News & blog What is the future of robotics? Written by Innovate UK, the British government’s innovation agency. They are focused on finding British businesses and entrepreneurs who use new science and technology to drive economic growth. Artificial intelligence and robotics have been hot topics this year and they show no signs of going away any time soon. It's something we've addressed at the British Science Association, from this year’s British Science Festival’s Presidential speech by Jim Al-Khalili to our upcoming Huxley Summit. We're delighted to open this discussion up to Innovate UK who have shared their thoughts on what the future may hold. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Robots are set to play an increasingly important role in our lives, starting in the workplace. This will go beyond making certain tasks easier or doing our dull and dirty jobs. They will revolutionise the way we work. So, what is the future of robotics? Let’s take a closer look… Extreme Environments Currently, some of our essential jobs are highly dangerous or near-impossible. For example, diving to deep depths, as required by the offshore wind industry, takes a serious physical toll on divers. Clearing nuclear waste is also a hugely hazardous mission, forcing workers to enter radioactive environments. But, thanks to advancements in technology, robots will soon perform these unsafe tasks instead. One example of this is deploying autonomous submarines to take care of work that needs doing under icy waters. This doesn’t just have the advantage of making certain jobs safer. Robots are more dexterous than humans and therefore able to perform tasks with greater precision. Efficiency and accuracy are of paramount importance in extreme environments and utilising robotics here will be hugely beneficial. Food Production With our population constantly growing, it’s predicted that we’ll need 60% more food by 2050. The future will be about doing more with less which requires major advancements in technology. This is where robots come in. They will become integral to food production, largely by revolutionising the farming industry. The change is already beginning to happen! For example, it was found that an autonomous strawberry picker could perform the task 50% quicker than humans. Despite these impressive advancements, there’s still further potential we’ve yet to unlock. In the future, robots and drones will be able to predict problems, informing farmers of the best time to harvest. As well as this, they will be able target and remove weeds precisely. Driverless vehicles will also play an enormous role. They’ll deliver food cheaply and easily, in a way that reduces harmful impact on the environment. This will significantly diminish waste, in both packaging and food, as people will only order what they need – when they need it. Therefore, contrary to what some of us might believe, robots will help us to be more sustainable. Smarter, Greener Energy Robotic systems will enable a greener future. It’s expected that most of our energy will come from renewable sources, built and maintained by robots in remote locations. Offshore wind is just one industry that will evolve thanks to this technology. Small drones will monitor the areas, feeding back to engineers at control bases. This removes the need for humans to enter this sometimes precarious environment. The future is already happening! We’re already using robots to monitor gas and oil pipes, checking they’re running safely and correctly. But, we’ve yet to start using robots at their full potential. While, recently, there’s been a move to reduce plastic waste to clean up our seas, the damage has already been done. But, robots can help us make a positive change! They can be deployed to clean up waste – as is already being trialled by Bristol University with their ‘row-bot’. Will Robots Take Our Jobs? All these technological advancements do raise some concerns. One question in particular prevails: will robots take our jobs? The answer to this is both yes and no. Robotics will be used instead of humans in some workplaces – however this will have the benefit of making certain jobs more efficient and safer. But, people will never be completely replaced. The future will be about working together. Humans will work in more comfortable conditions, while robots perform our dangerous, difficult and uninteresting tasks. Artificial intelligence will play a hugely pivotal role in this harmonious and productive relationship. Human imagination will invent the machines whose skills benefit the workplace as a whole. This symbiosis will revolutionise a number of industries, grow economies and create opportunities across the globe. Interested in finding out more about the future of technology? Subscribe to Innovate UK’s YouTube channel or browse their blog here.