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The future of Robotics Technology

  • Accademia di Belle Arti di Macerata


In the last decade the robotics industry has created millions of additional jobs led by consumer electronics and the electric vehicle industry, and by 2020, robotics will be a $100 billion worth industry, as big as the tourism industry. For example, the rehabilitation robot market has grown 10 times between 2010 and 2016, thanks to advancements in rehab/therapy robots, active prostheses, exoskeletons, and wearable robotics. In short, the very next decade robotics will become vital components in a number of applications and robots paired with AI will be able to perform complex actions that are capable of learning from humans, driving the intelligent automation phenomenon. Therefore, in this paper we try to depict the direction and the fields of application of such important sector of future markets, and scientific research.
The future of Robotics Technology
Luigi Pagliarini 1,2 Henrik Hautop Lund 1
1 Centre for Playware, Technical University of Denmark, 2800 Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark
2 Academy of Fine Arts of Macerata, Via Berardi, 6, 405111 Macerata, Italy
In the last decade the robotics industry has created millions of additional jobs led by consumer electronics and the
electric vehicle industry, and by 2020, robotics will be a $100 billion worth industry, as big as the tourism industry.
For example, the rehabilitation robot market has grown 10 times between 2010 and 2016, thanks to advancements
in rehab/therapy robots, active prostheses, exoskeletons, and wearable robotics. In short, the very next decade
robotics will become vital components in a number of applications and robots paired with AI will be able to
perform complex actions that are capable of learning from humans, driving the intelligent automation phenomenon.
Therefore, in this paper we try to depict the direction and the fields of application of such important sector of future
markets, and scientific research.
Keywords: Robotics, healthcare robotics, service robotics, AI robotics, Eco-Robotics, Robot markets.
1. Introduction
Most certainly, in near future, and as for biological
systems, Robotics will be submitted to a selective
pressure under which most of its branches and authors
will change. All of that will happen because of several
factors: the enormous costs of production and
maintenance of such machines; because of the
ecosystemic and energetic costs of the robots, which are
similar if not higher than any other machine; likely due
to the saturation of an already seemingly fragile market.
Because of that, it is quite important to try to predict the
future of intelligent machines in order to focus one’s
efforts on the appropriate field.
In the beginning of the millennium indeed, scientists
and enterprises started to apply the binomial Robot/AI
to almost all of the possible domains with the “naïve”
conception that the emerging technologies could have
dealt with any task. Which is, in part, true. Nevertheless,
on the other side, it slowly becomes self evident that
there is a set of bottlenecks which are quite hard to pass.
To put it in a practical way, there are at least three sets
of problems, which relegate both efficiency, and
functionality of such machines to a limited domain,
largely excluding the dream of a “polyfunctional” robot.
Such limits are (1) Mechanical, (2) Energetic and (3)
Computational. Indeed, robots’ mechanics tends to
reach an unsustainable degree of complexity moving
from a limited to a larger set of outputs. In the very
same way, the energy consumption rises in parallel to
the increasing of degree of freedom of any mechanics,
making the energetic battery life span of a machine
quite harder, up to the a critical level of inadequacy.
Finally, the Computational resources of AI have largely
demonstrated to be very good at solving a single task
while, on the contrary, getting proportionally less
efficient when handling a larger number of possible
outputs. Therefore, the goal of multi-purpose robot is to
be considered unreal and, oppositely, researchers and
businessmen are going for a Robotics that is pretty
specialized in a single task, if not a single subtask.
Given that, it happens that the number of artefacts - that
we call Robots - has been exploited to such a number
that both the scientific and the business markets cannot
actually absorb and, as a consequence, we are about to
face a phase in which selection will become necessary.
Therefore, let’s now see which are the largest and
maybe more promising fields, trying to distinguish their
Journal of Robotics, Networking and Artificial Life, Vol. 3, No. 4 (March 2017), 270-273
Published by Atlantis Press
Copyright: the authors
Luigi Pagliarini, Henrik Hautop Lund
domain of competences with their domains of
application, since the two things that are not necessarily
the same.
2. Robotics Fields
At the moment being, the number of robotics fields is
nearly uncatchable, since robot technology is being
applied in so many domains that nobody is able to know
how many and which they are. Such an exponential
growth cannot be fully tracked and we will try to
identify and discuss upon the most evident fields of
application, which, as far as we, comprehend are:
Healthcare Robotics; Robotics used in the
context of patient monitoring/evaluation,
medical supplies delivery, and assisting
healthcare professionals in unique capacities as
well as, Collaborative robots and robotics used
for Prevention (1,2,3).
Medical and Surgery Robotics; Devices used
in hospitals mostly for assisting surgery since
they allow great precision and minimal
invasive procedures (4,5).
Body-machine interfaces help amputees to
feed-forward controls that detect their will to
move and also receive sensorial feedback that
converts digital readings to feelings (6).
Telepresence Robotics; Act as your stand-in
at remote locations it is meant to be used in
hospitals and for business travellers, with the
idea of saving both time and money (7).
Cyborgs, Exoskeletons, and Wearable
Robotics. Allow users to augment their
physical strength, helping those with physical
disabilities to walk and climb (8).
Humanoids. Combine artificial intelligence
and machine learning technologies to give
robots human-like expressions and reactions
Industrial. Arms, grippers and all of the
warehouse robotics used for automation of
industrial processes. They are used both for
saving money and speed up the productions
Housekeeping. Floors, Gardens Pools and all
the Robot Cleaners (11).
