Cloud Computing’s Robotic Implications

Eliminating the need for individual robots to perform complex calculations on their own could facilitate the development of systems that are not only more sophisticated, but also cheaper and more accessible.


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With robotics advancing at a seemingly exponential rate, it’s not all that difficult to imagine a future when the real-world equivalents of Star Wars droids like C-3P0 and R2-D2 are commonplace. Anything remotely approaching that level of sophistication would be huge for manufacturing—assuming they’re not prohibitively expensive. Given the potential cost hurdle, making ultra-high-tech automation systems widely available may depend not just on advances in robotics, but also a key facilitator of the Internet of Things (IOT): cloud computing, a common means of collecting and distributing data among disparate devices.

That’s an argument put forth recently by Alec Ross, author of a book called “The Industries of the Future,” on CNN. As Ross put it, “We don’t have to build million-dollar robots” if the complex calculations required for a ‘bot like C-3P0 to do its thing (in this case, being fluent in more than 6 million forms of communication) occur in the cloud. After all, there’d be no need for the robot itself to do that work. As a result, robots might be simpler to design and construct, cheaper for the end user, and possibly even easier to use and maintain. 

Ross’s interview on CNN was broad and intended for a mainstream audience (hence the Star Wars references). However, I see no reason why the same principle couldn’t apply just as readily to the automation systems in modern factories as to the futuristic “droids” that may populate peoples’ homes one day. After all, robots are only getting better, and manufacturers have already been leveraging the cloud for some time now. Suffice it to say that the potential implications certainly provide food for thought (just Google something like “cloud computing robotics” to dive down the proverbial rabbit hole), and I’ll be keeping an eye out for any developments in this area relevant to MMS readership.

Meanwhile, check out our Robots/Automation Zone for the latest coverage on robotics in industrial applications. Given a record number of orders from North American companies, developments like more sophisticated gripping capability (which Ross also discussed on CNN), and, of course, the realities of modern manufacturing, the outlook for this sector seems bright indeed.