Depictions of robots have been common in science fiction stories for decades. Sometimes they are helpful, sometimes they are villains, sometimes they work with humans, and sometimes they try to destroy humans (à la Terminator). But in real life, robots can be amazingly helpful in some very tricky situations. While robots are commonly known in situations like complicated surgeries and manufacturing environments, there are a number of ways robots are used that are not commonly known – but nonetheless, still just as useful.

Picking Your Online Order

If you have ordered something from a large online retailer, chances are that robots were involved in the transport of your order somewhere along the way from its origin to you. Many major online retailers now use robots to move products in warehouses from one place to another, improving order fulfillment with higher efficiency. Watching this process is fascinating, as well. Swarms of short, box-shaped robots pick up shelves of product and move them to the necessary areas, while also avoiding crashes with programmed routes and by robot-to-robot communication.

Shark Spotting

Humans, for whatever reason, are terrible at spotting sharks with aerial imagery. In Australia, drones and robots have been married to create a flying shark spotter. Not only do these robots help keep people safe while having a fun day at the beach, but they are helping researchers better understand many things about sharks, including their behavior patterns when around humans, migration habits, and so on.

Poison Extraction

Usually when you hear of something like scorpion venom being used in medicine, you chalk it up to some crazy homeopathic remedy or modern-day voodoo that is not really happening. However, many people do not know that scorpion venom actually has many uses in the world of medicine, including treatments for malaria and immune system suppressants. This makes it extremely valuable to have a robot that is able to harvest the venom from scorpions. These robots are designed to extract the venom from scorpions without harming them, and this prevents human involvement that could be dangerous to both humans and animals.

Assisting Humans From Far Away

Hearing the term “remote surveillance robot” may put you in mind of robots patrolling the streets like policemen, catching criminals and using heat-seeking to root out the bad guys. But a remote surveillance robot can do so much more to help people. These types of robots can get into areas that humans normally cannot, or that would be too dangerous for a human to go into. Remote surveillance robots can show pictures and even allow communication from far away, helping humans locate people in the event of disasters, inspecting sewers, and even looking for issues at nuclear power plants.

Helping Humans Become Better Doctors

Procedures at the hospital or doctor’s office can be frightening, invasive, embarrassing, and may include a number of things you would not want to be done to you. But doctors have to learn how to be good doctors somehow, and without realistic human bodies to practice on, how do doctors become skilled professionals? Robots have broken into the training arena of the medical field by giving doctors a more realistic patient to practice on, without having to use an actual person. One of the best uses of this is proctologist training. Robots are built to train doctors how to more easily and quickly discover prostate problems without the need for human subjects.

Sorting and Controlling Food

When you buy a bag of rice from the grocery store, the grains seem fairly uniform in size, shape, and color. However, they do not start off that way. Robots have been improving the food industry for a long time, both in manufacturing and quality control. Picking robots sort through each grain of rice as it moves through a machine with cameras and lights that detect the size, shape, and color of the grains. From there, they either approve it for consumption or move it to be discarded. These actions can happen hundreds of times a second, allowing the rice to move through at an efficient speed.

Filling Your Prescriptions

Humans are always going to have a margin of error, but one place you do not want that margin of error to show up is when your medical prescriptions are being filled. Many hospitals are relying on robots now to pick and fill orders for prescriptions instead of having this action done by a human. At one hospital, using this robot dropped the error in prescription rate from 3% close to 0%. While this may not seem like a large number, when it comes to the medicine a person is taking, it can literally mean the difference between life or death.

Nobody knows completely the future we may have with robots, but robots are helping the world already in a variety of ways, such as being used to keep humans alive and make our lives better. Watching these robots in action is fascinating, and technology is only improving. And who knows? Maybe next up is an invention that just might change the world.