There is a critical mass of innovation and momentum in robotics right now. Recent advances in actuator miniaturization, prosthetics, micro-sensors, machine learning, the "internet of things" (IoT), "light-weighting," batteries, and manufacturing -- often referred to as Industry 4.0 -- are combining with increasing investments in research and development (R&D) and growing social and legal acceptance. As a result, autonomous, mobile, and often humanoid robots will be with us very soon.
How soon is up for debate, but the companies developing these robots are getting bigger and more powerful and the advances more rapid. Boston Dynamics, the company that makes the robots you may have seen dancing and performing parkour on YouTube, and whose inspection robot Spot is already commercially available for just $75,000, was recently acquired by Hyundai.
However, Hyundai didn't acquire Boston Dynamics to make videos. The company will soon be mass producing robots like cars. They will be unlike the simple, single-function industrial and professional service robots of today or the imaginary individualized humanoid robots of science fiction. The robots they and other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will make will be smart, ubiquitous, capable of taking on multiple complex tasks, and affordable.
Equipped with a wide variety of sensors, and connected to the internet, these robots won't need individual and expensive "brains." They will be managed by cloud-based control systems that will be continuously improved and updated to offer a wide variety of robot control packages and subscriptions. Want your robot to cook dinner? Subscribe to the chef package. Clean the office? Download the janitorial program. Take care of the garden? Subscribe to the landscaping option.
When they arrive, these robots will revolutionize the world. Businesses are already buying more than $100 billion worth of robots to supplement and replace human labor in manufacturing, inspection, maintenance, agriculture, military, logistics, construction, and medicine. They will buy and deploy more of these new, higher functioning, and more flexible robots.
Consumers will also adopt them as personal service robots to cook, clean, garden, and provide security and companionship. Probably at the same rate they bought other highly priced but desirable consumer items. Automobiles achieved a penetration rate of nearly 60 percent of U.S. households within 15 years. Cell phones and computers achieved close to 100 percent within 20 to 30 years.
If the current labor shortage continues and/or demand for goods and services grows, robot labor and the productivity gains it brings will be welcome. If, however, demand has stagnated or declined, robots will be feared and resisted.
Regardless, the changes will be massive, and policy and preparation will almost certainly lag behind the technology. Fear or obliviousness will lead many to over- or under-react. Some people will try to preserve revenue and jobs using protectionism. Others will ignore the changes or believe market dynamics will sort everything out over time and fail to adapt to the new market realities.
Far-sighted businesses and governments, therefore, have a window of opportunity. Those who plan and act now will be the first to realize the productivity, revenue, and quality of life gains robots will bring and will likely be the leaders of the second half of the 21st century.
If you are an entrepreneur or business leader, you should be proactively positioning your organization for this change now. Identify where robot labor can and should be added, how robots will reduce costs, and where they can improve your existing products and services.
Think through and plan out how you will manage and lead your employees and customers through the coming changes. Project when and where the robot revolution will create new and greater opportunities for your business and where it will remove them. And begin innovating new products and services that will leverage and complement robots now.
In short, work out who the winners and losers will be, and make sure your business is one of the winners.
There is a critical mass of innovation and momentum in robotics right now. Global original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are investing billions of dollars in development. Industry 4.0 is making cost-effective mass production feasible. Machine learning, the "internet of things" (IoT), and cloud computing are solving the tech and control issues. And there is a labor shortage in the developed world, driving need.
But how long will it be before smart, autonomous, mobile, humanoid robots capable of taking on multiple complex tasks hit the market? And when will the price point be reasonable?
Boston Dynamics, the company that makes the robots you may have seen dancing and performing on YouTube, was recently acquired by Hyundai. The company already has an inspection robot called Spot, commercially available for just $75,000. And last month, Elon Musk announced that the Tesla Bot humanoid robot prototype will be launched in 2022.
Futurists therefore predict that fully functioning humanoid personal and professional service robots will be with us within a few years. But they also tend to underestimate the complexity of creating a device that can function in radically different environments.
A robot that can cook successfully in a test kitchen, where all the equipment and ingredients are always in the same place, won't be able to cook in your kitchen until it is able to sense and determine exactly where everything is. It also must be able to deal with unexpected changes to the environment, like your dog begging for scraps, and identify different ingredients and spices as well as fresh and bad food.
Building that level of sensitivity and differentiating "intelligence" into the robot and control systems is complex. The first truly autonomous vehicles were developed by Navlab at Carnegie Mellon in 1984. To get from there to cars that can navigate different streets with different levels of traffic and unpredictable drivers and pedestrians has taken 37 years.
It won't be 37 years before we have robots that can cook and clean for us, though. A lot of the advances in autonomous vehicles are directly applicable to robots, and labs have been working on robots in parallel. In fact, humans have been working on robots for literally thousands of years. The artisan Yan Shi reputedly made humanoid mechanical automata that could sing and dance more than 3,000 years ago!
There are still complex problems to solve, but those solutions are in sight. Advances in artificial intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning combined with cloud computing mean that one semi-smart cloud-based control system can operate and manage millions of robots centrally. Geospatial mapping tools like GeoSLAM allow robots to scan, map, and navigate complex and changing environments. Smart prosthetics have provided robot manufacturers with templates and proven technology for smart robot limbs, hands, feet, and fingers.
Micro-sensors allow robots to sense temperature, pressure, torque, acceleration, velocity, humidity, sound, magnetic fields, radiation, and optical, biological, biomedical, and chemical parameters -- like, for example, food going bad. And micro-actuators allow them to operate with dexterity, so you can trust them to handle your grandmother's best china and even delicate fruit, without bruising it.
At Pepper Foster, we predict that the first relatively limited but still multi-functional humanoid professional service robots will be launched within five to seven years. The initial price point will be high but still compelling. Robots can work three or four times as many hours per week as a human, so a robot priced at roughly $200,000 will return on investment (ROI) within two to three years.
Personal service robots marketed to consumers will likely arrive five years later. Mass production and financing will bring the price point down to the cost of owning a car. And, if consumer adoption patterns match those of other high-priced but desirable products, we will see 50 to 70 percent of U.S. households owning or leasing a personal service robot by 2050.
It's not quite the Jetsons, but the long dreamed about future of robot labor is almost here.
There is a critical mass of innovation and momentum in robotics right now. Global original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are investing billions of dollars in development. Industry 4.0 is making cost-effective mass production feasible. Machine learning, internet of things (IoT), and cloud computing are solving the tech and control issues. And there is a labor shortage in the developed world, driving need.
Smart, autonomous, mobile, humanoid robots capable of taking on multiple complex tasks will probably be with us within five to seven years. Elon Musk announced that the Tesla Bot humanoid robot prototype will be launched in 2022.When they arrive, they will change the world.
One of the biggest fears about robots is that they will take all the jobs. Based on a simple high-level analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 67 million of the 163 million jobs in the U.S. today could be performed by a semi-smart humanoid robot or autonomous vehicle. And, because robots can work three or four times as many hours per week as a human worker and take no vacations, they will likely be able to take on three to four jobs each while still leaving plenty of time for charging and maintenance.
Business adoption of robots will be a financial no-brainer. Even if a robot is replacing just two minimum wage workers in the U.S., a robot's price point of around $200,000 will be ROI positive within three3 years. To put that price tag into perspective, you can already buy the Spot inspection robot from Boston Dynamics for $75,000.
Because manufacturing has largely moved offshore, the tipping point for robot adoption in the U.S. will be when robots are able to perform and are accepted in service jobs. Once they can do that, we will see a dramatic adoption of robot labor.
Over the last few years, global growth and the COVID pandemic have created a supply/demand imbalance and a labor shortage. If that continues and/or the global demand for goods and services grows even more, the addition of professional service robots will have only positive effects. Robot labor will replace and displace human labor. Any displaced workers will be quickly re-employed into new jobs created by the growth.
If, however, demand stagnates or declines, human workers will likely be replaced by robots at a greater pace than they can find new jobs. Higher unemployment levels will result. Counterintuitively, the cure for this will be more robots!
Robots will increase leisure time and create new jobs
When personal service robots reach a price point equivalent to a car, the consumer market will explode. Historically consumers have adopted other initially high-priced but desirable labor saving devices extremely rapidly. When they do, the increase in leisure time these devices create leads to a host of business and employment opportunities in jobs that fill that extra leisure time with entertainment, travel, games, and hobbies.
Robots can work in environments and do things that humans can't. They are physically stronger, less fragile, have more stamina, can work in dangerous conditions, don't need mandatory breaks or safety precautions, and won't sue their employer, strike, or demand more pay.
Things that were previously impossible because of the physical, legal, or financial risk will not only be possible, but cheap and easy. Construction, exploration, commercial fishing, farming, and transportation will all see massive productivity gains and cost reductions. Entrepreneurs will immediately identify new markets and opportunities that can be opened using robot labor that were previously impossible, or at least financially impractical before.
So, yes, robots will take some jobs, but they will also create tremendous economic growth, increase leisure time, and improve living standards across the board.
This post first appeared on Inc.com at https://www.inc.com/inc-masters/the-robots-are-coming.html
Let's partner to find the perfect solution for your organization and make a difference together.Contact us ⟶