Daniela Rus is a robot evangelist, she once challenged a packed audience in the inter-disciplinary Science and Engineering Complex to imagine a world where robots free us to be more creative by taking care of all our physical tasks, from playing with our pets and performing surgery without an incision.

As the Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, she delivered the inaugural lecture in Northeastern of Massachusetts’ Speaker Series in Robots with distinguished people.

Imagine a world where you’re being driven home by your autonomous car, your car is connected to your refrigerator which tells it what ingredients you need for dinner.

The car is also connected to the grocery store, which is run by robots that fill your bags so they are ready when you drive up.

Then you bring food home to the robot cook and you happily let your children help in the kitchen even though they make a mess because the mess will be taken care of by the cleaning robot.

While conceding that many of the innovations are still in the formative stages, they can be still enthralled by demonstrations of the early iterations of a variety of futuristic robot applications.

Self-assembling robots

One way to accelerate robot development is to create robots that can build themselves and reconfigure themselves into whatever shape is best for performing the task at hand.

While this might sound far-fetched, Rus pointed out that this is the way nature already works, reconfiguring the building blocks of life into frogs, birds, and alligators.

What if we could assemble itself into a wide range of tools? Not only is this possible, it already been done.

Rus predicted that we will soon be able to create smaller and more sophisticated cells that can assemble themselves into a snakelike robot which can slither through small places then reassemble itself into slinky that can climb stairs.

Robot surgery

Rus continue to demonstrate a video of simple stomach surgery performed by a tiny robot inside an artificial stomach. She insisted that there will be no incision, pain or infection when this surgery is being done.

The main task which robot surgery will focus is the case of; when people swallow button batteries (it has been recorded that, 3,500 people swallow button batteries every year), the little silver discs that power watches, pacemakers and hearing aids.

These batteries often get lodged in the stomach and if they aren’t passed through the system quickly, then become embedded in the stomach lining and have to be surgically removed.

To perform this surgery, a robot of the size like your fingernail is encased in a pill made of ice. The pill is swallowed and melts in the stomach, releasing the robot.

The robot then propels itself across the stomach lining. The patient then allows a second pill that contains a robot which delivers medicine to help heal the wound.

Many are the types of robots that are being made to perform such task without cost, an example is the Origami Robot which is printed on flat sheets and then intricately folded into robots that can perform a specific task. They are mostly 3-D printed and are inexpensive to manufacture.

Other developments

Rus also showed robotic models of flying cars, robots that can recycle themselves and lightweight robotic muscles made of tiny airbags that inflate and deflate to mimic muscular contraction.

These early-stage muscles can lift three times their own weight and when attached to a skeletal system with joints, the possibilities will be endless.

Developers are making robots more versatile by developing exoskeletons designed to perform specific tasks, these robots can put on and take off these exoskeletons much like human puts on a coat.

One exoskeleton might allow the robot to climb through a rugged landscape, while others might be for fine motor dexterity or to carry objects efficiently.

Rus described efforts to create robots that can learn from a human who knows nothing about computer coding. Today, you can drive a car without knowing anything about how the engine works.

She further explained how robots can learn by watching a human perform a complex task.

The human wears a system of sensors on his arms, hands, torso, and legs and these sensors are connected to the robot.

As the person performs the task, of his movement, are transmitted to the robot which is pre-programmed memorize how to perform the jobs. No additional coding is required.