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How Can Robotics Help Combat Climate Change?

“Because quite soon – before we’ve reached the end of this century, even – I think that what people call robots will have taken over.” Robots will rule the world? “Well, yes. They’ll be in charge.” In charge of us? “Yes, if we’re still here. Whether they’ll have taken over peacefully or otherwise, I have no idea.” (James Lovelock – Orginator of Gaia Theory)

Rapid advances in robotics is proving to be a key driver of the current explosion in technological innovations within the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR). These breakthroughs have the potential to transform business models and industries globally. But how can Robotics have an equally transformational impact on people and the planet?

According to Tomas Lozano-Perez, the TIBCO Founders’ Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at MIT, “The key challenge lies in bringing intelligence to bear on action. A robot is not just a machine that moves – it is a machine that can choose its motions to accomplish a goal.”

Robotics is already a multi-billion dollar industry with its core in manufacturing automation. The market for personal robots that can perform domestic tasks such as cleaning, vacuuming, and mowing is already significant. Yet this is only the beginning of the robotics revolution. Robotic driving and flying will transform transportation, reducing energy costs. Efficient walking robots that can perceive and manipulate will bring robots into homes, hospitals, and retail environments, where they will assist the elderly and the handicapped. Robots that function in environments inaccessible to humans by swimming through coral reefs or hovering above a rain forest canopy can yield powerful insights for scientists studying phenomena such as climate change.

It is in relation to combating climate change in particular, where Robots can provide the following, tangible benefits:

– Preventing pollution and emissions: this, through monitoring and preventing the release of harmful greenhouse gases.

– Optimising the manufacturing processes: Precision manufacturing reducing energy consumption.

– Precision strength: Robots minimising the need for larger less-efficient machines.

– Eliminating product waste: More efficient use of raw materials.

With regards to the latter, roboticists across the globe are rising to tackle the dullest, dangerous, and possibly the dirtiest job – sorting garbage. In the past year, the waste industry has begun to embrace new software and mechatronic innovations to bring down costs. The video below illustrates how Finnish company ZenRobotics utilizes machine learning, computer vision, and synchronized robotic arms to sort and pick recycled materials from moving conveyor belts.

Another clear illustration of robots helping the planet is the Venus Swarm – a “Bio-inspired” robot technology created by ENEA that emulates animal aggregation and group-intelligence behavior. It has great potential for application in environmental exploration and monitoring large marine areas underwater. In the video below you will see how the robot-fish can map the seabed for sensitive data on acidification, salinity, temperature, speed and direction of marine currents, as well as on flooding and coastal erosion.

There is even a climate change denying robot! As climate science continues to be proven correct, climate deniers are quickly becoming an endangered species. Fear not! Introducing DNYR, the climate change denying robot who will ensure you still get your fill of all the robotic arguments climate deniers put out. Click here and then on the red button to generate climate change denying arguments.

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