FPX’s CTO Magnus Engström was quoted in an article published via TT in a large number of daily newspapers, including Värmlands Folkblad.
Below you can read the whole article, or download it as a pdf.
The washing robot will not be a reality any day soon
What will the robots of the future be able to help us with? And why do they have such a hard time mastering things that are simple for us humans? We are talking to two future visionaries – who both believe that it will be a while before it is possible to buy a robot that takes care of the dishes.
The services we want robots to take care of are in many cases the most tedious household work, according to Magnus Engström, CIO at the innovation hub Future Position X in Gävle.
– High on the list are household chores such as vacuuming, ironing and cleaning the kitchen, he says. Vacuum cleaner robots already exist, but many also want service robots that could clear up after dinner. However, it seems like it will take some time.
– Robot vacuum cleaners today work in a two-dimensional environment, they literally move on a horizontal plane, ie the floor. Dishes and laundry, on the other hand, must be handled in a three-dimensional world. This means that the number of parameters that must be handled by the robot increases exponentially, says Magnus Engström and continues:
– Fine motoric skills are also a problem. People have many joints in their hands and that is difficult to recreate and control. Lifting an iron pot requires a completely different kind of handling than lifting a crystal glass.
So what can we expect within this area in the future? Robot researcher Fredrik Löfgren is based at Linköping University, where he develops humanoid robots.
– Many people already have home robots in the form of Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri, by which you can control the stereo and lighting with your voice for example, he says.
Anyone who visits Fredrik, however, will experience significantly more robotic life than that. In the hallway we are met by the robot Pepper who greets us, and asks if he can offer us something, for example an orange.
Fredrik started making robots when he was twelve years old. The first successful result was a remote-controlled toy fire truck that he equipped with cameras and a computer. With QR codes on the flower pots the robot could identify the variety of the flower and its water needs. It rolled around the house and watered the plants with its fire hose for years. Today Fredrik has developed it further and it also measures humidity, temperature and light and calculate the amount of nutrients neccessary. He has also motorized his window blinds so that it rolls up automatically just before the morning alarm sounds. And he’s taught Pepper to recognize orange spheres as something edible. Previously, Fredrik had a biological cat, as he himself puts it.
– I made a robot cat box for it. When the cat had done its needs, a robot came and scraped up the feces, weighed it and put it in an airtight box. Another robot gave the cat carefully measured food and water. This allowed me to track how many watts the cat burned each day!
Animal robots are otherwise common, as they can be good company for elderly or sick people.
– Right now we are also experiencing the development of comfortable golf caddy robots and self-propelled suitcases. If we look a little further into the future, we will have self-driving shopping carts in supermarkets, childcare robots that can kick a ball and dog walking robots. We should also soon be able to have robots that fix dangerous things such as cleaning the gutters or removing moss on the roof, Fredrik believes and predicts that in 2035 we have robots that cook for us.
– They probably will not make mushroom souffle, but they should be able to handle a standard set of about 20 everyday dishes such as sausages with mashed potatoes and burgers. There are also already therapist robots that can help people with mild psychological problems.
– It has been proven that a lot of people actually feel better meeting an AI therapist than a human being. It can be sensitive to speak out to another person, who can be perceived as more uninvolved or judgmental than a robot, says Fredrik Löfgren.
So nothing is impossible. But the crucial question remains – when can we have a dishwasher robot at home?
– As a child, I actually worked on a robot that would clear the table, but after a while I was not allowed to continue, because my mother thought it would be too expensive with all the broken glass. It will take time before we succeed. But I’m super optimistic – in the end it will work!
MALIN HEFVELIN / TT
FACT BOX: THIS IS A ROBOT
Fredrik Löfgren explains how a robot can be defined: “A robot must be able to react to its surroundings, take in information, read its environment and perform an action based on the data it has access to. Take, for example, a vacuum cleaner robot. It perceives its surroundings by crashing into chair legs. Then it backs up and do it again, this time avoiding the leg. It also does not have to be a physical structure. Stock market robots, for example, react to transactions on the stock exchange and decide whether to buy or sell. However, a traditional industrial robot does not fall under this definition of a robot. It does not take in its surroundings. If I were to stand in front of a car-making robot, it would slam its robot arm straight into me.”