Robots can greatly improve our quality of life as they provide valuable services which free us from repetitive or difficult tasks. Despite this fact, many people are intimidated by the introduction of robots into everyday life; this is in part due to their ability to perform tasks with greater efficiency than humans, in part to the human-like appearance with which many robots are designed.
There are some, however, who view the introduction of robots into normal life as an incredible opportunity: One such example is Pal Robotics, a Spanish company convinced that our society is becoming more and more robotic, and as a result, the interaction between human and machine will become increasingly natural and safe. Founded in 2004 in Barcelona, with over 30 employees including engineers and developers, Pal Robotics has studied, designed and created a diverse collection of robots, adapting them to the different scenarios and roles specific to unique tasks. One example is the robot “Talos,” an exclusively electric robot standing at 175 cm tall and weighing an impressive 95 kilos. “Each joint has a pair of sensors that receives and sends impulses. It can twist, walk to a speed of up to 3 kilometers per hour, and lift weights up to 6 kilos with both arms outstretched,” says Judith Viladomat of Pal Robotics. “Talos is able to respond quickly and accurately to external impulses, making it one of the most powerful bipedal robots on the market today.” For this reason, Talos has also been used to study the introduction of the robot in the manufacturing sector. “Talos can punch holes, fasten bolts, and easily handle medium-to-heavy tools.” It may therefore perform relatively risky functions for humans in industry 4.0.
In addition to Talos, Pal Robotics has developed other human-like robots, such as Reem and Reem-C. At 170 cm high, Reem was designed to provide services typically performed by people due in the hospitality and tourism sectors – for example, to check-in guests at reception desks during conferences, in museums, or at airports. Reem-C, on the other hand, is capable of finding specific people in large environments.
Another robot, Tiago, is highly useful at home. “Thanks to its configuration, it combines autonomous walking, smart perception, manipulation of tools and the ability to interact with humans. All this is performed by adapting to different tasks assigned to him by the user.” Tiago’s main strength is that is can assist the elderly, helping them to be as independent as possible. “In Poland, Greece, and England, we sent Tiago to live with a number of elderly individuals for 10 weeks as an experiment. The feedback was overall very positive: the robot was useful in reminding clients to take medications, making healthy dietary suggestions, measuring blood pressure and sending data to doctors, and even providing a small level of ‘human’ interaction. In addition, Tiago was able to find objects such as keys, wallet or lost phones lost within the home.” In the industrial field, Tiago is an example of a ‘co-bot,’ a collaborative robot that can move from one task to another as it follows human-managed commands. Tiago comes with a base (‘Tiago base’) that is detachable from its main body and can be adapted to a variety of in-house needs. All the robots are customizable.
Robots may take over valuable roles not only in our homes and warehouses, but also in retail environments. Pal Robotics has developed a robotic solution for automation and optimization of inventory in stores or warehouses, called ‘StockBot.’ Already used in many stores in Europe, StockBot actually interacts with customers. It has an autonomous navigation system and can provide clients with a complete list of what is in store upon request. While many believe that robots will take away jobs, spur unemployment and stir social hardship, the reality is that – when introduced correctly – robots may play a critical role in increasing our quality of life.
We still have much to learn from these creations, and perhaps in the future we will come to see robotics and AI an opportunity, rather than a threat.