Home / Technology / Tech-news /  When mechatronics melds with artificial intelligence

More than three decades ago, it was quite amazing to see KITT—an advanced artificial intelligence (AI)-powered, self-aware black car—from the American TV series Knight Rider, perform some unbelievable acts. Today, we are all building KITTs—unmanned and autonomous ground and aerial vehicles that can walk, jump, float, swim, glide, fly and conquer almost all terrains with their designs that can take precise and accurate action, making them highly efficient performers. In the realm of AI, we are now transferring the knowledge to our machines to perform tasks and make them intelligent decision makers through machine learning (ML), a core area of AI.

We transcend into a nearly sci-fi world with augmented reality (AR), holograms, autonomous vehicles, robots, exoskeletons, drones, AI assistants like Alexa and many more such finite toys.

These are technical objects designed and built by people like us. Truly, this belief turned my passion into a profession, and in hindsight, I have found robots to be technologically complex beings, much needed to support humanity.Robotics is interdisciplinary and thus a combination of mechanical, electronics and computer science has lead to Mechatronics being one of the most coveted fields and as this meets AI, we produce Intelligent Robots.Technical classification of Robots are based on locomotion such as stationary, wheeled, legged, swimming and flying robots. A Statista report pegs the robotics market to touch almost $500 billion globally in 2025—both consumer and industrial segments. According to a MarketsandMarkets report, the unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) market is projected to grow from $1.49 billion in 2016 to $2.63 billion by 2021 and the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) market, valued at $18.14 billion in 2017 and projected to reach $52.30 billion by 2025.

India is aggressively pushing and funding robotics projects.

The Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) announced the DRDO Robotics and Unmanned System Exposition for Defence (DRUSE) programme to harness the multifaceted talent available in the country on robotics and unmanned systems. With such initiatives, we are likely to see more indigenized robots that are cost competitive.

Some of the most interesting robots for me have been the bio-inspired robots -- often insects that can perform specific tasks, work in swarms as bees do, interact with one another in a mesh.

The exoskeleton is another incredible application in medical field that enable system-assisted walking or restoration of other motor controls. Then those that can carry load in high altitude and can do a gradient of 80 degrees on a plain slippery surface such as ice or the ones that can climb stairs or spiral around a pole.

Robots use sensors, actuators and cameras that support their mobility. The actuators support in their movement, the sensors allow them to understand the environment with respect to obstacles that help in effective manoeuvreing.

Some are also equipped with cameras that help in image processing and using ML to re-route their path. Telecommunication and geospatial becomes an even more integral part in their path finding tasks.

Today, robots are industry-agnostic in their application. They are used in disaster recovery, search and rescue operations, detecting and diffusing bombs, carrying payloads for our soldiers in tough terrains.

Finally, I leave you guessing on our version of Sophia—perhaps, “KathakBOT", the very own machine disciple of Pandit Birju Maharaj.

Sangeeta Das is founder of Collaborative Intelligence Pvt. Ltd.

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