What Are Mobile Robots and How Are They Reshaping the Future?

The development of robots and the technology that powers them has been on the rise in recent years. Robots are becoming more advanced, capable of performing various tasks and assisting work processes. That said, it’s only a matter of time before someone you know wants to integrate robots into their workplace.
It’s also safe to say that robots have become a part of our daily lives. Many people already own a robot vacuum cleaner or lawn mower, and as new use cases emerge, new robots will find their way to your household, too.
These robots that can cook, build, or move stuff around are called mobile robots, as they have a remarkable ability to locomote. So, here’s a crash course in mobile robotics if this is your first encounter with the term.

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What Are Mobile Robots

Illustration: L. T.

What Are Mobile Robots?

Mobile robots are robots primarily controlled by software that utilize sensors, artificial intelligence, and other technologies to scan and navigate their surroundings. A mobile robot combines artificial intelligence and physical elements, including wheels, legs, and other features that allow it to move around and perform specific tasks. That said, mobile robotics is a branch focused on creating these highly operable AI-powered robots.

Of course, the more this technology advances, the more businesses will at least consider incorporating it in the workplace. We could use mobile robots to automate repetitive tasks that don’t necessarily require human assistance, making them a cost-effective choice for businesses.

Mobile robot

Photo illustration: Freepik

More importantly, mobile robots can operate in specific environments or work on tasks that pose risks to human employees. For example, a mobile robot small enough to go through narrow openings can be used to identify hazards or faults in hard-to-reach areas or perform tasks in confined spaces that pose a severe risk of fire or explosion.

Led by the power of artificial intelligence and its advanced algorithms, mobile robots can explore their surroundings and make decisions based on what’s happening around them. The ability to move and utilize AI algorithms to make decisions is what differentiates them from standard, unmovable robots.

What Types of Mobile Robots Exist?

Not all mobile robots are the same. Some can walk, run, or jump, while others can fold boxes or even learn to operate a plane. Depending on their purpose, mobile robots will have different abilities, work in different environments, and use different devices to move around and perform assigned tasks.

When looking at the environment they operate in, mobile robots can be classified into the following categories:

  • Underwater robots – Underwater robots, also known as unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), operate in bodies of water such as oceans or lakes. Many professionals and organizations use them for rescue and research, monitoring, mapping, or general inspections of bridges, marine life, or underwater systems.
  • Aerial robots – An aerial robot can operate a plane or other type of aircraft without any direct assistance from humans. These intricate devices have a variety of applications, ranging from flight operation, disaster response, transportation, and delivery with great precision. Businesses could also use aerial robots to create a more efficient exchange of tools and goods between workers, saving them both time and energy.
  • Land robots – Also known as Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs), land robots are built to explore and navigate the land. Compared to aerial or underwater robots, these machines are much easier to create. As a result, land robots are the most popular type of mobile robots. They could use wheels to propel themselves or take a more human-like form and walk on their limbs.

Furthermore, mobile robots can be divided into the following groups based on the machinery or devices that enable their movement:

  • Humanoid robots – As the name says, these robots resemble human figures. As service robots, humanoids can mimic human emotion, movement, and interaction. They often need to have the same (or similar) build as an average human in order to perform their duties. That is because our environment is adapted to our needs and capabilities, not the other way around. 
  • Wheeled robots – Wheeled robots use wheels to navigate the ground. If you have a Roomba, you’ve been in touch with this robot type.
  • Walking machines – These legged robots are designed for locomotion on uneven surfaces, and they could be lifesavers in situations when we humans can’t access specific environments.
Humanoid robot

Photo illustration: Freepik

All these subtypes of mobile robots have a variety of applications and can be used to make human jobs easier. As technology advances, new subtypes will emerge, but it might take a while before mass adoption occurs.

Mobile robots are challenging to design, and manufacturing can be pretty costly. But as mobile robots are a much-needed addition to the workforce, and as some would argue – in our daily lives – we will eventually overcome these obstacles and pave the way for mass adoption.

Jelena is a content writer dedicated to learning about all things crypto. Her hobbies are playing chess, drawing, baking, and going on long walks. During winter, she usually spends her leisure time reading books.