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Photo Credits: Unsplash | Maximalfocus

Rise Of The Machines: Robots In Singapore, Cute Or Creepy?

The pandemic came, and the pandemic stayed. As crowds thinned out and we became more ensconced at home, certain metallic objects started making an entrance. Don’t worry, The Terminator isn’t here (yet), it’s just friendly robots making all our lives more convenient.

COVID-19 has certainly accelerated the introduction of such technology; our generation might see Singapore become the Smart Nation we are slowly but surely gearing towards (read our coverage of the recent Robotic Coffee Barista).

While some are cute and could even be considered "cuddly", others are decidedly dystopian, and remind us of certain horrifying episodes from "Black Mirror", the popular Netflix show examining unanticipated consequences of new technology.

Here, our round-up (and cuddly-creepy verdict) of some of the machines in our midst:

Robot traffic cop spotted at Changi Airport

Parking at an unauthorised area around Changi Airport? You might want to move your vehicle, RoboCop is watching.

Posted by The Straits Times on Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Robot Traffic Cop

Our verdict: Neither, it's just a naggy robot.

What it does: This robot traffic cop spotted at Changi Airport looks quite smart, sporting orange and black colours with the label of "Auxiliary Police" stamped across its front. The 1m tall "RoboCop" belonging to Certis is fully autonomous and conducts patrols with “Traffic Enforcement in Progress” flashing to notify visitors of its role. It can even point its camera at a car that is waiting at an unauthorised area and flash the sign "No Parking".

The Shelf-Reading Robot is a pilot project that helps senior staff with task of manually checking all the shelves.

Posted by National Library Board, Singapore on Friday, November 27, 2015

Robot Librarian

Our verdict: Cute!

What it does: Being a librarian is tough, especially when you need to rearrange books properly all the time since people place them everywhere except in their original spots. But librarians can let out a mini cheer with the Shelf-Reading Robot - the product of a collaboration between A*Star and National Library Board - as it ensures books are where they should be with a 99 per cent accuracy score. Patrons can even search for the location of a book using NLB’s app, right down to the shelf it’s placed in.

Food Delivery

Our verdict: Cute!

What it does: Food delivery services got a huge boon during the Circuit Breaker but they may soon be a thing of the past. Singapore’s first outdoor delivery robot named “Whizz” has entered the delivery scene, created by a team of NTU students. So far, they’ve successfully delivered hundreds of meals to hungry students across campus and they may one day overtake big names such as Grabfood and Foodpanda!

Autonomous Cleaning Robot

Our verdict: Cute!

What it does: As with everything, our products always need that special "Singaporean” flavour. Autonomous cleaning robots that remind us of Wall-E can sing, rap, speak in the four official languages here - as well as Singlish! - have been spotted in places such as National Gallery and Changi Airport. Local start-up LionsBot is making hundreds of these robots to be deployed in many more places in Singapore, with cleaning companies and building owners being offered the opportunity to rent their cleaning robots for a monthly fee.

Catch the robots in action

! We present to you the Hornbill, hTetro, Emu, Dragonfly & Falcon! Tampines Town Council is working with SUTD Singapore University of Technology & Design to test these 5 robots at the Tampines Round Market & Food Centre. Together with our cleaners, the robots will keep the estate clean. Ensuring a clean and safe environment is a collaborative effort. Everyone has a part to play to keep our home clean and hygienic. #ourtampines #tampinestowncouncil #ilovetampines #tampinestogether #ReImaginingTampines

Posted by Tampines Town Council on Monday, September 21, 2020

Friendly Neighbourhood Helper

Our verdict: Cute!

What it does: Hornbill, hTetro, Emu, Dragonfly, Falcon. Nope, these aren’t attractions at the Singapore Zoo or Jurong Bird Park. They are the names of robots deployed to perform various tasks such as clean floors, inspect false ceilings, disinfect lift panels and map the density of mosquitoes nearby. These helpful robots are being test-bedded at Tampines Round Market and Food Centre and could be rolled out to other food centres in future.

Security surveillance robots, drones and touchless buttons will soon be a common sight in your next visit to our NUHS...

Posted by National University Health System - NUHS on Friday, September 25, 2020

High-tech Hospital

Our verdict: Neither, just there to ensure rules are followed.

What it does: Robots, drones, and touch-free technologies are soon becoming the new normal at several hospitals. At Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, a robot will scan your SafeEntry check-in, record your temperature and even detect visitors or patients not wearing masks or adhering to social distancing rules. Don’t play play hor, it can deny rule-flouting people entry. At the National University Hospital, it will have a roving security robot that can identify suspicious activities such as crowding or people loitering in restricted areas, and alert security officers in the control room.

Security Officer

Our verdict: Cute!

What it does: Star Wars fans, may the force be with you. Or in this case, the security force is strong with these ones: robot security officers OB1FORC3 and K3NOBI. Developed by local security company Oneberry Technologies, they are equipped with intelligent surveillance cameras, sensors and video analytics capabilities. They participated in Exercise Station Guard at Ang Mo Kio MRT, an emergency preparedness exercise carried out by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the SMRT.

Mata Mata

Our verdict: Neither, just ensuring rules are followed.

What it does: When COVID-19 hit, our migrant worker friends were badly affected. To reduce the risk of transmission in dormitories, autonomous police robots were deployed to ensure safe distancing. Two Multi-purpose All-Terrain Autonomous Robots, or Matar, operate with cameras and speakers, and can be controlled remotely by a person in a command centre.

Spot the Robot

Our verdict: Creepy AF!

What it does:This dog can’t play fetch or roll over for belly rubs, but it can sure nag you to death. Boston Dynamics’ four-legged Spot robot will remind park visitors about safe distancing measures. It was first trialled in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park with this "Black Mirror"-esque robot broadcasting pre-recorded messages “to remind park visitors to observe safe distancing measures". Spot is remotely controlled, but it has built-in sensors to stop collisions and a human guide accompanies it.


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