“People’s fears towards robots are way ahead of reality” – Ali Muhammad

By January 10, 2019Uncategorized

Amanda Koppel | Via: MADE

In Denmark and internationally, robotics is one of the hottest topics in manufacturing. Automation and robotics are key areas of interest when it comes to the future of work in the manufacturing industry as well as the future of business.

These topics are at the centre of the European project RobotUnion that MADE is also part of. To get a better sense of what’s going on, MADE asks five different experts from different areas of the robotics sector about their opinions on the matter to get a holistic view of the fast-paced developments happening right now regarding robotics.

First up is Ali Muhammad, Senior Scientist and Principal Investigator at VTT – The Technical Research Centre of Finland. In the following we’ve summed up a few key points and thoughts from Ali regarding the developments in AI and robotics, and what we can expect from big tech companies in the future.

What was the biggest surprise you experienced in 2018?

Well, I noticed how quickly people have come to think that robots with artificial intelligence will come to the market. It has somehow become “the new thing”. I think this is a big misconception when it comes to using robots with artificial intelligence.

We’re only at the very start of this whole roadmap. People think robots will become machines which are intelligent enough to do what people do. People see robots as eventually walking around helping them, supporting them, and maybe even taking their jobs away, and that’s actually a big misconception.

How do you see it being a misconception?

For example, there has been a lot of talk about autonomous cars and truth be told, even though the idea has been around for a while, autonomous cars are nowhere near being in the market.

Some cars can be driven on very special roads from one point to another point – from A to B and go back and forth – but when it comes to autonomous cars actually dropping off the kids at school in the middle of Finnish winter, driving back home and bringing me to my office? It’s hard to say, but I think we’re at least 20 years behind on that scenario.

What should we actually be aware of in 2019 on this matter?

For 2019 we should rather expect that using AI, on one hand, can help us achieve higher levels of automation and on the other hand help us teach robots to cope with an increased level of uncertainty. I think there will be more human-robot collaborative production environments but working with more powerful collaborative robots will remain a challenge.

Who and whose development in the robotics sector should we be looking out for in 2019?

I think some of the big companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Google who are striving for launching new possibilities in the area of robotics will be interesting to follow. In the past couple of years, they’ve been establishing themselves as actors in the robotics world through investments and acquisitions in robot technology, but it would be good to actually see what they can bring from AI for robots, because certainly they are the major platform enablers.

What does that mean?

By being the owners of some of the biggest platforms like Windows and Android, they have a global reach and are therefore able to collect a large amount of data. While they’re not necessarily creating applications directly for end-user or customer, but they can provide tools which suddenly makes it possible for you as an entrepreneur to reach a certain market or use their tools for a solution for a new market.”

For entrepreneurs, those tools can for example improve the way the data can be gathered and can be used. I will be keeping an eye on those big corporations the coming years for sure, also because they’re clearly aware that the automation area is an enormous market and that data is a key in that regard.

  • Dr. Ali Muhammad

Senior Scientist at VTT

  • Is the technical coordinator of RobotUnion, which is an EU funded acceleration program for robotics startups.
  • Is the coordinator of Logistics for Manufacturing SMEs (www.L4MS.eu), targeted to bring flexible and cost-effective logistics automation solutions for SMEs
  • Is the coordinator of DIH², which is the largest EU funded network of robotics Digital Innovation Hubs focused on delivering the high-end robotics solutions to European SMEs

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