Authored by David Gelkin

Think about automation for a second...
it is great that a machine can have some sort of free mobility. However it depends solely upon the senses and the interactions with the outside environment how successful that is. How the robot could react or interact with the outside stimulus is very complex.

Let's assume a simple problem which could easily occur in any type of robotic automation simulation. The scenario is: You have an automated robot that will be canvassing a specific specified area, with the objective to collect feedback from a questionnaire from passers by.

The robot would have a number of Senses (Sensors), to make sure it doesn't bump into walls etc and then it would have some sort of area mapping. That allows the robot to go around while also knowing that it was within bounds of its canvassing area.

The issue comes however, if there are the senses stopping it from bumping into walls, and poor situational awareness programming. What stops the robot from basically melting down and moving away if, it's surrounded by people?

If it's a busy area, people and walls to a robot sensor actually look the same (an obstruction alarm). A solution to get around this issue needs to be some sort of logic based rule, for the robot to know the difference between a person and a wall and as a result programmatically being introverted and moving away.

A logical simple solution for the robot could basically be, a program to avoid a wall: simply stop, and reverse away after a short time delay. Sadly this is not a real world solution to the complex situation typically encountered.

Which could result in the robot moving away from customers or people wishing to complete the questionnaire. You'll be constantly trying to chase this robot around the working area. I know this scenario could sound a little bit like a Benny Hill script, where people are running around after a robot which is trying its best to avoid people "walls" desperately. In a command loop trying to move away from obstructions as its prime directive. Chaos ensues for sure, with red faces for the robot company.

This is the reason why development in the area of consumer robotics is an evolving industry. Which has innovation at its core business model.

Even though there are a number of programmatic issues surrounding automation, and how humans can interact safely with confidence around robots. Which in some situations in all seriousness could potentially endanger human life due to the weight or power that the motors could generate of a robot. 

We need to make sure that the automation technology is fully proven to be able to be used safely within the bounds of where humans are, especially children etc.

What are your views on how the future of automation and consumer robotics could / should evolve?

[Disclaimer] The thoughts, ideas and opinions expressed in this article may or may not be the same as Mio Technologies Ltd or the site owner where this article is posted.