Social Robotics

Imagine an intelligent robot with social skills that made it fun to work with. A robot that could help you achieve tasks more efficiently. Social robots are designed to work closely with people safely and efficiently, and to add value to people's lives by helping, caring, teaching and entertaining. 

Social robots are a disruptive technology, poised to have a profound impact on business, society and the global economy. Some of the most pressing critical robotics research challenges are:

  1. Automomy: Robots today are closely monitored and supervised by people. In the future robots will be more independent able to roam and explore autonomously.
  2. Intelligence: Robots today follwo predefined behaviours. TO be more useful they needs to develop smarter more flexible behaviours that allow them to adapt to changes.
  3. Proactive Behaviours: Robots aren;t very useful if they can only react. If they are working with people then they need to anticipate and predict events, and take actions before events happen.
  4. Human-Robot Interaction and Socialbility: Robots today are mostly dangerous to be near and antisocial. Robots of the future need to be able to interact with people safely, effectively and legally.
  5. Impact on Business and Society: Social robots work with people. They will be able to touch and influence people and have the opportunity to not only help but also harm. Social robots raise new and challenging legal and ethical questions.

A quote from New Scientist February 10, 2001 provides some historical context to the rapid development of robot technology.

"They're mobile, they're autonomous, they're right outside your door. After years of hype and crushing failure, robots are ready to start serving us in our homes. You can already buy one to mow your lawn. Vacuuming and polishing are next."

Robots today are everywhere. You can find them assisting doctors in the operating theatre, plugging oil leaks on the bottom of the ocean, and playing soccer at International competitions around the world. Increasingly robots are being developed to interact with ordinary people in wider society not just scientists in research labs or carefully contrained environments. As a result important questions about their design, capabilities and legal status are being raised. Robots are entering our homes, our workplaces and our dreams.

Already robots can perceive things beyond human capability, they can collaborate with each other in ways that are not possible for humans, e.g. they can share sensor data directly, imagine if I could see exactly what you see. The age of robots is upon us and about to unleashed a new wave of disruptive innovation that will challenge society like never before.

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