robot took to the center stage at halftime break during a showdown game. The Toyota engineers created this free throw shooting robot in their free time over the last couple of years – and at the game – the smart machine beat human players shot for shot. It perfectly landed an easy free throw, a three-pointer, and a flawless half-court shot (just like Stephen Curry) in tandem to wow the crowd!
In collaboration with OTTOBO Robotics, product and car designer Berk Kaplan developed a concept design for a task robot that integrates smart technology to streamline ergonomics and package-carrying flexibility. During the beginning stage of the concept design phase, Kaplan first conducted his own research to settle on the overall mood and personality of the robot. Following the research period, Kaplan sat down to sketch outlines of his robot in development, toying around with practical elements and aesthetic touches. The first proposal envisioned the robot with both a hard outer shell and inner core, giving it a tough, hardworking personality and weighty body. Where the first proposal found durability in a tough exterior and interior, the third proposal from Kaplan wrapped the robot in a soft outer shell to cover the robot’s soft interior core. The second proposal, which Kaplan and OTTOBO Robotics ultimately chose as the concept design’s final form, conceived the robot with a soft outer shell and hard inner core for a cushioned tactile experience, outfitting the robot with a friendly and approachable disposition.
Xiaomi, a Chinese tech company, recently unveiled more 3D renders of their own Quadruped robotic creation, CyberDog. Currently, the bio-inspired, four-legged robot has been engineered as a robotic companion whose future technical capabilities are still in development. In a recent press release from Xiaomi, it’s said that CyberDog comes complete with “AI interactive cameras [and sensors], binocular ultra-wide-angle fisheye cameras, and Intel ® RealSense D450 Depth module, and can be trained with its computer vision algorithm.”
Oliver is a collaborative robot that can operate both automated and manual delivery services. Smart technology equips Oliver with the know-how to handle autonomous delivery outings most likely contained within indoor spaces like warehouses and office buildings. Goods can be placed inside of Oliver the same way items are carried by utility carts and additional packages can be attached to Oliver’s rear trailer. Once the goods are packed away, a touchscreen display allows users to orient Oliver and schedule their deliveries. The vertical carrying space automatically rises at each delivery destination to make the unloading process more manageable. Besides automated delivery services, Oliver can operate as a conventional utility cart if users would prefer to deliver their goods on foot.
This robot may look like the Mars rover, but it’s a unique cigarette bud collecting bot designed to clean up the litter on beaches. Called the BeachBot (BB), this cute little four-wheeled machine was developed by Edwin Bos and Martijn Lukaart of TechTics. The duo got livid with the amount of trash (cigarette butts in particular) on the Scheveningen Beach in Holland and wanted to design a robot that could help clean up the mess. That’s how the 2.5-feet wide BeachBot came into existence, looking to navigate the beaches on its bloated wheels that don’t create any marks on the sand. The battery-powered bot has an AI brain that uses image-detection software to identify the butts and then pick them up with its gripper arms. The collected trash is then stored in the onboard compartment to dispose of later.
The KODA Robot Dog holds the title for being the first high-end domestic robot-dog running on a decentralized blockchain network, with its ‘own brain’ – an 11 teraflop processor capable of A.I. machine-learning. The dog-type quadruped robot relied on a decentralized network to share data and optimize behavior, making all KODA dogs smarter by relying on a hive-mind of sorts. “For example, a KODA dog in Phoenix can use the knowledge it automatically receives from other KODAs that are based in colder climates, like Anchorage, Alaska or Toronto, Canada”, Harden mentions to Yanko Design. “Without ever having set foot on ice, the KODA in Phoenix will learn how to avoid slipping. This includes warning its owner as well.” Armed with that incredibly powerful software, Whipsaw’s design took an interesting-yet-logical decision of ensuring the KODA robot dog (as intelligent and capable as it was) still retained a friendly, cute demeanor.
Keunwook Kim designed Post-Plant, a collection of non-humanoid robots that respond to and move through non-verbal, physical interaction. Following a period of researching how humans can read emotion from non-verbal cues, Kim gathered that arousal (dynamic energy), valence (intrinsic attractiveness), and stance (visual disposition) can each be interpreted as signs for emotional analysis. Applying this information to Post-Plant, Kim’s non-humanoid robots do not express emotion through facial expression, but through movement and changing forms. Built into each one of his Post-Plant robots, Kim incorporated a motor interface that combines an input and output system, registering when the robot is touched and responding with movement.
Imagine if R2-D2 got a 2021 makeover? Well, BEBOP Design did something like that…they took the concept and gave it a sleek makeover to give us all Information Robot! This is an autonomous robot designed specifically for the Korean startup Zetabank that aims to make human lives safer and healthier with the help of robots. Zetabank has a range of robots and this is their second collaboration with BEBOP. The company’s mission is to improve our lives using artificial intelligence. Their Disinfectant Robot, Hospitality Robot, and Untact Robot are all designed keeping in mind how they can maximize utility and bring practicality to make our day-to-day more efficient. Continuing that legacy is Information Robot which is created as a service platform for digital interactions building upon the Hospitality Robot’s intelligence. These digital interactions are enhanced by the robot’s autonomous movement in various commercial and residential spaces.
Eggo’s mission is simple – to give you a robot pet that is always by your side and provides a positive experience to you. This egg-shaped companion lets you raise a pet online or offline without taking away from the experience. It has a simple design, minimal interface, and an organic shape that invites interaction. Eggo moves autonomously by grasping the terrain through a camera. The smart pet also automatically goes to charge itself when the battery is low and I honestly wish my phone did the same thing. Even though it is a robot, designer Hyunjae Tak made sure to include an emotional side so Eggo can express how it is ‘feeling’ through the LED colors which are extremely important when interacting with children. It uses the inner wheel to move on its own and actually forms a unique personality according to how you take care of it just as you would with a real-life pet!
This gadget can be fixed to the wearer’s forehead, who is too busy looking down at the smartphone. You know where we are heading, don’t you? Yes, the 3rd Eye keeps a lookout on obstacles as you walk on the street, with the phone screen keeping you preoccupied. The inbuilt ultrasonic sensor automatically detects whenever your head is tilted down to check the phone and beeps a warning buzz when a hazard is detected up to a distance of one meter. This niche creation is a part of Minwook’s Innovation Design Engineering degree at London’s Royal Imperial College of Art and Imperial College. The designer sees this evolution of human beings as a sarcastic imagination for him to do something creative. He labels the evolution as “phono sapiens,” and understandably so, seeing how we are so deeply lost in the world of the internet. How do you identify a phono sapien? With their forward-leaning neck vertebrae resulting in the dreaded turtle neck syndrome!