All these advances in robotics — better grippers, cheaper arms and powerful, affordable vision systems — have allowed smaller businesses to introduce robots at much lower prices. Whereas a big industrial robot might once have cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy, program and install according to a 2007 estimate from the industrial supplier ABB, these newer innovations have helped produce robots with total costs as low as $50,000, making dexterous automation affordable to many more buyers.
Thompson explores the growing potential and possibility of robots that co-exist with humans. This includes moving beyond industrial uses into professional services, such as milking cows, facilitating medical procedures or sorting and ferrying e-commerce products.
Sobalvarro imagines a workplace where, eventually, a human can work alongside big, swinging, heavy arms without risk of injury. It would be, fancifully, a bit like Moses walking into the Red Sea: “The robots are aware of the people and they’re there to serve the people, and they do what is necessary to allow people to move through there safely.”
This piece reminds me of Martin Ford’s book Rise of the Robots. My only concern with the piece is the lack of any critical engagement with the subject. In some respects it reads a little like a ‘press release designed to predict the future‘. Either way it will be interesting to see what will become of robots in the future. Maybe rather than replace humans, robots will make some things ‘more doable‘? It will also be intriguing to see the place of robots in the Global South, where labour costs are often a lot cheaper?