Man’s best friend may soon be his robot

Man’s best friend may soon be his robot article image

How quickly do we become attached to robots that help us in executing our jobs?

With robots now a familiar site in the workplace, it seems many of us are bonding more with these high tech little helpers.

That was the message from a robotics meetup in Melbourne last week hosted by Exaptec, an Australian company specialising in telepresence robots.

Dr Sue Keay11Dr Sue Keay, who is widely recognised as a world leader in social robotics and robotics vision and the driving force behind Australia’s first Robotics Roadmap, was a guest speaker at the event.

Dr Keay, who leads Data61’s cyber-physical systems research program, gave attendees a fascinating insight into robotics in Australia.

It included latest stats on where the market growth is and where and how robots are now being used.

And remarkably, more people are becoming attached to their robotic helpers, she said.

Vale Scooby Doo

Dr Keay retold the story of an iRobot PackBot device named Scooby Doo which was used to detect disposed bombs during wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sadly, Scooby Doo met its maker after 19 successful bomb disposal missions. For every successful mission it completed, soldiers drew a hash mark on the device similar to the way fighter jets mark the number of enemies.

Soldiers have also been known to assign their robots personalities and promote them to titles such as Staff Sargent, award them Purple Hearts, and even hold funerals for “fatally wounded” devices that have assisted them on the frontline.scooby-doo-1-compressed-54053

Scooby Doo was destroyed in 2007 in Iraq while attempting to defuse an improvised explosive device (IED).

A repair technician said there was no way it could be fixed, leaving soldiers feeling bereft.

Scooby Doo’s remains are now on display at a museum in Bedford, Massachusetts alongside a plaque dedicated to it.

What’s in a name?

So, is it a good idea to give your robot a name? asks Exaptec founder Nicci Rossouw?

“Exaptec clients tell me that all their telepresence robots have been named and become part of the team with their own identity,” she says.

That’s definitely a sign of the times.

Exaptec’s next robotics meeting will be at its offices at the Eastern Innovation Business Centre in Melbourne on July 18 at 6pm.

And the good news is, Dr Sue Keay will be sharing more insights on robotics in Australia. 




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