Cobot is a term that a man named Dieter Fox is using for “collaborative robots.” For those who are curious, cobots refer to the robots that will presumably be coexisting with us in close proximity in the future, whether as our coworkers, our caretakers, and perhaps even our companions. As for why this matters, well, suffice to say that Fox is the man in charge of NVIDIA’s efforts to establish the market for such products by creating them.
How Does Dieter Fox Intend to Ensure NVIDIA’s Leadership in the Field of Cobots?
In short, NVIDIA opened up a new research lab in Seattle, WA that specializes in robotics research in November of 2018. As stated, Fox is the man in charge, meaning that he is responsible for overseeing a number of robotics projects that are meant to create robots that can work alongside people in a natural manner. Out of these robotics projects, the most interesting might be one that involves teaching a robotic arm to make its way through an Ikea kitchen.
Teaching the robotics arm how to navigate an Ikea kitchen is the first step in creating a robotic assistant that can understand what a human wants to do in the kitchen as well as come up with various ways to help them do it. Currently, the robotics arm is limited to picking up items and then putting them in their drawers, but in the future, it is possible that the robotics arm will become capable of other things such as cooking a meal and loading a dishwasher.
Some people might point out that there are already robots that can cook meals that are available to interested individuals at a very high price. However, it is important to note that these robots are operating within environments that have been designed for their use, meaning that they are much more limited as well as much more expensive than what the people at NVIDIA have in mind. Ultimately, what Fox and his team wants isn’t to create a kitchen helper robot so much as a robot that can perform its intended function in an open-ended environment that has not been designed for its specific use, which would be a huge leap in capabilities compared to those that exist in the present day.
What Can We Expect?
No one can tell when such robots will come into existence. There are some future occurrences that can be predicted with relative ease as well as remarkable accuracy, but the pace of technological advancement is not one of them. For proof, look no further than the list of predictions about future technologies that people have been coming up with for a very long time, which tend to be strangely accurate in a small number of cases, mostly wrong in others, but almost always very interesting to look at.
Regardless, it does seem as though robotics of the kind imagined by Fox and his team will be happening at some point in the not too distant future. In part, this is because a wide range of parties have been pouring huge amounts of resources into such efforts. However, it should also be noted that recent times have seen important advancements in various fields such as perception, control, and learning. All of which and more are necessary before such advanced robots will become a possibility. Of course, it should also be noted that there is the issue of practicality as well. Simply put, even once such robots become possible, there is no guarantee that they will fall within the reach of the average consumer. However, it seems safe to say that so long as people remain interested in such products, their costs will go down as companies continue to make improvements in various respects. As a result, there will come a time when their use will become widespread throughout society.
As for what that future might look like? Who knows. It seems probable that we will make even more use of them for tasks that the researchers are already looking into, with examples ranging from housework robots to companion robots to fill in gaps in social interaction for people who are receiving less than what is good for their health and happiness. However, it seems likely that the changes will be so widespread that we don’t really have a way to predict either their scope or their scale. On the other hand, that isn’t very useful in a practical sense; on the other hand, that is very exciting indeed.