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About this book

This book offers a clear, yet comprehensive overview of the role of robots in our society. It especially focuses on the interaction between humans and robots, and on the social and political aspects of the integration of robots with humans, in their everyday life, both in the private and working sphere alike. Based on the lessons held by the author at “Scuola di Politiche” (transl. School of Political Sciences), this self-contained book mainly addresses an educated, though not-specialist, audience.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Are We Going Through a Real Revolution?

It is not easy to understand if what we are experiencing is truly a new industrial revolution or a tail or a transformation of the previous one, the third revolution, which dates back to the late seventies and was originated by industrial automation, microelectronics and mechatronics. In an attempt to understand what is happening today in terms of the transformation of society and of the industrial revolution, it is necessary first of all to go back to the industrial revolutions, to their powerful impact on society, to the discontinuities that scientific discoveries and their subsequent transformation into technology and industry have produced over the years on society. This is not only on the manufacture of goods and services, but above all on the organization of work and on the quality of life.
Maria Chiara Carrozza

Chapter 2. On the Way to Robotics

I do not intend to describe the history of robotics and its literary origin, dating back to the beginning of the twentieth century, but I would like to trace the technological evolution of its applications, imagining a journey through time and space. My analysis strongly reflects my training as a bioengineer researcher who has always delved into the interaction between robotics and biomedicine. This is why I think it is useful to take a step back and describe my studies. I do not have a formal robotics background, also because at the end of the 80 s it was not yet a part of my future plans. As a scholar of physics, I learned and studied in research laboratories, in a “middle world”, on the border between microengineering, robotics and biomedical engineering and I think it is for these reasons that I have taken on board a research methodology oriented towards antidisciplinarity and guided by curiosity.
Maria Chiara Carrozza

Chapter 3. The Socialization of Robotics

Robots have left the factories and started to “inhabit” other spaces, dedicating themselves to “service” tasks. Places occupied by robots are, among others, the inside of the human body in surgery, interplanetary space and the planets, the underwater world, and nuclear energy plants. The aim of “service” robotics is to teleoperate systems in environments difficult to reach or that are dangerous, which humans should avoid, such as nuclear power plants, minefields in war scenarios or the oceans. In practice, it is therefore a matter of developing robots that are more flexible and suitable to operate in very critical environmental conditions. Unlike industrial robotics, the service version is not aimed at automating a particular task to increase the productivity of a processing or assembly line, but is intended to extend and improve the capabilities of human hands in extreme environmental conditions.
Maria Chiara Carrozza

Chapter 4. Our Friend the Robot

Whenever I think of the future of robotics, what comes to mind is the image of a lady in her comfortable home in her unspecified city. She is quietly preparing a cake for a dinner that is coming up soon and is mixing the ingredients according to the recipe. This is not an unusual scene—rather it is both traditional and universal. It can take place in different parts of the planet, regardless of places and cultures. If we approach and observe well, however, we discover that the lady is not following a recipe book as my grandmother would have done, or a television program, as my mother would do today, or even using a smartphone with a trendy app, as my daughter normally does. On the contrary, the lady is talking with a kind of one-eyed table-top robotic lamp, whose head swivels, responds and follows the movements of her hands, measures the quantities of the ingredients, and corrects or suggests the actions to be carried out—how to mix, how to add more. It even praises or softly scolds if too many utensils are dirtied.
Maria Chiara Carrozza

Chapter 5. The Robot Inside Us

Robotics offers methods and technologies for prosthetics to progress, and to obtain wearable devices that can substitute the functions of organs or parts of the human body. I have worked for years on the artificial hand, investigating how to replicate touch, to obtain the maximum operational characteristics of the prostheses to restore the ability to grasp in activities of daily living and to ‘feel’ the characteristics of objects. In the scenario of hand prosthesis the robot is no longer outside of us, but on us, and it converses with the intimate part of us thanks to the neuro-prosthesis. This is how wearable robotics originates.
Maria Chiara Carrozza
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