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Robots Come to the Rescue

The first industrial robot was designed by George Devol in 1954. This robot was capable of carrying materials between points about twelve feet apart. A lot has changed since then. Our society keeps improving the designs of robotics to meet our ever-changing needs. One way developers are changing robotics is by making them more precise and accurate in their movements. These robots can be used in many places including warehouses, military zones, and hospitals.

As robots become more flexible and agile, they are able to handle more complex tasks in a warehouse environment. Instead of just moving packages from place to place, robots are able to sift through an assortment of packages; selecting and moving those items to designated areas without damaging them.

Robots are also being used in military zones to keep soldiers safe by detecting and clearing areas that troops will be entering. Robots are also used for tasks such as bomb disposal, keeping soldiers at a safe distance while active threats are diffused.

Humans also benefit from robotic precision in the operating room. Robotic surgery is minimally invasive when surgeons use robots to assist them in surgery. The arms of the robot are very agile and precise, allowing surgeons to operate in tight spaces in the body, without making large cuts. This lowers the risk of infections and speeds up recovery time.

Extend Your Learning icon Extend Your Learning

To relate this activity to various uses of robotics for professional services, ask students to consider other traditionally human jobs that robots are starting to do.

For example, social robots are becoming increasingly common. They come in both humanoid and non-humanoid varieties and both types have skills like recognizing the social cues of gestures, voices, languages, etc. Some can identify emotions, some help with daily tasks, make conversation, play games, manage smart network devices within homes, and monitor security. Some can assist people who need personal care and support (e.g., work with Autistic children, provide emotional comfort to people living with dementia, run exercise sessions in homes for the elderly, etc.).

Have students investigate social robots further by finding a model (each type is named by their respective company) and writing about all that it can do. Students should consider the social impacts of having such a robot on an individual, a family, and on society in general. They should also investigate the price (range or estimate) of the robot and how that will impact who in society has access to its benefits.