How will robotics change our life?

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Ro­bots, tiny drones and brainwave sen­sors ex­hib­ited on the side­lines of the Sum­mer Davos in Tian­jin have of­fered a glimpse into the fu­ture. Kevin Chen spent most of the event, es­tab­lished by the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum (WEF) and also known as the An­nual Meet­ing of the New Cham­pi­ons, in­tro­duc­ing his “RoboBees” to cu­ri­ous vis­i­tors to the Ex­plo­ration Zone. These tiny and light ma­chines, roughly the shape of a bee, can fly and perch by flap­ping their wings 120 times per se­cond, rather than us­ing blades like most un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles, ac­cord­ing to Chen, a Chi­nese PhD can­di­date at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity. Mr Chen and his team at Har­vard Mi­cro­robotics Lab­o­ra­tory used ar­ti­fi­cial mus­cles cus­tom-made from car­bon­fiber sheets to power the RoboBees. “[They] can be used to spread pollen or search for peo­ple buried af­ter dis­as­ters,” said Mr Chen. RoboBees were not the only an­i­mal­is­tic drone at Sum­mer Davos, which ran from Sun­day to Tues­day. Also on show were ro­bots im­i­tat­ing the move­ment of snakes and spi­ders and de­signed to as­sume search and res­cue tasks. It may be a while be­fore they be­come re­al­ity though. Chen’s bees can only fly in a lab with wires. Au­ton­o­mous flights re­quire fast and con­tin­u­ous sens­ing cou­ples with po­si­tion­ing and fast re­ac­tions.

“Fit­ting and in­te­grat­ing the nec­es­sary sen­sors, con­trollers, ac­tu­a­tors and elec­tron­ics is still a work in progress,” said Chen. One of the most pop­u­lar ex­hibits at the Ex­plo­ration Zone was a brain-ma­chine in­ter­face de­vel­oped by San Fran­cisco firm Emo­tiv. When a user puts on a head­set, his or her brain­waves are linked wire­lessly to a small white ball and can light it up with dif­fer­ent col­ors. Testers at the zone were able to move the balls with their minds. Ac­cord­ing to Emo­tiv en­gi­neer Phan Manh Tien, the com­pany started to de­velop the in­ter­face in 2009. It is ex­pected to be used in com­puter gam­ing and mar­ket re­search, where it can record test sub­jects’ emo­tional re­ac­tions to goods or ex­pe­ri­ences.

Photo: Xin­hua

Vis­i­tors view Jia Jia, an in­ter­ac­tive ro­bot de­vel­oped by the Uni­ver­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy of China.

Photo: Xin­hua Vis­i­tors watch a movie with VR head­sets at the ex­plo­ration zone at the Sum­mer Davos Fo­rum.

Photo: Xin­hua

A vis­i­tor views a col­lab­o­ra­tive ro­bot at the ex­plo­ration zone on the An­nual Meet­ing of the New Cham­pi­ons 2016, or the Sum­mer Davos Fo­rum, in Tian­jin.

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