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6 of the Most Interesting Uses for Robots You Might Not Know

June 16, 2022
By Emily Newton

Today there are more incredible uses for robots than ever before. Innovators and inventors worldwide are applying countless types of robots to fascinating tasks. You may have heard of mechanized surgeons and AI cars, but have you heard of these six exciting uses?

1. Making Pizzas, Burgers, and More

Robots are revolutionizing restaurants. More eateries, especially fast-food businesses, are facing difficulties with staffing today. Developers have devised innovative solutions and unique new types of robotics.

Robots can autonomously make whole pizzas. They need a little help from human employees for things like cutting up toppings, but other than that, the process is fully automated. These machines can knead dough, spread sauce, add toppings and take the pizza in and out of the oven.

Similar types of robots have been created for flipping burgers and making tortilla chips. American burger chain White Castle “hired” 100 burger-flipping robots to add to its restaurants in early 2022. Popular southwestern restaurant Chipotle is testing an autonomous tortilla chip-making bot called “Chippy” at its innovation center in Irvine, California. Soon, your next takeout meal might be made by machines

2. Helping Disabled People Find Jobs

At DAWN Cafe in Tokyo, the employees are robots … or are they? This unique restaurant is staffed by robot avatars that are remotely controlled by people with disabilities. Employees have various conditions that limit their ability to leave their homes or perform many common jobs. Avatars allow them to be waiters and hosts, helping and socializing with customers.

The robot avatars can be controlled with a mouse, iPad, or even a special gaze-controlled remote for people with severely limited mobility and motor skills. Customers may be talking to a robot, but it’s a human giving them recommendations from the menu or bringing their food to the table. This could be a model for the future of employment, where disabilities no longer have to mean isolation.

3. Exploring Pipes and Waterways

The pipes and waterways webbing the world are vital for bringing clean water to billions of people. Maintaining them is no easy task, though. Luckily, one emerging use for robots is pipe inspection and exploration. Machines have been developed that are waterproof and built for rugged terrain, perfect for remotely monitoring all sorts of pipes and water management systems.

The Deep Trekker Pipe Crawler is helping local workers stay safer on the job by remotely roving through underground pipes. The tough little robots feature a camera that pilots can use to see what’s going on underground and underwater. These machines can help water management teams respond to emergencies and ensure people get clean, pollution-free water.

4. Caring for Senior Citizens

Would you sing karaoke with a robot? The residents of Knollwood Military Retirement Community in Washington, D.C., did just that with their robot friend “Stevie.” It is powered by AI and built for socialization and caretaking. Robots are becoming the future of medicine and health care, helping people get urgent surgeries and autonomously stopping the spread of disease. The Stevie robot is spearheading the robot nursing field.

Stevie is designed to be a companion and safety monitor for senior citizens. It can have conversations with people, play games, and more. If a resident of Knollwood said the word “help” or another red flag phrase, Stevie would immediately alert nursing staff for assistance. Robots like this could be vital in the future, filling an increasing shortage of nurses and helping a growing community of older adults.

5. Mapping Caves on Mars

Robot dogs may soon be wandering underground cave systems on Mars. One of the most well-known uses for robots is exploration, but most people think of a little rover on wheels or tracks, roaming a desolate surface. NASA scientists believe there may be exciting discoveries below the surface, including potential signs that life once existed on Mars.

Rovers on wheels aren’t ideal for the unpredictable terrain one might find in subterranean caves, though. NASA needed a new type of robot. Engineers from NASA JPL, CalTech, and MIT partnered up for a 2020 DARPA challenge to develop an AI algorithm and set of sensors for their robot. They used a Boston Dynamics “Spot” robot dog to complete the project. Spot can deftly walk around all kinds of terrain to map cave systems, take pictures and collect samples.

6. Picking Fresh Apples

Most people picture farmers in overalls and a hat, wandering their fields of crops. However, future farmers might be watching from afar while robots do the work. Researchers at Monash University in Australia are developing an AI-powered robot that can identify ripe apples in orchards and pick them from trees. 

The robot uses a deep-learning algorithm to scan apples with a camera and identifies those that are ready to pick. It’s pretty fast, too — the robot can pick one apple every seven seconds. It uses a specially designed soft gripper to harvest the fruit without bruising or damaging it. This robot could help farmers fill labor shortages and keep up with the rising demand for fresh food.

Exciting and Unique Uses for Robots

Robotics are used for countless things today, including some unique types of robots many people don’t know about. New kinds are being developed every day. They’re helping people worldwide live better lives, maintain their businesses, get access to food and water and explore uncharted places.

Author Bio: Emily Newton is a tech journalist. As Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, she regularly covers science and technology stories. Subscribe to Innovation & Tech Today to read more from Emily.

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