Robots in Action

March 20, 2015
Glenn Greenberg and Laura Blackburn, with reporting by Sam Frizell for TIME
ROBOT WORKFORCE Robots are taking on a growing number of jobs. Find out about five mighty machines.
TOMOHIRO AHSUM—BLOOMBERG/GETTY IMAGES

Robots are on the rise! Today, they can be found working in hotels and stores. Machines will soon be used to study sea creatures up close. These robots can blend right in with underwater habitats. Robots take on tasks to make our lives easier and safer. Scientists keep coming up with jobs that machines can do. Sometimes, the machines can do a better job than humans! Take a look at the latest in robots. What will these amazing machines be able to do next?

Super Swimmer

D.P. TSAKIRIS—FORTH

The Octobot is perfectly named. Its design is based on the octopus. The robot is the size of a shoebox. It can blend in with its underwater surroundings. The Octobot can travel at seven inches per second. That is close to the speed of an octopus. The Octobot moves through water by slowly opening its soft rubber arms and then snapping them shut. During tests, fish swam alongside the Octobot. Scientist Dimitris Tsakiris says researchers can use the robot to study sea creatures.

See Spot Run

BOSTON DYNAMICS

Spot looks and moves much like a real dog. But don't expect it to play fetch. Boston Dynamics created the four-legged, 160-pound mechanical canine. It can climb mountains. It can cross woods. It can go up stairs. Spot can also keep itself from falling over if it loses its balance. In the near future, Spot may be used for search-and-rescue missions and to carry heavy gear.

Hotel Helper

COURTESY ALOFT HOTELS

No towels? No problem! At the Aloft Hotel in Cupertino, California, Botlr is on the job. Since August, the three-foot-tall robot has been making deliveries to guest rooms. When a guest asks for an item, a clerk places it in Botlr's lid and enters the room number onto a screen. "Guests are always very excited when Botlr arrives with a delivery," says Aloft senior vice president Brian McGuinness.

Hard Workers

STEPHEN BRASHEAR—GETTY IMAGES

Shipping millions of packages each day is no easy task. Since July, robots have been helping workers at Amazon get products ready to be sent out. The machines are just 16 inches tall. But don't let their small size fool you. Each one weighs 320 pounds. One robot can carry a set of shelves holding 700 pounds of products. More than 15,000 robots work in 10 of Amazon's warehouses across the U.S.

Big in Japan

TORU YAMANAKA—AFP/GETTY IMAGES

In Japan, scientists are leading the way in creating humanoid robots. Last year, SoftBank introduced Pepper. The four-foot-tall robot can talk with humans and react to emotions. If you frown, Pepper will try to cheer you up. The robot is being used in stores. But SoftBank has bigger plans for Pepper. It may one day keep humans company and help teach children.

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