Ask The Futurist: “How Will Mesh Networking Affect Robotics?”
For as long as I remember, robots have always been cool. Perhaps it’s my passion for all things futuristic, but I don’t think I am alone in saying robots have provided a glimpse of what could be possible. Looking at today’s Internet of Everything (IoE) world, robots have advanced from the 1950s tin wind-up toy robots and the affable C-3P0 and R2-D2 from George Lucas’s Star Wars, to emerging technology that has the potential to improve our lives and increase shared connections.
Today’s “Ask the Futurist” question is focused on how robotic technology and its supporting networks will evolve over time. Here’s the question from William Maguire, a wireless engineer.
Question: “How do you think mesh networking will affect robotics in the next 20 years?”
Answer: Thanks for the great question, William. We are already seeing a lot of mesh networking technologies that provide low-power, high-range reach for today’s robotic technologies and smart devices. In addition, new advances in drone and swarm robotics are currently utilizing mesh networking technologies to communicate with each other.
In the coming years, robots will increasingly need to navigate around their environment. They may use mesh networking technology to communicate with things in the environment as well as other robotic devices.
A great example of this is the research coming from the Correll Lab at the University of Colorado. Using MIT’s hockey fields and basement as a landscape, computer science researchers at the university are learning how multiple robots can better interact with their environment and each other. Their experiments reveal a need for a comprehensive network that relies on accurate sensor technology and reactive algorithms to counter environmental and user-generated constraints. This type of mesh networking research will be essential in propelling the use of robotics in current and future technology solutions.
Academics aren’t the only ones interested in how mesh networking is affecting robotics. Corporations are also stepping up to figure out how to apply the benefits of mesh networking into products we use everyday. A few weeks ago, Ford announced a research study with Russia’s Saint Petersburg Polytechnic University to discover how robotic technology can improve vehicle connectivity. According to Engadget, the study will focus on how space robots—such as JUSTIN Humanoid and NASA Robonaut R2—leverage mesh networks to “maintain a flow of information amongst themselves and with their controllers on Earth and aboard the International Space Station in the event of a disrupted connection.” This type of information will be helpful not only to move robotics forward, but also to enable relevant IoE connections.
It’s clear that mesh networks and other types of networking technologies have the capability to change how we connect and communicate. While it’s fun to think about life-sized space robots circling the globe, it’s the less dramatic robotic technology—making everyday devices smart and connected—that will help the Internet of Everything to grow and become more engrained in our lives. But don’t worry, we will always have our favorite robots, C-3P0 and R2-D2.
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