Verdict lists the top five terms tweeted on robotics in Q2 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 (AI) – 5,501

The impact of robots and AI on human jobs and innovative AI-powered robots were some of the popular discussions on AI in Q2.

Iain Brown, adjunct professor of marketing analytics at the University of Southampton, shared a podcast on whether robots and AI will take away human jobs. A 2014 study conducted by Pew Research Center, a non-partisan think tank, stated that robotics and AI can take away future human jobs resulting in mass unemployment and income inequality.

Experts in the podcast, however, noted that technologies such as robotics and AI have taken over manual jobs such as manufacturing. The technologies have not completely taken away human jobs, but rather resulted in a shift in skill requirements. The increased use of robotics and AI has led people to either reskill or upskill themselves to fill roles that can fully exploit the capabilities of these technologies.

A video of a smart weed-killing robot developed by EcoRobotix, a farming machine developer, was shared by Ronald van Loon, CEO of Intelligent World, an influencer network that connects businesses and experts to new audiences. The robot uses AI and cameras to detect and destroy weeds without hurting the crops. The robot can function for 12 hours a day and is powered by solar energy. It can be controlled using an application and can spray an entire field using 20 times lesser herbicides than traditional methods, the video detailed.

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Another discussion surrounding AI was shared by Evan Kirstel, co-founder of eViRa Health, a social media partner to clients across the health tech landscape, on an AI-powered robot named Heineken Beer Outdoor Transporter (B.O.T). Developed by brewing company Heineken, the autonomous robot can hold 12 beer cans. It follows its owner using a motion sensor and can be controlled using a smartphone application.

2. Machine learning (ML) – 4,042

ML’s role in transforming businesses and a new robotics challenge that can assess the ability of AI agents in performing human-level functions were among the popular discussions in Q2.

Glen Gilmore, principal at Gilmore Business Network, a digital marketing and social business consulting firm, shared an article on how ML can transform businesses. ML can enable a machine to learn without being explicitly programmed and make calculated guesses. It can use previously stored data and algorithms to make decisions and identify things.

The Sophia Robot, a humanoid robot developed by Hong Kong-based company Hanson Robotics, is an example of how ML and AI can be applied to develop intelligent robots that can interact with humans, the article highlighted.

ML was also discussed in an article shared by Nigel Willson, founding partner of awakenAI, a personal advisory company, on reinforcement learning (RL), a branch of ML that can be used to make robots perform human-like actions. RL agents gradually adapt to the environment through actions and feedback from the environment.

Recreating the environment for RL applications, however, has several challenges as the exact dynamics are difficult to replicate. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and IBM created the TDW Transport Challenge to address these limitations. The challenge aims to create a virtual world simulation platform that replicates the physical world and trains RL agents to navigate through the physical elements.

3. Automation – 1,061 mentions

The applications of business process management (BPM) and robotics process automation (RPA), and how and when to begin automation in an organisation were some of the popular discussions on automation in Q2 2021.

Antonio Grasso, CEO of Digital Business Innovation, a digital business transformation consulting firm, shared an infographic on BPM and RPA. The infographic details how BPM should be targeted at processes that span departments, systems, and organisational boundaries. Organisations, however, are not undertaking process automation mainly due to high cost and lack of skills.

The infographic further detailed how organisations can achieve cost savings, process transparency, and better staff alignment using BPM and RPA. BPM and RPA can improve functions such as finance, facilities management, logistics, and HR although employee resistance and poor information can be concerns around RPA.

Another discussion around automation was shared by Evan Kirstel about when and how organisations should begin automating the tasks that can be automated. The article noted that work that can be automated, such as mundane and repetitive tasks, should be assigned to robots, while humans should be provided the freedom to automate simple tasks using low-code apps.

An estimated 3.6 trillion hours of work a year is automatable in developed countries, according to consulting firm McKinsey & Co. The article further noted that RPA software company UiPath’s automation platform enables organisations to deploy an automated enterprise. The platform can discover automation opportunities and deploy automations quickly.

4. 5G – 954 mentions

5G testbeds launched by AT&T and Texas A&M University System, and the Department of Defence’s (DoD) 5G challenge were some of the trending discussions on 5G in the last quarter.

AT&T, a telecommunications company, and the Texas A&M University System collaborated to launch private 5G testbeds at the university’s RELLIS Campus, according to an article shared by Theodora Lau, founder of Unconventional Ventures, a consulting firm. The 5G testbeds will be provided to public and private companies to develop 5G powered applications.

The fast speed and connectivity provided by AT&T’s 5G network will enable organisations to create multiple innovations. Businesses can use the technology in various fields including autonomous vehicles, robotics, smart cities, and autonomous agriculture. Texas A&M will perform cybersecurity tests within the 5G testbeds to detect vulnerabilities, which will help in securing and protecting data.

5G was also discussed by Glen Gilmore on finalists of the Department of Defence’s (DoD)  DARPA Spectrum Collaboration Challenge, which was launched to explore the development of dual-use 5G-enabled technologies. The challenge was funded by the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) in partnership with NavalX SoCal Tech Bridge. It required the participants to demonstrate 5G-enabled technologies on Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar’s new Verizon 5G network.

The finalists of the competition included vRotors’ mixed reality platform for drone operations among others. The solution uses remote robotic control using an interface to enable users present at different locations to share their visual perspectives.

5. Drones – 234 mentions

The use of drones to plant seeds, autonomous drones used for search and rescue operations in forests, and a nuclear-powered drone developed by NASA were some of the popular discussions on drones in the second quarter.

Ronald van Loon shared a video on using drones to plant trees. Developed by Dendra Systems, an analytics and planting solutions provider, the drones can plant trees 150 times quicker than traditional methods. The drones plant biodegradable pods, containing seeds and nutrients required for the seeds to grow, into the soil. The drones use automation and digital intelligence to plant the seeds with speed and accuracy. The data pertaining to the location and species of the plants that need to be planted are pre-uploaded into the drones, which automatically follow the path and plant the seeds accordingly.

Antonio Vieira Santos, social media business evangelist at Atos, an information technology and services provider, shared an article on researchers at Johannes Kepler University developing an autonomous drone that can perform search and rescue operations in forests. The drone uses optical sectioning algorithm to defocus trees, thermal imaging to detect heat and ML applications to determine if the heat is from a human body or other sources. The researchers were able to rescue 38 people out of 42 who were hiding below tree canopies as a part of 17 field experiments on the drone.

Drones also trended in a discussion about NASA developing a nuclear-powered drone called Dragonfly, according to a video shared by Dr. Marcell Vollmer, director at Boston Consulting Group (BCG). The drone will be sent to Saturn’s largest moon Titan, which is believed to have all the ingredients for life to exist such as an atmosphere, wind, lakes, volcanoes, methane, ethane, nitrogen, and carbon.

The mission is headed by a team at John Hopkins University. The drone will be equipped with a multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator and multi-rotor technology to explore the rich terrains of the Titan’s surface by flying or hopping from one location to another.