Latest trends in AI and robotics

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Artificial Intelligence has long entered our workplace and home. It is used in robotics, where collaborative robots deliver parts and perform repetitive or even dangerous tasks. In our homes smart devices such as Amazon’s ‘Alexa’, Google Assistant or Apple’s ‘Siri’ can help us to easily access day to day information such as the news, weather forecast or train times. Just like other areas of our lives, Artificial Intelligence has also entered libraries.

Chatbots assist with our search on a library website, alert when a book is due, point us to relevant library resources or answer simple informational requests. In the future, AI will influence the way information can be connected and found in even more exciting ways. Machine learning as well as sound- and image-recognition technologies are already being used to analyse digital collections, making our search for specific information easier. They identify topics and entities, assign metadata and enable non-textual search and discovery. Librarians are working with machine learning technologies to enhance classification schemes to improve search and recall precision.

Data visualization tools can be used to identify unexpected connections among concepts, researchers and institutions. While in the past information professionals have been in involved in building customized search engines and created LibGuides, today, librarians and other information professionals can actively participate in designing the next AI-based new knowledge discovery tools and embed their focus on enabling the best information into these new tools. In the future AI will enable new capabilities to address library user’s information needs. Libraries can use AI tools to provide not just information but deep intelligence, offering ‘Insight As A Service (IAAS)’.

A field that’s increasingly connected and impacted by AI is robotics. While robotics used to be a niche area, there are now established master’s and PHD programmes at universities. In the US and Asia robotics is already being introduced at high school level. Bruno Siciliano, Professor of Control & Robotics at the University of Naples Federico II, and Past-President of the IEEE Robotics & Automation Society visits elementary and high schools to talk about robotics and spark interest in a field of escalating significance with some of the youngest members of society. 

“Robotics is a nice way to teach maths, engineering and computers in a ‘joined up’ way. And young students now have the resources to build a home robot and control it with a controller that costs just a few pounds,” says Siciliano.

Getting familiar with robotics at an early age is important, since robots are increasingly being used at the workplace. According to Siciliano, these intelligent ‘plug and play’ robots can now be used safely to do what humans want them to - with the highest possible accuracy.” 

However, the rapidly increasing level of robotic sophistication is not just exciting, it also raises a number of questions about ethics as well as the future of employment, for example if robots will replace us at the workplace. Siciliano maintains that some of the jobs we might lose to robots are either too dangerous or too difficult for humans to do effectively.

“Robots can fulfil these roles more safely and more efficiently, and create jobs as a consequence. Companies that are expanding their robotic workforce generally need more employees to work alongside them, so in many cases employment can be boosted rather than cut,” says Siciliano.

He believes that robotics research will advance through ongoing collaboration with other disciplines and research communities. A multi-disciplinary approach could be more successful in addressing the combined issues of cognition (perception, awareness and mental models), and physical attributes (safety, dependability and dexterity) in the world of robotics. According to Siciliano in a few years’ time, robots will be as omnipresent in our society as PCs and smartphones are today. He thinks the perception or robotics technology is improving as we see the social and medical benefits. Siciliano is the author of the award winning Springer Handbook of Robotics, presenting a balanced view of topics as diverse as field/service robotics, and human-centred/life-like robotics.

Springer Nature is moving towards arming libraries and their patrons with resources that explore the wider implications of the advancement of AI. Sources such as ‘Nature Machine Intelligence’ and the Springer Nature eBook collection  ‘Intelligent Technologies and Robotics’ offer a wide perspective on trends in artificial intelligence and related technologies.

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