Invention is often born out of necessity and with the world constantly evolving, and there is a growing need for speed and efficiency in different fields.
For instance, the demand for organs and blood is rising. Therefore, as demand increases, so does the number of people who need to donate tissue.
Unfortunately, there aren’t enough donors to meet this demand.
Luckily, there are ways in which doctors and scientists can help solve this problem with robotics technology. Here are some of the ways robots can help with research.
Creating Models of Human Organs
While doctors have created models of the brain and other body parts for research purposes in the past (like the famous “Guts Machine”), it’s been impossible to create a working model of an entire organ — until now.
With research robotics, it is now possible to replicate and build things by hand. That means it’s easier than ever before to create accurate models of organs like the heart or brain.
As we all know, pharmaceutical companies spend millions of dollars on tests and experiments to figure out how a drug will affect a body part or organ before going to market with a new drug.
These tests are expensive and time-consuming because they require living subjects to react to drugs. Instead, robots can screen drugs to test their safety and efficacy, saving time and money.
Robots can automate tedious tasks like cell-counting and sample preparation by removing samples from storage and putting them into a centrifuge or other instrument for analysis.
They also can move samples from one place to another without contaminating them.
Scientists often spend a lot of time staring at computer screens, analyzing data they have collected with their instruments. This time-consuming process could be sped up by having robots do the number crunching for them.
Searching for Prey
Searching for prey can take a lot of time, so it’s best to send in a drone to do the dirty work. Drones can fly over an area and use infrared sensors to detect the heat signature of small animals.
For instance, researchers at Cornell University taught yellow mealworms to hide by mimicking where the sun would be from above, making it difficult for drones to spot them from above.
Collecting Animal Poop
Animal poop is one of the best ways to learn how animals behave in their natural habitat. Unfortunately, collecting samples is tedious and time-consuming, but robots can help with that.
Robots can collect animal droppings using a spatula-like appendage that scrapes off the poop and deposit it into a collection container.
Saving Time and Money
With the assistance of robots, scientists can conduct research faster and cheaper than ever before. This is because robots are accurate and fast. As a result, they don’t get tired or bored and never ask for a vacation.
Robots also don’t need to eat or sleep to work 24/7, 365 days a year with no time off.
Robots have the power to test anything, from medical devices to oil pipelines, in extreme environments. The robot can move any object at any speed with accuracy and ease.
Robots are also more reliable and precise than humans when conducting tests since they follow commands precisely as programmed.
Moreover, there’s no risk of human error, as robots do not fatigue or make mistakes due to emotions or boredom.
Automating Repetitive Tasks
Using robotics in agriculture, electronics and construction saves money by reducing labor costs while increasing productivity.
In agriculture, this allows farmers to focus on other tasks while robots weed and harvest their crops at high speeds all day long.
Research Robots Help Scientists at NASA
Robots are an integral part of NASA’s human spaceflight program. For example, Robonaut 2, launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2011, has performed many tasks, including changing out batteries and fixing broken equipment.
Another Valkyrie robot is being developed at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC). Valkyrie is designed to explore the surface of Mars by walking over rocks and sand, using its arm and cameras to survey the landscape as it goes.
Robotic Research Assistants
One of the most common robots work in labs as research assistants. Many labs have begun using “smart” robotic arms to perform tasks that would be impossible for humans or that would require a great deal of time and effort.
These tasks include pipetting liquids into test tubes and delivering samples to various containers.
Another area where robotic research assistants are proving useful is in precision experiments. For example, researchers can program a robot to experiment repeatedly at precisely the same speed or with the same movement each time, saving researchers hours when they come to analyze their data.
Research labs often need to handle toxic or corrosive chemicals, where robots can come into their own. In addition, the robots can be programmed to run.
Robots can remove the risk of contaminating samples by being sterilized or kept at a distance so that they do not come into contact with them directly.
They can also minimize damage to delicate samples by using soft pneumatic actuators better suited to light work than traditional rigid robotic arms.
Some institutions are using robots to automate essential research functions. For example, scientists at New York University created an automated system that can predict protein structures based on DNA sequence data; it’s capable of drawing on more than 20 years’ worth of experience in the field.
Meanwhile, Carnegie Mellon University has developed a machine teaching program that teaches high schoolers how to use machine learning algorithms—and it does it all by itself.
The program creates its lessons, grading, and feedback for students.
With the help of robotics, science and other industries are making a lot of progress in their quest for knowledge.
Today’s robots can help researchers with too complex or even impossible tasks for people to do or perform. Needless to say, these machines may be the next big thing.
“Incurable web evangelist. Hipster-friendly gamer. Award-winning entrepreneur. Falls down a lot.”