Developments in Computer Hardware Enable Us to Build Better Robots

The field of robotics has truly flourished in recent years, as new applications in the workplace and beyond have emerged that have rendered the valuable tech more and more mainstream. A big part of that success is the development of new, more powerful and sophisticated hardware and software that make building better robots possible. While developers have long focused on software, hardware is often the unseen hero and the driving force behind the next generation of robots.

The Advantages of Using Robots in the Workplace and Beyond

Robots have long been celebrated as the technology of the future in a wide range of industry sectors, especially when it comes to manufacturing and industrial jobs. As Robotics Tomorrow explains, the benefits of introducing robots to the workplace are numerous. They range from increased safety for workers, as dangerous tasks can be delegated to robots – also cutting back costs on medical bills for employers – to enhanced productivity and speed since robots can keep going when workers need to take a break. The work carried out by robots also usually offers a higher level of consistency as they can repeat-manufacture a particular object or component in the exact same fashion and are focused on completing one specific task. That is hardly their only advantage: this infographic created by the team at Betway shows that they could be a game-changer in terms of their environmental use, where their increased productivity is unparalleled. For example, the Great Barrier Reef ‘RangerBot’ can examine 14 times more reef than a human within 12 months in order to monitor pollution levels and remove invasive species.

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And GrowBot, a robot developed by Sky Grow, can plant trees 10 times faster than humans, lowering the costs by 50%. Thoughts on how robots could function in the modern workplace have sparked an endless debate on whether they will turn out to have a negative impact on human workers in the future. Fear that people will lose their jobs to robots is always present in the discussion, but robotics proponents emphasize the fact that such a development will also simplify the tasks that humans do and make their work easier, while innovation means that more specialized jobs will be created. Industry leader Intel, which has developed hardware kits for building robots and drones, has in recent years been looking for personnel that is equipped to take on the challenges that come with investing in robotics. This could mean growth both for a wide range of industries, from software engineers to hardware developers.

Developing More Powerful Hardware Makes for Better Robots

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Hardware is key to developing better robots – and as always, it is important to understand what hardware fits your needs. In recent years, computer hardware has evolved as companies such as AMD or Intel have developed faster and more powerful processors that allow more sophisticated robots to be built. Other companies, like Occipital, have used their products as a springboard in order to provide elaborate and specialized robot hardware. As TechCrunch reports, Occipital has specialized in sensors, which integrate cameras, lenses and lasers to provide a comprehensive solution. The company has in the past released the Structure Sensor that turned any iPad into a scanner for scanning on the move. More recently, it used the same underlying tech to provide robot developers with Structure Core, a more powerful product that is meant for more complicated projects. Structure uses lasers and cameras to map an environment and identify the system’s position within it. It also includes a built-in solution that can allow a machine to determine and execute a route in that environment.

Sometimes, hardware developed for other uses can be repurposed to fit the needs of aspiring robot creators. According to Science Daily, researchers at the University of Sussex were able to use computer hardware, more particularly GPUs, along with software they had been using to build robots such as drones to run a very promising brain simulation. Their project could mean a lot for AI in robotics development and aid other developers in building their own autonomous machines. The most astonishing aspect of the story is that they used GPUs developed for 3D gaming – and even so, they were able to beat a supercomputer when it came to the results. Constructing better graphics processors and camera interfaces are considered key to achieving a higher level of autonomy as well as increased capabilities when it comes to robots. By using high-end camera and mapping hardware, robots will be able to move with more precision and interact with their environment in ways that could signal a revolution in the field of robotics.

Software remains pivotal in developing the robots of the future – but hardware solutions also have a crucial and often underestimated role to play when tapping into their full potential. Better hardware is key for building machines that can deploy yet unknown capabilities, especially in terms of mapping and moving around.

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