In one of the most remarkable scenes from Johnny 5, the 1986 classic, "Short Circuit," surprises everyone with his human-like abilities. The robot was created for Cold War shenanigans, but it had some astonishing qualities that were highly entertaining and sentimental, at the same time.
The advent of innovative technologies, involving artificial intelligence, machine learning and superlative computing has brought about essential developments for shaping the future of robotics in India. At present, we are at the peak of a revolution through which robots can give us significant freedom from laborious and mundane chores such as cleaning, cooking, or even babysitting.
Present Scenario of Robotics In India
Robots are drastically improving their pace and moving out of controlled environments into homes, healthcare and other public spaces. Researchers are also designing advanced artificial intelligence systems through which robots can be implemented to make policies autonomously. Now, the question arises if India is ready for such a transition?
Robotic technologies in India are enormously used across various sectors such as astronomy, atomic energy, metallurgy, textiles, automotive, and manufacturing industries. It proved to be a fast-growing field and gave way to various avenues in the recent past. Many experts believe that robotics is best suited for the automation industry, including manufacturing, packaging, and curating. Research suggests that robotics and automation have the same potential as computer systems in bringing about a significant change in India's industrial aspects.
Robotics in the automation sector has proved to improve productivity, ensure safety, and augment the end product quality while enabling human employees to take up more value-added responsibilities. Besides, India's health sector has also begun using robotic technology extensively in operation theatres and even in rehabilitation centers to foster the quality of life.
General-purpose robots are establishing their presence in the COVID-19 pandemic through their extraordinary abilities in augmenting healthcare. Mitra, a friendly Indian robot, aids COVID-19 patients to make video calls with their families utilising its camera and a video screen on its torso. Mitra can move automatically from the bedside of one patient to another.
Another robot from Milagrow, a Gurgaon-based firm, is helping to clean and disinfect hospitals. These robots are doing their part in assisting our frontline workers in healthcare and reducing their exposure to the deadly virus. Both patients and healthcare workers seem to have formed a bond with these robots. Some patients don't wish to leave the hospital premises without clicking a selfie with them.
Will Robots replace Indians at Work?
The answer lies in how we plan to implement robots. One method that Indian policymakers should consider is to incentivize robots that aid us in making our jobs more productive, rather than focus on robots that are more likely to replace humans at work. The plausibility of robots replacing humans has been underscored by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
A 2016 report demonstrated that while robots pose a threat to almost two-thirds of jobs in developing countries, robots will also bring about new work opportunities. Sometime soon, robots can help reduce the labour costs in manufacturing to the extent that industries are likely to be restored from their present offshore low-labour cost locations.
Hold your horses because the future of India is Robotics
At the forefront of India's manufacturing functionality would be the companies with high-end advanced automation technologies. The increasing focus on the innovative initiative, "Make in India", will shoot up the need for robotics technology. The demand to serve global manufacturing standards and enormous foreign investors' opportunities will be witnessed soon by Indian robotics industry.
The government's flagship programme "Make in India" calls for robotics development in India to be integrated as a critical component for attracting top-notch global manufacturers and creating a highly mechanised and automated supply chain. The ASSOCHAM study has pointed out that robotics is a settled necessity to make India more globally competitive, especially when there are high chances of global auto firms setting their base in India and hoping to export vehicles from the country itself with international standards.
There is optimism about the future of robots in India and aren't we all for the day where job postings will consist of the criteria -"should be comfortable working with our human-friendly robots"? We need to innovate and implement an Indian policy on robots to foster a bigger and more developed startup ecosystem to build indigenous robots. If robots still feel alien for some of us, here is a quote from Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene: "We are survival machines — robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes."