Are you scared of robots taking your job? Should you be? Or perhaps you have caught a glimpse of the robots over at Boston Dynamics and have started preparing for the impending Skynet apocalypse. We admit that the potential for acrobatic, blindingly fast robots has us a bit spooked. However, this is partly because robots are set to disrupt multiple industries in the near future.
The continual and rapid progress of artificial intelligence, combined with readily available large data sets, lower prices for sensors and electronics, and a steady demand for efficiency, could be paving the way for a coming “robot revolution.” In fact, in some ways, it is already here. Think of the adoption of robotics across industries as two distinct phrases. We can think of the “first phase,” as when the world was introduced to machines that could perform repetitive tasks. One example of this is seen in automobile manufacturing assembly lines.
The second phase, which has already started, could be described as involving industrial robots that can not only perform simple tasks but also respond to new information and adapt in real-time, performing more complex tasks traditionally reserved for humans. Businesses in industries ranging from agriculture to aviation are embracing this incoming wave of innovation. Nevertheless, for many people, the prospect of widespread industry disruption leads to the inevitable question: “What about my job?”
Robotics could cause job loss, but it could also create jobs.
This is a legitimate concern. It is also not the first time people have feared the power of efficient automation. In fact, a story of apocryphal origin claims the word was originally used to refer to protests against industrialization by French workers, who threw their wooden shoes. called sabots, into the machinery.
One true store that is often referred to when discussing the advent of robot workers is the American Teller Story.
In the early 1990s, U. S. banks began installing automated teller machines across the country. These machines could do just about everything a human teller could do. This fueled fears of job loss, and in fact, the number of human tellers did begin to decline, but at the same time, there was also some good news. The cost-saving brought on by the “robotic teller machines” encouraged banks to open up more branches. Overall, employment in the commercial banking sector actually went up.
To further illustrate this trend, a report put together by the accountancy firm PwC estimated that between 2017 and 2037, artificial intelligence and robotics will displace up to 7 million jobs. However, the reduction in costs caused by the use of AI and robots would, in turn, generate 7.2 million new jobs, giving a net gain of 200,000 jobs. The argument is not that robots will always create jobs, but that in most instances, it can. Change is coming, and here are some of the industries that will be most affected.
Robots are likely to be a big part of the medical field
One area that is sometimes overlooked when discussing robotic disruption is medicine. Nevertheless, this is an industry heavily dependent on precision and efficiency, and advances in robotics could impact a wide area of healthcare practices, including but not limited to surgery, rehabilitation, therapy, and even mental health.
A 2018 report published by the International Federation of Robotics found that he total value of sales of medical robots was around $1.9 billion and accounted for 29 percent of the total sales value of professional service robots in 2017. Not only this, but the industry is growing, with one report stating that the medical robots market is expected to reach $16.74 billion by 2023, up from an estimated value of $6.46 billion in 2018.
The report found that the most important applications are in robot-assisted surgery, and therapy and rehabilitation robots, which assist people who have a disability or provide physical or cognitive therapy.
Robotic surgery could well have massive potential. Companies like Intuitive Surgical, Microbot, and Mazor are industry leaders in the area of robotic surgery technology. Just last year, robot-assisted surgeries were already being used in major procedures by the British National Health Service (NHS). At the same time, at Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts, a robot operated alongside doctors to fix a child’s leaky heart valve.
As the technology evolves, we can expect to see more automated robotic procedures.
Remote presence robots are also becoming more sophisticated, with tech robot superpower iRobot leading the charge. These allow outpatient specialists to interact with patients who are stuck at home. In a world dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, tools like this could be crucial in helping vulnerable patients at home, although the costs are currently still high.
Robots could make farming much easier
An array of new technologies are changing the agriculture industry. Artificial intelligence, drone technology, 5G, and of course, robotics, could help usher in a new age of farming. And the IoT technology becoming cheaper and more accessible is speeding up this change. Developments in autonomous technologies are helping farmers with milking robots, driverless tractors, and automated harvesting systems, just to name a few.
According to Markets and Markets, the agricultural robot market is projected to grow from $7.4 billion in 2020 to $20.6 billion by 2025. Other areas within the industry that are likely to experience some form of growth include planting, crop seeding, crop monitoring, fertilization, and irrigation. Robotics could eventually also help in agricultural areas suffering from a lack of workers, such as crop harvesting, or in areas that are dangerous, such as pesticide administration.
Robots will make your food
As we have discussed before in more detail; artificial intelligence and robotics could soon be infiltrating your favorite restaurant, and even your home kitchen. Imagine coming home to a pair of robotic hands that can prepare Michelin star quality meals for you. This is the future, and the company Moley Robotics is one of many that are working in this area. The team at Morley recently demonstrated a sleek pair of robotic arms that can cook hundreds of meals in a home kitchen with little provision.
Robots will entertain you and your family
Speaking of home, robots are already making their way inside. Though most robots designed for home use look like novelty toys, such as the Roomba, advancements are rapidly changing that. Personal robot assistants that are under development offer a plethora of features. Robots like Aido, Zenbo, and Kuri can be used as communication hubs, smart hubs, music players, security systems, and can create learning experiences for children.
At the moment, these might seem more like glorified smart speakers, but developers in AI are also slowly implementing the ability to detect and respond to emotions and incorporating the sense of touch into virtual reality.
Outside home applications, expect to see more robots being used for functions like crowd control at festivals, parks, and other events. In Singapore, robots are being used to remind park-goers to practice social distancing. According to Market Research Future, the area of entertainment robots is expected to reach a market value of about $20 billion by 2023.
The military will be using robots
The ever-changing geopolitical landscape has encouraged more governments to increase their use of robots in combat. In fact, according to Research and Markets, the rise of terrorist activities across the globe has been a leading factor in the development of uncrewed systems.
The possibilities for robotics within military and defense are vast. Robots could someday to used for not only pick off snipers but also to rescue people. Expect to see more robots used to help the military with intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, search and rescue, combat support, mine clearance, explosive ordnance, and fire fighting.
The disruption doesn't stop there
Of course, the area poised to see some of the biggest changes from robotics is in manufacturing. In many areas, robots are now more efficient in unskilled labor than actual human laborers in many manufacturing industries. And manufacturers are taking notice. According to the International Federation of Robotics, the global industrial robot sales doubled over the five years between 2013 and 2017. These numbers are only expected to increase. IoT technology and AI will also accelerate this process, helping manufacturers meet real-time demand much faster than in previous decades.
Within the automotive industry, autonomous vehicles and delivery robots are becoming more common. Robots are even helping us design better vehicles. Other areas, like your home and school, are sure to benefit from robotics as domestic and educational robots also become more common.
As we said before, change is coming. 5G technology, more responsive artificial intelligence, and the emergence of smart cities are all likely to accelerate this change. How do you think robotics and artificial intelligence will impact your industry?
If you are interested in the world of robotics, be sure to check out all of our latest articles regarding robotics here.