From the evolution of their basic components (such as circular connectors) to their advanced state of A.I, the machines in the robotics industry have seen an almost meteoric rise over the past 10 years in the first world.
However, there’s been a call of concern from some corners about how they may be taking over the corporate side of the U.S.A; damaging job prospects all over the country.
There was quite the fanfare for the announcement of Amazon’s Prime Air in the past couple of weeks with much being made of the leap in technology to allow unmanned drones to deliver airmail, eliminating the need for human dispatchers.
Follow that up with the announcement that Google have snapped up Boston Dynamics who are a firm responsible for the brilliant innovation of animal-like robotics: one of many similar businesses Google have been buying out over the past six months.
One of their inventions which deserves most attention has to be “Cheetah” made by Boston Dynamics which is a machine capable of running faster than Usain Bolt. This all points towards a massive push for the technology branch at Google and there are only set to be more captures from the multi-conglomerate.
And there are even more similar stories making the rounds with Baxter the robot making quite the buzz on the internet for being an efficient if entirely synthetic addition to a workforce. Employees can program Baxter to carry out various tasks with a customisable expression available on his screen to appear more human.
For such a high-end piece of “tech”, you could expect to pay into at least the hundreds of thousands but in fact, Baxter is yours for a (relatively) affordable $22,000. Considering how expensive earlier and less advanced models were, this robot from Rethink Robotics could be shuffling his way into workplaces all over the United States. This is backed up by Mike Davin, editor of The Business of Robotics:
"I guarantee everybody is looking very closely at [using robots], but they're not necessarily advertising their plans yet.
"In one or two years, though, there will be so much to add to the corporate robotics story."
So, what does this mean for the future of human employment? The official line from some of the creators of these machines is that they are there to assist workers and to not negate them entirely.
However, the main reason for their steady increase of implementation in everyday work environments across America has to boil down to their relative affordability. Compare the cost of a robot capable of many functions ($20,000 for a single purchase, running costs of 30¢ an hour) to a human employee (roughly $40,000 per year and all forms of additional benefits on top) and you see a much more economical investment for the long-term.
Although there’s no real cause to panic or anything close to alarm, the most interesting thing to note from the current state of robotics in the workplace is how it will adapt to usage across a whole range of different environments for the near future.
"roughed up by RoboCop" by www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson License: creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/