Are robots here to replace us?! - have no fear, though modern robots are being made to closely replicate human aesthetics, there is a long-standing argument which states that these machines lack our instinct and humanity, separating machine from man. However, could it be possible that one day, in the not so distant future, mechanised substitutes could replace the animal kingdom? Certain technological giants believe so…

 

PARO the Therapeutic Robot

Studies have strongly suggested that the presence of animals has a significant positive effect on patients within hospices and care homes. However, the employment of therapy animals often raise concerns over patients with allergy, as well as the spread of disease, meaning that they are not always the most practical companion. Developed by the company AIST, PARO employs a practical solution whilst providing patients with a therapeutic companion. Already, PARO has been shown to have positive psychological effects on patients, particularly those who are antisocial, coping with depression or have degenerative conditions including dementia. PARO is able to recognise a new name, greetings and praise; he responds to touch and repeats actions which he recognises to have had positive response from the patient.

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The Harvard RoboBee

It’s a hot summers day, you’re outside enjoying a cold, refreshing glass of lemonade in the blazing midday sun…but wait! There’s a buzzing around your drink. A black dot in the peripheries of your vision. It won’t leave you alone. You wish all the pesky bees would just disappear!

Or do you…

You may have heard of the statistical impact and importance of honeybees within farming, they pollinate roughly one-third of the food we eat and contribute £400million to the economy each year; but disease, parasites and pesticides are causing rapid declination of the bees. Led by engineering Professor Robert Wood, the Harvard RoboBee project aims to create an autonomous micro-aerial vehicle to subsidise decrease of the bee population.

The RoboBee is an autonomous flying microrobot which can pollinate crop, aid with search and rescue missions as well as assist in environmental monitoring and act as surveillance; most of which tasks are currently performed by bees and other small insects. These tiny machines can work independently or in large, effective units. They can respond to environmental factors and coordinate self-directed flight. They are able to perch to conserve energy using electrostatic adhesion and weigh only 100mg, that’s a thirtieth the weight of a one pence piece!

The robot is still currently under construction, within ten years developers hope for it to be fully autonomous without the need of a wire to supply power and to make it large enough to carry a battery. Could this be the future for environmentally friendly micro-robotics?

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Boston Dynamics’ WildCat

Boston Dynamics are the leading company in developing sophisticated robots with the ability to manoeuvre and run in a way identical to animals. Their range of high-tech, mammal inspired quadrupeds, funded by the DARPA (defence advanced research projects agency), are the fastest in the technological market.

Weighing 154 kilograms, 1.17 metres tall and racing in at 32 kilometres per hour; WildCat is capable of running faster than the world record of twenty-one kilometres per hour set by MIT in 1989. It analyses its environment using terrain scanning lasers and is able to maintain balance on uneven ground by trotting and bounding.

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Another of their developments is Spot, who is also a four-legged machine, however is based anatomically on a canine. Boosted for its development into true autonomous design and phenomenal stability even when pushed, Spot could provide a practical substitute for the real thing. Spot is designed for operation both indoor and outdoor, he is the quiet, tidy and complacent canine friend which you never knew you needed. He could be your new running partner or the beloved, not to mention hygienic, office pet. Gone is the need to purchase food for, or resentfully clear up your pets’ mess ever again!