Guest Article

The Future of Humanoids (Robots) in India 

Those who grew up during the 1990s got their first introduction to robotics and artificial intelligence courtesy James Cameron’s The Terminator, which featured Arnold Schwarzenegger as the cyborg. Back then, the idea seemed a little far-fetched, but quarter of a century since then, we’re getting familiar with both, robotics and artificial intelligence. Thanks to the advances technology is making, automation and robotics are becoming increasingly common parlance. And India is no exception to this rapidly growing technology.

Incidentally, India didn’t start off with a bang in this field like its neighbours, viz China, Japan, Singapore. In 2018, there were reportedly under 5000 robotic installations in India, while China had 154,000. However, policy changes enabled our country to see 26,300 robotic installations in 2020. Not surprising that, in the coming years, India is expected to become one of the fastest growing markets for industrial robots and human-robot collaborative cobots.

While companies like ARAPL have already forayed into industrial robotics, they’re also working on humanoid robots. Yes, many of us are familiar with whiz filmmaker Shankar’s Robot/Enthiran featuring Rajinikanth as scientist Vasigaran who creates an AI-enabled robot Chitti (also played by the actor). Even though the concept seemed a little unbelievable then, some indigenous tech companies have already put their creations into use in fields, from medical to space research, like Vyommitra, the humanoid for ISRO’s (Indian Space Research Organisation) Gaganyaan.

Even though humanoids are designed to talk, see and move about like humans, they don’t necessarily look like one. Nonetheless, what is of most significance is how humanoids help our fellow Indians in their various tasks.

As per the demographics of India, a larger part of the population is based in rural areas. Considering that work on infrastructure development to connect even the remotest of villages is a mammoth task and underway in various phases, it’s not easy to reach the diverse skills to every village as yet. Moreover, a sizeable number of educated folk migrate to bigger towns and cities for better employment opportunities, salaries and standard of living. On the flip side, this results in stagnation of education, primary health etc. in rural India. That’s one reason for increased demand in these sectors in rural areas.

This is where Conversational AI-based robots will see a rapid growth as most rural regions will have good mobile connectivity and witness increasing use of smartphones due to the low cost of devices being made available to this big chunk of our population. But given that most of our rural population is into agriculture, will we also see robots helping in farming? The answer is ‘why not?’ In Oklahoma, US, farm robots are already being tested. Moreover, it is also Japan’s dream project to have robots in farms. After automatic milking systems were developed in the late 20th century, robot cattle grazing is also on the anvil.

What is interesting to note is that use of robots will also help save several issues that plague the vast farming community in India, which also leads to farmers’ suicides. This crucial issue can be curtailed with the combined use of smart Robotics and AI in this sector.

On the other hand, urban and metropolitan cities are already seeing a noticeable use of humanoids in the several sectors, like warehouse and health care for example. There’s been considerable talk of food delivery using drones. It’s just a matter of time before the consumers demand faster deliveries of items they order. Needless to say, that can only be made possible through automation. As it is, the past year and half has seen a lot of work going remote and increasing focus on automation.

Not to forget, during the pandemic, we have witnessed the medical support system being under tremendous stress to handle the increasing number of patiences. This is where automation will play a bigger and pivotal role in the next few years.

Other sectors that are invested in and using robotics and automations for building their products and services are automobiles and two-wheeler manufacturers, real estate to name some.

To sum up, considering the advance India has made in Robotics and Artificial Intelligence post some change in the policy in 2016-17, we can be certain that the government is open to allow this progress into more and varied sectors in both rural and urban India. And don’t be surprised if some day, the company offering jobs also asks candidates if they’re open to working with friendly robots on the team.

By: Milind Padole, MD, Affordable Robotic &Automation Ltd. (ARAPL), a BSE SME listed company

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