Collaborative Robots. Recently the market
has been opened to Domotics and other Home
and Public Spaces (e.g. Shops) Automation
coordinators (12).
Military Robotics. Drones, Navigators,
Researchers, Warriors and all of the possible
robotics extensions which are to be applied in
spying operations and battle fields (13).
Underwater, Flying and Self -Driving
Machines. All the Robotics that deals with
self-piloting in all circumstances, on earth, air
and water (13).
Space Robots. All of the Robotics used in
Space missions, therefore highly resistant,
expert in exploration and material data
collection (14).
Entertainment. Toys, Games and Interactive
Robotics for children (15).
Art. Most creative robotics, which don’t aim at
a specific functionality but follows criteria of
beauty and conceptual inspiration (16).
Environmental and Alternately powered
robots use sources like solar, wind and wave
energy to be powered indefinitely and open up
applications in areas that are off-grid (17).
Swarm and Microbots allow emergency
responders to explore environments that are too
small or too dangerous for humans or larger
robots; deploying them in “swarms”
compensates for their relatively limited
computational ability (18).
Robotic networks emerge and allow robots to
access databases, share information and learn
from one another’s experience.
Modular Robotics. Robots that can arrange
themselves in pre-set patterns to accomplish
specific tasks (19).
3. Analysis
Let us now look at all of these branches distinguishing
them on two different scales.
Robotics that mainly belongs to the research domain
from those that aim at application, therefore, market
oriented. Fields that are proficient and uprising from
those that seem declining or apparently stuck in a bottle
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The future of Robotics
The Market.
Looking at the market, the richest applications are those
that belong to industrial robotics, where automation of
processes is requiring more and more clever and fast
robots for assembling any kind of product. No
comparison, this is and apparently will be the most
important robotics field for quite a while, at least.
Following that, there are at least few very promising
fields, Entertainment, Medical, Surgery and
Housekeeping Robotics. With a completely different
philosophy few expensive vs. lots of cheap sells - they
established themselves into the market in a quite
persistent way. Nevertheless, even if those market slices
are not saturated yet, we would say they are getting
close to it, leaving little space for future improvement.
We cannot say the same for Industrial Robotics.
The Research.
At the moment, researchers are keen on a set of fields
that are very interesting under the scientific point of
view but, oppositely, pretty poor as market chances.
They are Humanoids, Telepresence, Swarm, Microbots,
Robotic Networks, Modular Robotics, and Body-
Machine Interfaces. Such fields are crucial for basic-
research and, probably, something exceptional will
come out of all these investigations, but for the moment
being, we can’t foresee a single reasonably profitable
application from all of them. On the contrary,
Underwater, Self -Driving Machines and, in particular,
Flying Robots (e.g. Amazon’s Drones, etc.) are moving
towards a promising number of vends and who’s impact
can be more than consistent in the next decade.
The Exceptions.
An odd man out seems to be both Space and Military
Robotics. For these two quite rich fields - where the
concept of research and application tend to melt there
is still a large margin of exploration and exploitation. Of
course, besides any further consideration, both Space
and Military application can be considered, under the
economical point of view, self-sustaining since they
both produce and consume for their own market.
The Upcoming.
There are few promising fields of robotics for the early
future. They are Exoskeletons, Wearable Robotics,
Healthcare and Collaborative Robotics. There is,
indeed, a flow of investments both from Medical and
Fashion Houses that are trying to sustain the research in
these fields. Investments are motivated by marketing
reasons and, sometime, by a real intent of generating a
new trend in their consumers market.
Out of trend
In its short history, Robotics is already producing
leftovers. Indeed, few branches of past pretty popular
Robotics are getting out of trend. They are Humanoids,
Geminoids, Cyborgs, etc. Their appeal and impact on
the public (and on a big slice of researchers) seems to be
fading away, as if both the experimentation and the
public imaginary had been saturated.
At the moment, the most innovative branch is
Environmental and Alternately Powered Robotics that is
attracting interests from different Institutes and
Industries. Anyway, few are the existing
application (i.e.: toys, navigation, etc.) and they do not
represent a valuable set by which we could evaluate
their effective potentialities. Nevertheless, they
theoretically represent a quite important goal since a big
obstacle in this machine-driven society is around the
energy costs, and renewable energies in Robotics, as in
all other applications seems to be the unique answer.
An important answer to the energy consumption
question may also be found in the branch of
Neurorobotics (20) which exploits Neuromorphic
computing. Here, Research is investigating the use of
processes similar to (human) brain processes, which
offer large scale computation at a much lower energy
consumption than is currently known in any
computational/robotic device.
4. Conclusions
In the last two decades Robotics has literally exploded,
both in terms of research and applications. It has
invaded the people’s imaginary and almost all of the
existing markets, up to the point that, on one side, we
can spot at robotics news each single day and, on the
other, Robotics is about to reach a market slice of 100
Published by Atlantis Press
Copyright: the authors
Luigi Pagliarini, Henrik Hautop Lund
Billions dollars. In this paper we tried to summarize and
analyse which are the most profitable and promising
branches and where to look for new horizons. It appears
that Industries’ Automation is the leader of such a world
while a number of applications are consolidating
themselves or about to emerge and to play a consistent
role in Robotics research and production. They are
Healthcare, Surgery, Housekeeping, Autonomous
Vehicles and, in part, Entertainment. We also
underlined which are the branches that seem to lose
affection of markets and researches, as for example
Humanoids, and those who are gaining interests, as for
example Alternately Powered Robotics. It is our belief
that our analysis can provide a wider view on the world
of Robotics and how to approach it in the early future.
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