AI and robotics: Differences and how they work together

January 30, 2024
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So, what is the difference between AI and robotics?

The main difference between AI and robotics is their focus.

  • AI focuses on building intelligent software that can exhibit human-like capabilities such as learning, reasoning, planning, perception, and problem-solving. 

    The goal of AI is to create intelligent agents that can perform tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence.
  • Robotics focuses on building electromechanical machines that can move and physically interact with the environment.

    Robotics integrates hardware components
    like sensors, actuators, and controllers to let a robot perceive its environment and perform actions.

So, in short, AI aims to replicate aspects of human intelligence in software, while robotics aims to build physically embodied machines that can act intelligently.

A brief history of robotics

Robotics has come an unimaginably long way since the first Industrial robot, Unimate, started work at a General Motors plant in 1961. 

In the decades since, advancements in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science have enabled robots to become more sophisticated, versatile, and virtually ubiquitous – even though we may sometimes not notice. 

Some key milestones in robotics history were: 

  • 1970s - SCARA robots for assembly lines and the Stanford Cart crosses a chair-filled room autonomously.
  • 1980s - Robots like the Puma 560 are used for precision tasks like welding and painting in auto factories, while Honda's Humanoid robots led to the creation of ASIMO.
  • 1990s - Lego Mindstorms brings robotics to the masses, while NASA's Sojourner rover explores Mars.
  • 2000s - Roomba vacuums become popular consumer robots. As Humanoid robots like ASIMO gain abilities like running, kicking balls, and hopping on one foot.
  • 2010s - Robots begin taking on more 'cognitive' capabilities with machine learning and computer vision: Boston Dynamics' Atlas does backflips, and autonomous cars become a reality.

Today, robots are being used for everything from manufacturing to surgery to home assistance to space exploration - and that’s expected to accelerate as AI systems intertwine with robotics to allow for faster, better robots. 

What is AI, and what can it do?

Artificial intelligence, or AI, is the ability of a machine to mimic intelligent human behavior. 

Unlike robotics, which focuses on physical movement and interaction, AI aims to automate intellectual tasks typically performed by people.

In recent history, breakthroughs from organizations like OpenAI, have demonstrated AI's potential. 

These include defeating human champions in complex games, creating (good enough) music and art, engaging in natural human language conversation, and even writing computer code. 

OpenAI's developments, particularly in language processing with models like GPT-3 and 4, have significantly advanced AI's capabilities and applications.

Let’s take a look at some applications and also where AI may go:  

  • AI algorithms can analyze data, identify patterns, make predictions, and optimize decisions. The most common applications include image recognition, natural language processing, recommendation engines, predictive analytics, and self-driving vehicles.
  • AI systems can continuously improve by learning from data and experiences. This is known as machine learning; the more data they have, the smarter the algorithms become. This is because deep learning uses neural networks modeled after the human brain to achieve state-of-the-art results.
  • Cutting-edge AI is sometimes beating humans at their own game, and exceeding human capabilities easily. 
  • While narrow AI focuses on singular tasks, Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) aims to possess general cognitive abilities comparable to humans across many domains. We’ll state clearly, though, that no current AI system is close to achieving true AGI. nor do experts even coincide on whether AGI is even possible. 
  • AI raises important ethical concerns around bias, accountability, privacy, security, economic impacts, and existential risk from a possible superintelligence. 
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How are AI and robotics working together?

AI and robotics are, predictably, joining forces. 

Though AI can't move around on its own, when combined with a robotic platform it can enable some pretty cool capabilities!

Let’s look at some of them: 

  • AI powers a robot's computer vision. It allows robots to visually sense and understand their environment so they can navigate and interact appropriately, which includes object, facial, and pattern recognition.
  • Natural language processing lets robots communicate with and understand humans through voice commands and text. Think of Chat-GPT on wheels – or legs. 
  • Reinforcement learning algorithms help robots learn new tasks by repeating them over and over. The AI guides the robot to iteratively improve at things like grabbing objects, walking, and even playing games!
  • Predictive analytics allow robots to forecast potential issues and take action to avoid or mitigate problems before they occur. In time, this makes them better at adapting to unfamiliar settings.

AI is the brain, and robotics is the body. 

Cognitive robotics and AI: What's the difference?

Cognitive robotics and Artificial Intelligence are closely related technologies, but it would be wise to understand the differences as well. 

Let’s take a look: 

  • Cognitive robotics focuses on giving robots the ability to learn, adapt, and make decisions in complex environments. The goal is to develop robots that can perceive, reason, and act in a way that’s more akin to humans. 
  • AI is more broad and focuses on developing intelligent software and algorithms. AI powers things like virtual assistants, image recognition, predictive analytics, and more.
  • Cognitive robots use AI and machine learning to improve their capabilities. But they also incorporate additional technologies like sensors, actuators, and mobility to interact with the physical world.
  • While AI algorithms are trained using data, Cognitive robots also learn through experience and interaction. They leverage real-world data, simulation, and reinforcement learning to expand their knowledge.
  • Cognitive robotics tries to mimic broader human intelligence including perception, social skills, creativity, etc.
  • An AI system alone can't move around or take physical action. However, a Cognitive robot can demonstrate intelligent behavior in the real world.

In short: Cognitive robots are about embodied intelligence. 

Summing up

In summary, while AI and robotics share some similarities, they are actually two distinct technologies that provide a unique – and revolutionary – synergy. 

When done right, AI-powered robots can be transformative – like self-driving cars, or automated manufacturing beyond the capabilities of any human. 

Next steps

RO1 from Standard Bots will allow you to transition your shop floor into the 21st century.

It's an ideal choice that bridges the gap between AI and robotics, suitable for both emerging startups and well-established industrial giants. 

  • Cost-efficiency: RO1, a leader in its category, offers unparalleled affordability, costing half as much as its nearest competitors.
  • Performance and precision: Despite a best-in-class payload capacity of 18 kg, RO1 surpasses its rivals in both speed and accuracy.
  • Safety assurance: RO1 comes with integrated safety sensors and collision detection, ensuring safe and dependable operations.

To experience the fusion of AI and robotics with RO1, reach out to our solutions team for a no-cost, 30-day onsite trial, complete with expert guidance for seamless integration into your operations.

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