An emerging sub-genre within the larger field of robotics, cloud robotics is the perfect intersection of cloud-based technologies and artificial intelligence. Building robots using cloud storage and computing gives designers a number of benefits, whether it’s in a faster rate of data transfer or in the use of open-source hardware and software. Here’s a closer look at this emerging field, and how we can expect it to accelerate robot development.
Robots and Big Data
One of the barriers that robots currently are facing is their ability to deal with the random nature of a human environment. Robots can be programmed for just about any usual eventuality, but when they face the unusual they falter. For example, a house robot that’s built to tidy the house could do so easily provided it is picking up objects it recognizes. However, what will it do if it encounters an unknown object? With cloud robotics, robotic devices can access all of the knowledge of the cloud, essentially asking the internet for answers. By turning to the cloud, robots can overcome the barrier of the unknown. At the same time, they can communicate with one another to solve problems via big data and the cloud, giving constant, real-time feedback to one another.
Giving Robots a Cloud-based Brain
With the development of the telco cloud from Nokia Networks and other major tech companies, cloud robotics allows robots to access remote servers. In the past, robots have had to be self-contained, with their own clunky computers and batteries for operation. Using the cloud means that their “brain” can be outsourced, as they offload more burdensome tasks to their remote servers. The robot can use its built-in sensors to interact with the world around it, and then find answers in the cloud to improve its speech, language, and planning abilities via an external computer. A robot could even turn to a call centre staffed by humans if it needs answers.
Apps for Robots
Cloud computing could also help with the development of apps specifically built for robots. Task-specific apps could build on the robot’s knowledge, expanding it into the cloud. Downloading and running mobile, cloud-based apps gives robotics a new dimension. Robots can access information far beyond what’s immediately programmed into them, using apps much in the same way that people currently do.
Challenges to Overcome
Naturally, as an emerging field there are still numerous challenges that must be addressed. The sensors and feedback that provide data can’t be placed in the cloud, so some degree of onboard processing is still required. Robots will need to be able to react in real-time to a variety of situations, which requires powerful networks. The arrival of the next generation 5G network may be the technology that’s needed to bridge this gap and push robotics to the next level. With unlimited processing power and extra cloud-based storage space, robotic systems could be enhanced by the big data stored in the cloud. It could be retrieved almost instantaneously for a quickly reacting robot. Yet at the moment work still must be done to get to this point.