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Social Innovation

ROBOTICS IN INDIA - Venturing Out into Public Spaces

If you ever visit Puducherry, a robocop called ‘Constable Singam’ can help you find your way to the different tourist attractions...and if you ever go to a certain bank in Bengaluru, you can expect to be greeted by an Interactive Robotic Assistant (IRA) to help you with generic queries like knowing your account balance or the interest rates on home loans. An interactive robotic assistant was also used recently at a property expo to answer property-related questions of customers and collect real time data. The clients were of the opinion that its novelty and efficiency really made it worth the cost.1&2

Each of these examples instates the fact that robots are making their foray into the Indian public space. Keeping abreast with this trend, the Government's 2017-18 Economic Survey has identified robotics as a focus area. A significant step towards embracing this technology and the robotics industry in India was taken by the Government’s Research & Development Establishment (Engineers) of the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) who created a robot called Daksh to detect and destroy hazardous objects. Daksh has already been inducted in the Indian Army and is also being used by other departments like the Police for anti-terrorism and anti-sabotage operations.3

With positive involvement and exploration of robotics by the Government as well as the private sector, this technology is swiftly carving a niche across segments. It is interesting to note how the market for robotic surgery in India is estimated to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 20% between 2017 & 2025 to hit $350 Mn as compared to $64.9 Mn in 2016.4 A prominent corporate hospital is of the opinion that surgeries conducted with robots increase the accuracy levels and reduce the need for more surgeons in the operation theatre, allowing them to provide care to more people.

Moreover, a report by a reputed global market intelligence and advisory firm (BIS Research) suggests several benefits of robotic surgeries over open surgeries. Robotic surgery is minimally invasive with smaller incisions because computer controlled robots assisting in the surgical procedures have a higher degree of dexterity, allowing the surgeon to operate in tighter spaces within the body, that would otherwise be accessible through longer incisions. So, minimal incisions result in lower post-surgery discomfort, faster recovery and shorter hospitalisation. No wonder, robotic surgeries are fast emerging as a preferred choice of medical practitioners and patients alike.5

Robotic Surgery

Beyond the realm of surgery, there is a definitive scope for robotics in warehouse automation. Keeping up with this trend, Hitachi has developed an autonomous mobile dual arm robot that opens new opportunities for warehouses. Equipped with two commercially sold industrial arms, this automated warehouse robot comes with an elevating platform mounted on a travelling truck to enable height adjustments. It also includes a gripper that automates manual operations, such as pulling out shelves and picking out products. The dual arm robot uses built-in sensors to understand its own position and the location of products that need to be picked. While in motion, it can also identify specific products before picking them out from the shelves. But there’s more to this robot than order picking. With its dual arms, this advanced technology can also complete complex tasks that require coordination between two arms.6

ROPITS is yet another creation by Hitachi that aids with autonomous transportation. A single-passenger mobility support robot that features autonomous transportation, ROPITS can be summoned easily from anywhere in the city using a map on a mobile information device. Once summoned, ROPITS autonomously travels to the designated point to pick up and transport passengers to their destination. It automatically avoids obstacles through a 3D environmental recognition technology integrating multiple sensors. It also has active suspensions mounted onboard, which give it stability even on winding or uneven paths. ROPITS can be of immense help to the elderly and those with difficulty walking to support short-distance trips. 7

Just like ROPITS is a great service assistant for the elderly and those with difficulty in walking, EMIEW3 is another service-assistance robot by Hitachi. A cloud-based IT infrastructure serves as a remote brain which monitors and controls the robot’s body. This brain connected with the robot’s body in real time also gives EMIEW3 the ability to communicate, navigate through its surroundings, and provide customer support and guidance. By accurately understanding situations in various service settings, EMIEW3 is able to recognize and approach those in need. It can even start up a conversation on its own to provide services — improving user satisfaction and business efficiency.

Different types of robots are being incorporated in the education sector but humanoids like Hitachi’s EMIEW3 are emerging as the preferred choice because of their human-like appearance which helps them strike a good personal connection with the students. Moreover, humanoids never get tired or impatient explaining the same thing again & again to the children, helping them drop their guard. Students with special needs are also reaching new levels of learning using educational robots, like children with autism are learning communication skills, and those with attention disorders are learning how to focus. 8

Hitachi’s Emiew3

With so many applications across diverse sectors, the robotics industry in India needs to push itself beyond the conventional segments and begin exploring emerging domains like education, rehabilitation and entertainment. A recent study by a job site has found that India has witnessed an increase of 186 % in the number of people looking for work opportunities in the robotics sector between May 2015 and May 2018. In the same period, job postings in the sector have shown a growth of 191%. These positive statistics clearly affirm that the country is treading on the right path vis a vis this technology. The future of robotics in India certainly looks bright and replete with potential.9

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automation-boom-india-s-surgical-robotics-market-to-grow-5-times-by-2025-118012600219_1.html 5 - Robotic surgery is future of minimally invasive incision - Hindustan Times (Lucknow) – 7th Oct 2018
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