Sponsored By SoCal Toyota

By Linda Cameron

The engineering field is both dynamic and painstakingly detailed; the field covers multiple disciplines including new scientific and medical discoveries. In both robust and slow job markets, the demand for qualified engineers has remained strong. Here are recent developments with social benefits that are yielding new opportunities.

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Endearing Robotics

Droids are definitely in, thanks to AI (artificial intelligence). They work in manufacturing, homes, offices, and medical and research facilities. Droids are also becoming increasingly important in the customer service industry as they’re utilized in hotels and restaurants. Far from surreal, AI is an engineering reality with humanitarian leanings. People-friendly droids are assisting medical scientists, medical practitioners, home caregivers, educators, and many everyday people. While robotics will play a vital role in planet and galaxy explorations, its function on planet Earth is not totally outlandish.

  • HAL (hybrid assistive limb)  is helping the physically disabled strengthen their mobility, motor skills, balance and
    coordination. HAL is also helping athletes improve their personal best.
  • In the world of food and wine, robots are preparing complete meals in record time. At a downtown Boston restaurant, robots – under the supervision of a Michelin-starred chef – prepare gourmet dishes for scores of hungry patrons. In some overseas restaurants, droid food servers can also engage in small talk with customers.
  • Household chores have been the bane of homemakers since the dawn of time. Although mid and late 20th-century household appliances were time savers, they could not alleviate the tedium of deep cleaning and dust ball removal. For now, robotic appliances such as the iRobot Roomba are quite expensive. But affordably priced robots that can scrub away hidden dirt and do lawn work and gardening will someday be at our door. Digital Trends has reviewed a handful of domestic robots built to handle the most unpleasant chores. The SpotMini robotic, which can cart heavy loads in a limited valet capacity, is also an amusing substitute for a real dog.

Will robots eventually replace real people? The current robot generation isn’t wired for imaginative thinking. So far, AI has yet to surpass the creative minds of celebrated inventors such as Thomas Edison and Leonardo da Vinci. But the exploits of spacecraft AI computer Hal 9000, Robbie the Robot and Star Wars robots R2D2 and C3PO will entertain you on film and in books. (Incidentally, assistive HAL and robo Hal 9000 don’t share the same family tree.)

Life in the Fast Lane

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Tesla Motors was a groundbreaker in the design and rollout of the electric car. Now Tesla is at the helm of autonomous (self-driving) motor vehicles. As other carmakers jump onto the self-driving bandwagon, private ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft are competing for fleets of autonomous cars. Yet, due to high profile mishaps involving driverless vehicles, it appears the public is not quite ready to ride in a self-driving car.

Okay, how about a flying car that soars above gridlocked roads and highways? The vehicle in the design phase of takeoff is the Lilium Jet, a type of aircraft that will speed up traveling from city to city through on-demand air transport services. The appointed designer, a carmaker, has designed the BMW, Mini, Ferrari, Maserati, Fiat, Alfa Romeo and McLaren. In concept, the Lilium Jet is not the ordinary domestic shuttle. But this jet is no drone. Call it the stylish airborne version of on-demand ground transportation for passengers. Will this piloted flying car become an autopilot passenger drone with autonomous directional coordinates and air traffic control? A complete air and ground passenger drone might someday be on the horizon.

Building Regenerative Body Parts

Organ or limb regeneration following surgical removal due to illness or accident is a medical advancement patients hope for. A new branch of biotech, tissue engineering integrates molecular biology, nanotechnology, and bioengineering. The goal is to reconstruct and replace damaged organs, skin and tissue with living tissue and organs without heavy reliance on donors and artificial materials. Tissue sources can come from the patient’s own body, stem cells, and other living organisms.


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