We get a lot of press releases here at WorkersCompensation.com. It is understandable, as our news center serves between 20,000 and 40,000 article views every day. We are on the radar of PR people and others who mass distribute releases hoping to get their information out into the workers' compensation marketplace. Some of them are relevant to our industry, but many are not. One that we received yesterday gives me pause.
Apparently, researchers at Cornell University have developed a system that will allow robots to sweat. The release, published here (mostly for my benefit), tells us, “Just when it seemed like robots couldn't get any cooler, Cornell University researchers have created a soft robot muscle that can regulate its temperature through sweating.
I'm not sure that sweating makes robots cooler, in the perceptible sense. Now, if you can invent a robot that swears, plays pool and will buy us beer, you may be on to something. That's a robot we could hang with.
One of the hurdles for making enduring, adaptable and agile robots is managing the robots' internal temperature, according to [researcher Rob] Shepherd. If the high-torque density motors and exothermic engines that power a robot overheat, the robot will cease to operate.
This is a particular issue for soft robots, which are made of synthetic materials. While more flexible, they hold their heat, unlike metals, which dissipate heat quickly. An internal cooling technology, such as a fan, may not be much help because it would take up space inside the robot and add weight.
So, the solution, it seems, was to develop a system that allows these “soft robots” to sweat like humans, which allows them to keep cool – again, not necessarily in the perceptible sense. The sweat would come from water squeezed through temperature sensitive “pores” in synthetic material, and the water, like sweat, cools the surface temperatures.
A soft material robot that sweats. Now that I think about it, they've already made that movie. It was called Terminator. When Arnold told us he'd be back, he wasn't kidding. If they give these things 3 days of facial hair and a “wife-beater” T-shirt, they'll be all set.
My question, of course, is if we can start creating robots with artificial intelligence that can mimic both mental and physical human behavior, can workplace robotic injuries be far behind? Will the workers' compensation industry have to morph into some type of product protection service that can repair electronic workers while providing benefits for their sweaty little robot families? (I'm not implying that injured workers families are sweaty. Simply playing off of a theme. It's humor, people. Relax.)
And if you think the concept of a sweaty injured robot is scary, wait until you meet their robotic AI driven attorney. The biggest difference between the two is that the robot attorney will never sweat.
I wanted to reach out to [researcher Rob] Shepherd, but he was not in his office. Workers' at Cornell said it appeared to have been ransacked, with his computer browser history showing a disturbing number of searches for someone named Sarah Connor.
Of course, we jest. Researcher Rob is probably hiding in his lab from the angry villagers who are outside with their torches and pitchforks.
And if you think I am becoming too far-fetched in my proselytizing, consider this; the release also tells us that, “One disadvantage of the technology is that it can hinder a robot's mobility. There is also a need for the robots to replenish their water supply, which has led [researcher Rob] Shepherd to envision soft robots that will someday not only perspire like mammals, but drink like them, too.”
I'll be damned. A sweaty robot that drinks. If they can teach it to play pool, they may really be on to something.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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