Robotic Technology Goes Beyond Automation

Source: NED |

It’s important to realize that, while many robots are designed for automating tasks, there are others that are designed to augment human capabilities rather than automate tasks. This post will take a look at a few examples of how robotic technology is enhancing human operators rather than automating tasks.

Automation is a clearly a top reason for companies looking into the use of robotic technology within their business processes. However, it is important to realize that, while many robots are designed for automating tasks, there are others that are designed to augment human capabilities rather than automate tasks. We tend to think of robots as either robotic arms or autonomous mobile robots operating autonomously in business settings. Such devices often focus on improving productivity and efficiency in business operations. On the other hand, there are several elements of robotic technology that are focused on improving human safety or giving humans increased strength, stamina, or precision. This post will take a look at a few examples of how robotic technology is enhancing human operators rather than automating tasks.

One of the most obvious applications of robotic technology that is designed to augment human capabilities rather than automate tasks is in the area of surgical robotics.  These devices are designed to be manually operated by a surgeon while extending the capabilities of the surgeon. One of the most widely known examples of robotic technology for surgery is the da Vinci robot by Intuitive Surgical. The technology allows a surgeon to remotely operate the robot using a 3D high definition vision system as well as multiple robotic arms, each cable of being equipped with a different surgical tool.

…In addition to the opportunity for exoskeleton suits for medical related usage, the technology is also becoming useful in industries where workers are at risk of work related injury due to repetitive and strenuous motion and heavy lifting. A report by Liberty Mutual found that the leading cause of work related injury in the United States, accounting for $13.8 billion in cost in 2017, is overexertion. This is a problem that companies like Sarcos, Ekso Bionics, Laevo, and others are working on to improve the health and safety of any company’s most important asset, its people. In fact, the importance of this technology to the future workforce is so great that several major manufacturing companies (Bechtel, BMW, Caterpillar, Delta Air Lines, GE, Schlumberger, Wurth Industrie Service, and others) have teamed up with Sarcos to drive development of its exoskeleton suit the Sarcos Guardian XO and Guardian XO Max. The group is collaborating under the newly formed Exoskeleton Technical Advisory Group (X-TAG). “The opportunity to deploy powered, full-body industrial exoskeletons that reduce injury and dramatically enhance human strength, endurance and precision is more proximate than most people realize,” said Ben Wolff, chairman and CEO of Sarcos Robotics. “Top innovators, thought leaders and industry experts across key industries have joined with us to create the safest, most productive and cost-effective workforce in the world and provide us with industry and safety requirements guidance to ensure we meet industry needs in advance of commercial deployment.”

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