Few technologies have had as profound an impact on modern business as robotics. Automated machines have thoroughly disrupted heavy industries and are starting to see growth in other sectors, too. The advent of teleoperated robots and other virtual and augmented reality technologies will push this trend further.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) started in entertainment but have many uses in the business world. These technologies have plenty of potential on their own but can intersect with robotics to create something better. Virtual and augmented reality robotics are growing fields that push robotics forward.

Here are five ways these technologies are improving commercial robots.

1. Improving Medical Care

Perhaps the most immediately recognisable application of virtual reality in robotics is teleoperated robots. In this field, workers use VR headsets and controllers to operate machines remotely. One of the most significant use cases for teleoperation is in medicine, specifically, remote surgery.

According to Business Insider, in 2019, a doctor performed brain surgery 1,900 miles away from the patient. Robotic equipment gives surgeons the precision they need for complex operations, and VR provides a close-up, immersive view. With these advantages, patients anywhere can benefit from the world’s top surgeons without needing to travel.

Fully autonomous robots may not be trustworthy enough for sensitive operations, and screens don’t give remote surgeons enough visibility. The combination of virtual reality and robotics solves both issues.

2. Enabling Remote Work

Another advantage of teleoperated robots is that they expand who can work remotely. Over the past few years, more businesses have moved toward remote work, but some industries require hands-on tasks. Some of these companies have found that they can use teleoperation to enable their employees to work from home.

Many manufacturing facilities rely on semi-autonomous robots that require human operators. With VR, people can control these machines from virtually anywhere, enabling remote work if necessary. These facilities would become more flexible as a result, helping account for any unexpected health concerns or other disruptions.

3. Increasing Robotics Use Cases

Teleoperated robots and other virtual reality robotics applications expand what these machines can do. At this point, the advantages of automation are well-known, but not every workplace is suitable for fully autonomous machines. Since VR expands the options businesses have to control robots, it enables them to capitalise on robotics.

Take the food industry, for example. Robotic chefs would improve productivity and flexibility, but current restaurant robots require human supervision, limiting their implementation. With teleoperation, an operator could supervise a robot chef remotely. Workers in the kitchen could focus on value-adding tasks since they don’t have to monitor the machine.

4. Making Training Easier

Teleoperation isn’t the only way VR and AR can improve robotics, either. Programming a fully autonomous robot can be complicated, often requiring extensive real-world training. Researchers have found that by teaching these machines in VR instead, they can minimise costs and accelerate the learning process.

Object recognition is a crucial skill for many commercial robots and one that requires lengthy training. If companies teach machines in VR instead of the real world, though, they cut costs and save time. They can show robots virtual renderings of real-life items, offering near-limitless options.

With virtual models, companies don’t have to acquire physical versions of the objects they train robots to recognise. They can also simulate any lighting condition or angle and run tests throughout the day with minimal supervision.

5. Becoming More Communicative

The applications of augmented reality in robotics may be less immediately evident, but they’re equally promising. Most notably, AR enables faster, clearer communication between robots and their human co-workers. These communication benefits will enable more effective collaboration, leading to more productive workplaces.

It’s not always easy for people to tell what a robot is doing or about to do, which can hinder collaboration. According to IEEE Spectrum, connected AR glasses can show employees what a robot’s doing without them having to stop and look at a screen. They can see directional arrows or pathways through their glasses as they look around.

Augmented reality robotics gives workers a glimpse into robots’ minds. This transparency makes it easier to work alongside them and increases trust. Workers will feel more comfortable around robots, paving the way for increased adoption.

VR and AR Help Robots Reach Their Full Potential

VR, AR, and robotics are all revolutionary technologies in their own right. Bringing them together unlocks their potential, creating something better than its individual parts. From teleoperation to AR-based communication, VR and AR are making robotics more accessible, versatile, and productive.

By Emily Newton

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, an online magazine exploring how technology is changing the world.

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