Robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are often discussed together as if they are one and the same. While they both have technological advances that are being used to streamline manufacturing and other industries, they are different. Despite their differences, they do go hand-in-hand.
What is Robotics?
Stated by a robotic tank cleaning company, robotics is the name used in the engineering and technology branch that builds and operates robots. These are autonomous or semi-autonomous machines that do a task. They are usually programmed to make them function properly in the world. Most of them use sensors to interact with the space around them. Robots tend to be concrete pieces of technology.
One example of these is the robotic vacuum. These small robots are programmed to vacuum the areas you set. They use sensors to avoid running into furniture and walls. They are quite autonomous. Even though the owners program them to clean at certain times and places, they do the work without being controlled by a remote or another device.
What is Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial intelligence is a division of computer science that studies and creates how machines can solve problems and learn as humans do. Researchers develop algorithms that can be learned from the outside world. And those innovative mathematics formulas are being used in manufacturing, health care, and finance.
An example that many people know (but may not realize is an AI) is the Google search algorithm. This algorithm learns from each user’s search, especially when the user selects a result. Another example is the predictive text, which uses your previous word choices to predict your new ones. The predictive text uses an algorithm to learn about you and to help you text more efficiently.
In the world of technology, AI is still rather young. Being able to solve a problem like a human – at an incredibly fast speed – is not easy to do in an artificial environment. This complex branch of computer science is far from the AI that Hollywood features in science fiction movies.
How are Robotics and AI Different?
The two are clearly different forms of technology, but the biggest difference is how they present themselves. Robotics are usually presented in a physical object that accomplishes a task. Humans might directly or indirectly interact with the object.
AI is usually part of the programming in an object. For example, you might see the predictive text on your phone, but AI is a part of the program on your phone. You cannot interact with AI unless it is installed into a computer or other object.
How Do Robotics and AI Go Together?
The reason that many people think AI and robotics are the same is that some robots use artificial intelligence. For example, the newest robotic vacuum uses AI programming to scrutinize a room and recognize obstacles, then plan a route to efficiently vacuum the floors. The vacuum is the robot, but the programming in the vacuum includes AI.
To get the vacuum and AI to work together, the vacuum relies on cameras and scanners. The AI programming has to use the data those inputs acquire. Robots can function without AI, as they can rely on other types of programming to function. But, robots that do not have AI will not be able to learn from the experiences.
However, AI cannot do much with the objects it supports. It needs input devices, like scanners, keyboards, or cameras to gather data from which to learn. In a nutshell, AI is a complicated computer program, and it needs to be installed in a device. So, the two technologies, AI and robotics support each other.
Robots That Learn
Robots are usually programmed to do a simple task or a combination of simple tasks. On their own, robots cannot do what humans do because robots do not have complicated senses, especially proprioception, where the senses coordinate. Robots can have sensors that help them recognize objects, temperature, light, and other environmental changes. But overall, roboticists have not been able to give them self-awareness through proprioception.
But AI is helping. With sensors and microphones and AI algorithms, roboticists are starting to learn. The robotic vacuum with AI that can figure out a room on its own is one example. But there are many more, like the robotic arm that functions like a human arm. It can grab items of all sizes, and it is learning to grab the items based on their size, shape, and fragility – like humans do. The learning is not happening quickly, but it is happening.
Like Teaching an Infant
Some researchers liken AI to the development of an infant. The infant has to learn from experience, and those experiences build upon others. Take the first time that a young child touches a hot stove. Most children only do that once, because they learn that stoves are hot and that degree of heat hurts.
Also, consider the toddler who plays hide and seek. If the child is too young, the game is frightening, because the baby thinks his caregiver is gone. Then, the baby starts to figure it out and the game becomes fun. Eventually, through repetition and maturity, hide and seek loses its novelty. The AI robot needs to learn in a similar way, with an immense amount of repetition until the robot understands and can predict what will happen based on what has happened. But unlike the human brain, the AI robot needs to use an algorithm so it can learn and predict.
The Brain and the Braun
The Brain and the BraunThe two technologies, AI and robots, can exist without each other. But when they come together, the robot becomes the brain that houses the AI brain. Eventually, most robots will have AI features, but today, they are still primitive in their complexity. The level of technology in them makes them both rare and costly in today’s world.
However, we aren’t too far from AI robots that regularly interact with people. They exist, but most are prototypes, with only a few in existence. While they might look like futuristic humanoid creatures with movable limbs, their AI brains converse at about the same level as an Alexa device. But, AI and robotics together have a bright future that can be used in nearly all industries