Automation vs. Autonomy and The $6 Million Man

If you were alive in the 1970’s then you most definitely remember the Six Million Dollar Man with his bionic eye, arm, legs and you can probably still recite the intro to the show … “We can rebuild him.  We have the technology.  We can make him better than he was, better…stronger…faster.” In the 70’s the idea of building a robot was somewhat of a dream and looking at the capabilities of the time it’s rather obvious that 1970’s technology could hardly have produced the Six Million Dollar Man.  And if you really think of it, that imaginary group of engineers spent years of research and millions of dollars hoping and waiting for some poor guy to get his arms, legs and eyes blown off.

In the year 2017 however it is quite within our capability to build robots that are very effective at what they do.  While we are still a few years off from precision capable prosthetics such as Steve Austin’s we can build a lot of things that are beyond the dreams of a kid in 1978. Despite this, we still develop technologies that have no customer, need or audience.

For example, I can currently think of 7 completely different ways to guide a robot autonomously with no proprietary technology but very few systems where it is a complete unit capable of doing everything someone needs it to complete a real task.

There are obvious exceptions and industrial automation is one of those exceptions where robotics has come into play effectively in doing repetitive tasks but what about tasks that are not necessarily repetitive?  This is where autonomy comes into play.  Think of it this way…

In automation you might have a robotic arm that swings around, picks up a piece of metal and drills a hole into it.  An autonomous solution can do the same thing (perhaps a robot traveling around instead of the part traveling) but in an autonomous solution is can make decisions based on input. So, for example, if you were to insert your hand in between the bot and the steel in your basic automated system you would now have a very painful memory of robotics whereas an autonomous system would recognize that there is something foreign there and send you a warning or stop completely to avoid any injury at all.

Automation is extremely good for instances where repetitive tasks are done in a clean and impenetrable environment but when it comes to being people, animal or decision friendly then autonomous robots are the obvious choice.


Posted on July 7, 2017 in Entertainement, Robots

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About the Author

I am Brandon Smith one of the co-founders of RoboGnosis. I am obsessed with robots and love everything about them. I make robots in my presonal and professional life. On top of that I am a husband, father and love life.

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