Approximately four decades ago, industrial robots began transforming manufacturing. With their mechanical, programmable arms, they performed tasks such as welding, painting, and the lifting and placing of objects, all of which were based on monotonous regularity. Today’s robots perform these tasks and much more. They build cars, remove land mines, assist with surgical procedures and perform cleaning tasks. The Boston Consulting Group estimates that more than $67 billion will be spent worldwide in the robotics sector by 2025, compared to only $11 billion in 2005.
But automation itself is changing, and experts agree that the next big thing will be the gradual introduction of autonomous systems. What this means is that in the not-too-distant future, robots will no longer require tedious programming. Using machine vision, motion sensors, image and voice recognition, and advanced new software, they will be able to handle increasingly intelligent work, including interacting with and continuously learning from their environment, and especially from people.