Verdict lists the top five terms tweeted on robotics in May 2021, based on data from GlobalData’s Influencer Platform.

The top tweeted terms are the trending industry discussions happening on Twitter by key individuals (influencers) as tracked by the platform.

1. Artificial intelligence – 1,164 mentions

New developments in embodied artificial intelligence (AI), how robotics and AI are unlikely to replace humans in some industries, and AI algorithms’ ability to solve real-world problems were some popularly discussed topics in May. According to an article shared by Nige Willson, founding partner of awakenAI, an AI advisory and consultancy firm, a new robotics challenge could bring humans closer to human-level AI or embodied AI, where robots can sense and interact with their environment.

Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), IBM, and Stanford University have created a new challenge that assesses AI agents’ ability to find paths, interact with objects, and plan tasks efficiently. The ThreeDWorld Transport Challenge will be presented virtually at the Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition in June. The existing AI systems are incapable of solving the ThreeDWorld Transport challenge, but the outcome of the competition may solve some of the issues related to embodied AI.

Discussions around AI also focused on understanding how robotics and AI will not replace humans in some industries but fill in for particular tasks. For instance, the postal robot assists postal workers in delivering mails to people by carrying almost 330 pounds of mails and packages for customers.

AI also trended with reference to how AI algorithms can help robot teams to fulfil important missions, according to an article shared by  Bob Carver, a cybersecurity expert. For instance, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have discovered an algorithm that creates information-gathering robot teams that can perform important operations such as mapping, and search and rescue without spending too much time and effort.

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2. Machine learning – 1,156 mentions

The integration of AI and machine learning in healthcare and agriculture were popularly discussed during the month. According to an article shared by Sean Gardner, an AI specialist at Resourceful Nonprofit, an organisation providing low-cost technology and resources to other nonprofits, shared a video on how a factory robot can help fight Covid-19. Researchers at the University of Liverpool reprogrammed the robot to perform experiments, while working from home due to social distancing norms.

The robot uses its arms to collect samples and place them in equipment and also learns from its results using AI. The lab robot can conduct almost 700 experiments every week, which would take humans a year to complete. Currently being used for advancements in solar technology, experts believe these robots can be useful in healthcare. The University of Southern Denmark was the first to develop a robot to collect throat swabs, while Rwanda has deployed these robots for Covid-19 testing and temperature screening.

Iain Brown, head of data science at SAS Software, an analytics company, further discusses how big firms are leveraging AI for competitive advantage. For instance, construction and farming equipment company John Deere leverages modern AI and computer-vision technologies to make industrial machines such as combines and sprayers. These intelligent machines and robotic sprayers provide real time information and insights on plants, ensuring that both the weeds and corps are sprayed with herbicides and fertlisers respectively.

3. 5G – 362 mentions

5G’s application in remote working and its use in remote-controlled vehicles and machines in different industries were widely discussed in May 2021. According to an article shared by Glen Gilmore, principal at the Gilmore Business Network, a consultancy dealing in digital marketing and social business strategies, remote working will have new meaning with 5G telecommunications. For instance, even remote grooming will now be possible via motion-capture technology.

The article discussed how Tom Ellis, actor in the television series Lucifer, was shaved by a robotic arm, controlled by a barber located approximately more than 400km away in a 5G network test. The test shows how the barber used motion capture technology to make movements that were captured and transmitted through UK-based mobile network operator EE’s public 5G network and imitated by the robotic arm. The test is expected to be part of a larger advertising campaign by the company, which is part of the telecommunications company BT Group.

5G was also discussed with respect to ways in which 5G mobile broadband will impact the world, according to a video shared by Ronald Van Loon, the CEO of Intelligent World, a network connecting experts and businesses with new audiences. The video details how the 5G network will empower industries with remote-controlled vehicles and machines, thereby reducing the need for humans to perform dangerous tasks in unsafe places.

4. Innovation – 362 mentions

Robots assisting companies in staying competitive during the pandemic and a laboratory being completely operated by robots, were popular topics of discussion in May. According to an article shared by Bob Carver, companies have been relying on automation to scale their business needs and maintain their competitiveness.

Shoe manufacturing company Crocs, for example, used robots and automation solutions of 6 River Systems (6RS), a logistics and supply chain company, to meet increased customer demand during the Covid-19 pandemic. 6RS’ collaborative mobile robot Chuck was able to give Crocs a 182% pick rate improvement, delivering 40,000 units per day. Croc used the company’s wall-to-wall fulfilment solution, powered by Chuck, to scale its operations.

Glen Gilmore, meanwhile, shared a video on a laboratory operated by robots without any human intervention as part of a greater initiative to push automation. The robots conduct thousands of experiments searching for life-saving drugs and building synthetic organisms without any involvement from humans and time-intensive manual benchwork. The initiative aims to understand how new therapies can be developed with reduced time and effort.

5. Robotic Process Automation – 359 mentions

The advantages of robotic process automation (RPA), and how it can be orchestrated were widely discussed topics during the month. Evan Kirstel, chief digital evangelist at eVira Health, a marketing and advertising agency offering consulting and product development services, shared an article on how RPA, a cloud-based SaaS technology, enables companies to create, deploy, as well as manage software robots that can imitate human behaviour using software and digital systems.

Many companies across industries have stated that RPA helps drive rapid improvements in the business metrics. RPA not only streamlines workflows but does away with redundant and repetitive tasks. Advanced software robots deployed through RPA are considered to be transformative because they can perform cognitive functions such as understanding chats, tasks, and conversations, while employing complex machine learning to take difficult decisions.

JC Gaillard, founder and managing director of Corix Partners, a management consultancy firm, further discusses how RPA has become more difficult to comprehend as it expands to more complex domains. Organisations, therefore, find it difficult to take decisions on RPA on where it should be implemented although the technology has been particularly helpful in managing the pandemic. For instance, Automation Anywhere, an RPA company, helped healthcare centres develop bots as well as automated a number of repetitive tasks.