We often talk about how fast the world of technology is moving. However, it is difficult to put exact numbers on things in a way that can really help people to understand what is taking place.
In this article, the hope is to quantify things in such a way that it becomes clear.
Few would argue that advancement in robotics is going to play an important part of our future. What few take the time to consider is there are two fators to consider. The first is the development of the hardware while the second is the software. Both have an impact upon the capabilities going forward.
Much of what is written discusses the progress on hardware side. Dexterity, as an example, is often a topic that gets a lot of coverage. Certainly, the physical ability of robots is important.
That said, it is the software side where the real magic resides. Like we learned over the past few decades, hardware advancements are just a small part of the equation. In the end, it is the software that makes the difference.
Hardware is necessary, but software provides the animating intelligence that allows it to do useful, efficient, and safe work.
That’s why Nader Elm, CEO of autonomous drone company Exyn Technologies, compared robots today to the iPhone before the App Store: the hardware’s there, but the software layer is immature.
Here is where Amazon is entering the picture.
The company is providing a forum where robots can be trained in simulation, hundreds of different ones simultaneously, to increase the pace of learning. This is serving to reduce the cost associated with robotic training and increasing the pace of progress.
A single simulation training can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Using Amazon's service will reduce the price down to $1.50 per simulation.
This is the type of progress that will advance robotic development and implementation by many multiples.
Given that your prototype robots might cost $5,000 or, in the case of industrial robots, $50,000 or more, doing real-world testing is as expensive as it is slow. Some is definitely necessary — you need to know your hardware will work in addition to your software, and that both will operate well together — but getting the diversity of environments and the number of variations you need is challenging.
Software simulation is not just cheaper, though.
With the impact of COVID-19, there is no doubt that corporations are looking to automate as much as they possible can. The training of everything from vacuums (floor cleaners) to cashiers to shelf stockers are priorities. Removing the human element from the process is now a goal since they are vulnerable creatures.
We could see this having another level of impact upon employees. The economy was already transitioning as more jobs were affected by both AI and robotics.
Now, with faster, less expensive training, thr cost of robotics could drop even further. This will likely spur even greater adoption, putting more stress on the job market.
Imagine the progress that is made when something that previously took 10 months can now be done in a day.
This is the world we are quickly moving towards.
Here is a video that discusses this topic.