Friendly, intelligent and loves being around the elderly. These are the main features of ElliQ. Spot, on the other hand, is adventurous, resistant, flexible, while RIBA is the cute guy who loves helping people. Most likely, you must be thinking that I’m referring to dogs or cats, but the truth is that ElliQ, Spot and RIBA are mechanical devices – robots, to be more specific.
In the midst of thorny debates about how they can “steal” their job from impressive performances, robots are not new technologies and we have already seen how they have the ability to act on several fronts, especially in the private sector. This time, it is social robots that can gain more space and the pandemic has been accelerating their adoption movement.
Special video robots
Robots: starting point
Before analyzing the contemporary and modern scenario, we need to go back in time. The word “robot” has Czech origin, also known as “robota” and does not have a very nice meaning, since it is used to define “forced labor”, “servitude” and the like. It is not so surprising, given that the word first appeared 101 years ago, in 1920, during a play by the Czech journalist and playwright Kapel Čapek, in Rossum’s Universal Robots (RUR).
The work, also available in book form, signals how Čapek was ahead of his time: more than a hundred years ago, his piece showed modern, perfect and efficient robots that could replace the human in various tasks. Yes, unfortunately they managed to take over the world.
Let’s move on to eighteen years later, behold Elektro, considered the first humanoid in the world. Developed by Westinghouse Electric Corporation, the two-meter-high invention had an imposing look, made funny jokes, but became even more famous for being able to blow up balloons and smoke – there are Elektro smoking records.
But if there’s a robot that marked the past decade, it’s Sophia. Unlike Elektro, Sophia impressed the world even more with her facial expressions: she smiles, gets sad and tries to talk naturally with other people. The success was so great that the robot gained an Instagram account, today with almost 200 thousand followers. Sophia was interviewed by several TV channels, including Globo; she talked to Will Smith and has already spoken at the UN (United Nations).
For the Control and Automation engineer at Instituto Mauá de Tecnologia, Professor Dr. Anderson Harayashiki Moreira, human-like robots, like Sophia, still cause a lot of strangeness, especially in children.
It is difficult for you to put a robot very similar to the human being to make this interaction. People still have a certain fear of interacting with a business that resembles those films [de ficção científica] Terminator […] I had the opportunity to see a work by a Japanese researcher, at the National Museum of Science and Innovation in Japan (Miraikan), in Tokyo, and there is a robot that you talk to, it looks a lot like human beings. Is weird! It’s a relationship [que assusta], especially with children, they do not react well.
Anderson Harayashiki Moreira, Control and Automation engineer at Instituto Mauá de Tecnologia
Looking to the future
As Čapek correctly predicted, robots could replace humans in some activities. Linked to the Industrial Revolution, the movement towards the adoption of robotic machines has been a reality for a long time, especially in large corporations that seek to increase productivity and reduce costs. A survey by the International Robotics Federation (IFR), published in September 2020, shows that 2.7 million robots are operating in industries around the world. China, Japan and the United States continue to stand out.
Spot, also known as the robot dog, is famous for the ability to face uneven terrain very easily, being able to take rain, dodge objects and climb stairs. Developed by Boston Dynamics, today of the South Korean Hyundai, Spot has been available on the market since 2019, but only companies can purchase the robot dog. To Tecnoblog, Vinicius Fiori, Ericsson’s marketing manager, says that projects like this will be more and more common.
You will have some activities that humans have been doing to be replaced by robots, be it activities inside mines, in inhospitable areas, oil platforms – this has happened. We will see companies closing partnerships, for example, with the American army to create robots that can perform highly dangerous activities […] You will have drones doing a more efficient inspection and spraying of crop protection products; rescue support, carrying a defibrillator to provide care in a difficult location […] In the pandemic, there are robots helping to receive [pacientes] in hospitals, passing through clinical wards, taking materials, this will also be seen a lot.
Vinicius Fiori, marketing manager at Ericsson
Looking to the future, machines have entered our homes, the robot vacuum cleaner is an example, but there are also those that go beyond repetitive work and are available to help the real society, they are the famous social robots. ElliQ, mentioned at the beginning of this article, was designed to be with the elderly: she can interact with games, play music, remind her grandfather or grandmother to take the medicine and even practice physical exercises to help her partner. The developers promise “happier and healthier aging”.
It is still possible to find some models similar to dogs and cats, which can be more “friendly” for those more afraid of technology. In the United States, Joy For All sells robotic pets, also for the elderly. Dogs and cats, which are actually robots, are able to react when the person interacts, it is possible to feel the animal’s heart and, in the case of the cat, it can purr and respond to being petted. All through sensors. The success of robotic animals was even greater at the height of the pandemic, especially to stand alongside elderly people with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
“I can’t say how much my 92 year old mom loves this gift! She has no diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia, so I thought she might think the puppy was silly. On the contrary, she loves it ”, said a buyer.
We started to see several applications of these service robots. In the company of the elderly there is a lot of things appearing […] from the cutest, cute robots, looking like a stuffed animal, but that already controls the medication, already monitors to see if the elderly has not suffered any fall, [os robôs] have a panic button installed to activate a caregiver or even medical service. About these new robots, we will start to see them more and more. It started very simple with that robot to vacuum the dust, but today we already have several applications that are made for these service robots.
Anderson Harayashiki Moreira
How is privacy?
After all, can we trust robots? Imagine a robot vacuum monitoring your activities? Experts believe that by 2040 it will be common to have robots inside homes, especially among wealthy families. However, a study by Kaspersky with the University of Ghent shows that robotic machines will be able to collect sensitive information from their owners.
To reach this conclusion, the researchers relied on a hacked robot and it was possible to observe how they could find vulnerability and influence people. For example, in a building in Belgium, in a room where it must be opened by a password, the study robot asked employees if he could join it; 40% responded to the machine’s request and passed the badge.
In another situation, at lunch time, the study equipment was packed with a famous pizzeria and identified as a delivery man. In this situation, officials immediately approved the entry of the false delivery man without questioning his presence. Kaspersky still warns that people are not suspicious when social robots request “unusual information”. Experts heard by Tecnoblog warn of danger.
Imagine you have a robot policeman, armed on the street. It is technological, I have access to it and I can change its software. Now imagine a battalion of robotic policemen […] I take this equipment and, instead of doing good, does it start to be used for bad? We always imagine a bad cop attacking, killing, but that would be easily detected, today practically all the streets are filmed, you have a number of things to neutralize this action […], but what if there is another scenario, of robots doing activities and your software is invaded and collects everything it is doing? Can you imagine a robot employee from Detran having access to the data of all drivers in Brazil?
Diogo Santos, CTO at Claranet Technology
It is hard to say that, but it is something that will always exist, it will not end, because the person, in the greatest of good intentions, creates something to help society and someone goes there and misrepresents [a invenção], modifies the main use to make something not so cool […] You talked about a drone: how many people use it to play, make aerial images – that’s the goal at first [durante a criação]. Today, we already see people using a drone to take improper images of people’s homes, make an invasion of privacy or even transport objects inside a prison.
Anderson Harayashiki Moreira