Last updated October 25, 2018 at 1:18 pm
Top robots showcased at SXSW 2018 show the future of robots.
We keep hearing that robots and artificial intelligence are the future.
For the most part, the future is already on our doorstep but there are still several grand challenges to overcome before we will see the mass adoption of robots – everything from materials and energy supply to AI and ethics.
Despite these hurdles, it looks like it’s a case of when our lives will be filled with the soothing sound of whirring high torque motors rather than if.
Where better to get an insight into what researchers and companies are doing in robotics than the robot centre of the universe, Japan Austin, Texas.
South By South West
South by South West (SXSW) is an annual conference held in Austin which combines music, film and a stream for emerging technology, called interactive. It’s a focus that has earned the festival a reputation as a breeding ground for new ideas and creative technologies.
At the heart of the conference is the trade show where start-ups, businesses and emerging tech is showcased. Surely, if our world is to be slowly infiltrated by robots, this is ground zero.
A glimpse of the robotic future
The tradeshow was full of robots of every kind, like these industrial robots.
These impressive machines were built for manufacturing – building cars, manipulating components and performing intricate repetitive movements.
But, instead of anything useful, these majestic multi-axis robots were programmed to fight in mock lightsabre battles and dance-offs for the entertainment of trendy entrepreneurs as they swarmed the tradeshow – mainly in search of free t-shirts and plastic swag.
Nonetheless, it was an impressive display of how far robots have come over recent years and wasn’t the only thing to be getting a lot of attention.
Robots for food
A company called Open meals has created a robot that builds food with little blocks – like food Lego – combining small blocks/pixels of gel with various textures and tastes to literally build anything your heart desires as long as it mainly desires sushi as far as I could tell from their trade show booth.
Soft and cuddly
Between collecting free things and food, one trend was obvious at SXSW – we seem to be obsessed with making robots less ‘roboty’.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise considering that, recently, we’ve seen the manufacture of a biohybrid robot which uses living muscle tissue to move and a different “soft” robot seems to pop up every week.
Humans want to cover the harsh mechanical soulless nature of robots in a soft shell. Perhaps we can pretend that there is something more beneath the programming that means eventually, maybe, they’ll love us back.
Can it go too far? In the tradeshow, there was a circular fur-covered pillow adorned with a wagging tail, Qoobo. It managed to be equal parts weird and adorable – and possibly the saddest of all robots there.
Qoobo responds to touch by wagging its tail. Think of it like the best parts of a pet dog or cat without the need to go through the loss of a creature you love too much. It’s made for urban duellers who can’t have pets but still long for affection. Watch it in action here.
More than entertainment
While many of the robots on display at SXSW were there for entertainment value, it was clear that beneath the novelty of lightsabre battles there are engineering teams, who are tackling some real issues like food security, disaster recovery and loneliness.
It was incredible to be surrounded by the latest trends and technology. I can’t wait to see what the future of robotics can do to help us.