The emergence of robotics technology in recent years has marked a significant turning point in our relationship with automation as we witness the rapid transformation of various industries and aspects of our daily lives.
Robots are no longer limited to just assembly lines or scientific research; they are now being used in fields such as healthcare, agriculture, logistics, and entertainment.
Emerging robotics technology is enabling the creation of smarter and more versatile robots, which can perform complex tasks and adapt to various environments.
According to data insights from BIS Research, the future of autonomous systems: emerging technologies and opportunities market was valued at $3.15 billion in 2022, and it is expected to be $5.68 billion by 2033.
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As we continue to push the boundaries of what robots can do, we can expect to see even more innovative and transformative applications in the near future.
This article will explore some of the emerging trends in robotics technology that are set to disrupt and transform future markets.
1. Rise of Cobots in Manufacturing and Warehouse Management
Collaborative robots or Cobots are a new breed of robots designed to work alongside humans in a shared workspace. Unlike traditional industrial robots that require a separate area or fencing to keep workers safe, Cobots can safely interact with humans without posing any threat to their safety.
As such, Cobots are a cost-effective and efficient way for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to improve their production processes and increase productivity.
Cobots come in various shapes and sizes, and they can perform various tasks, such as welding, machine tending, packaging, and palletizing. They are designed to be easy to program and reprogram, making them ideal for tasks that require frequent changes.
Moreover, Cobots are typically low-cost, making them an affordable solution for SMEs looking to automate their processes.
Some of the leading companies that offer Cobots and navigation software include Techman Robotics, Universal Robots, Mobile Industrial Robots, KUKA Robotics, and FANUC America Corporation.
These companies also offer a wide range of solutions for various industries and applications, such as logistics and warehouse management.
Recent developments in Cobots manufacturing have focused on enhancing safety, precision, and versatility by integrating accessories and software.
For instance, in 2021, ABB launched its latest Cobots model, the GoFa, which has a payload capacity of up to 5 kg and a reach of up to 0.7 meters. Moreover, ABB has also introduced a new software platform called ABB Ability, which enables users to monitor and optimize their Cobots in real time.
2. Q-Commerce to Increase Demand for Autonomous Delivery Robots
Autonomous delivery robots are gaining popularity as an alternative to traditional delivery methods. According to BIS Research, the global last-mile delivery robot market was valued at $18.1 million in 2021 and is estimated to reach $36.2 million by 2032 at a CAGR of 6.22% during the forecast period 2022-2032.
This growth is attributed to various factors, including reduced delivery costs in last-mile deliveries and increased venture funding. In addition, the rise of Q-commerce, a new trend in e-commerce that focuses on delivering products to customers as quickly as possible, is having a significant impact on last-mile delivery. With the need for faster and more efficient delivery, businesses are turning to autonomous robots to meet the demands of their customers.
Outdoor robots for last-mile delivery are equipped with advanced navigation technology, such as GPS, LiDAR, and cameras, which allows them to navigate and avoid obstacles and pedestrians, reducing the chances of delays or missed deliveries. This makes outdoor robots a safer alternative to human drivers, who can get distracted or make mistakes on the road.
Legged robots are a new technology that is being developed for last-mile delivery operations. These robots are designed to walk on two or four legs, similar to a human or animal, and have the ability to traverse different types of terrain, including stairs, hills, and uneven surfaces, which can be difficult for traditional wheeled robots.
This allows them to reach areas that were previously inaccessible for delivery, such as high-rise buildings, parks, or remote locations. Several companies are currently developing legged robots for last-mile delivery operations.
In the last few years, several companies have already begun incorporating autonomous delivery robots, including drones, ground-based robots, and other autonomous delivery systems, into their operations to meet the growing demand for fast and convenient delivery options.
Examples of companies that have adopted these technologies include Amazon, FedEx, Starship Technologies, Boston Dynamics, Agility Robotics, ANYbotics, Ghost Robotics, and Sarcos Robotics.
3. Addition of Humanoids in the Workforce: Boon or Bane?
Humanoid robots have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their potential to perform a wide range of tasks, from mundane to complex.
The development of humanoid robots has been driven by a desire to create machines that can interact with humans in a natural and intuitive way.
One of the key features of humanoid robots is their ability to imitate human movements and expressions. This is achieved through the use of sophisticated sensors, cameras, and other technologies that allow the robot to perceive its surroundings and respond to them in a human-like manner.
Humanoids are also equipped with artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms that enable them to learn from their experiences and improve their performance over time.
There are several areas where humanoid robots are being developed and deployed. For example, in manufacturing, humanoid robots are being used to perform tasks that are repetitive, dangerous, or require high levels of precision. In healthcare, they are being developed to provide assistance to patients and caregivers, especially those with mobility or communication impairments.
Humanoid robots are also being developed for educational and entertainment purposes. For example, they can be used to teach children about robotics and engineering or to provide interactive experiences in museums and theme parks.
Despite their potential benefits, humanoid robots also pose several challenges. One of the main concerns is the ethical implications of creating machines that can imitate humans. There are also concerns about the impact of humanoid robots on the job market, as they may replace human workers in certain industries.
Furthermore, the companies that produce humanoids include Agility Robotics, Hanson Robotics, Engineered Arts, Apptronik, and more.
For instance, Boston Dynamics revealed its Atlas humanoid robot in September 2021. This robot is built for mobility and has the ability to execute intricate movements, such as backflips and handstands. It can also navigate through rough terrain and carry out tasks in a variety of settings.
Such automation through these emerging humanoid robots is driving a significant demand in the market, where startups and major manufacturers, such as Open AI, Figure, and Tesla, are joining the race.
4. Step Toward Sustainability with Soft Robotics
Soft robotics is a subfield of robotics that focuses on the development of robots made from soft, flexible materials such as elastomers, hydrogels, and textiles. These robots can perform a wide range of tasks that traditional rigid robots cannot, including tasks that require a high level of dexterity, adaptability, and compliance.
Soft robots can be designed to interact safely with the human body, making them useful for applications such as drug delivery, surgical tools, and prosthetics. For example, researchers have developed soft robotic sleeves that can be worn around the heart to help it pump blood more effectively, as well as soft robotic gloves that can help stroke patients recover their hand function.
In manufacturing, soft robots can be used for tasks that require delicate manipulation of objects, such as assembly and packaging. Soft robots can also be designed to work alongside humans in collaborative settings, where they can assist with tasks that are difficult or dangerous for humans to perform alone.
In exploration and search and rescue, soft robots can be used to navigate complex and unpredictable environments, such as rubble piles or debris fields. Soft robots can also be designed to withstand extreme temperatures, pressures, and other environmental conditions that would damage traditional rigid robots.
One of the main benefits of soft robotics is its potential for sustainability. Soft robots can be designed with biodegradable materials, making them more environment-friendly and reducing the amount of waste generated by robotic systems.
For instance, a team of engineers led by Ellen Rumley, a graduate student in the Paul M. Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, has made significant progress in this area. This was announced on April 20, 2023.
It is a collaborative effort of researchers from CU Boulder and the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany, and the study was published in the journal- Science Advances.
The researchers have created a novel robotic actuator, also known as an artificial muscle, which can provide realistic movements to robotic limbs and gradually decompose in the ground within a few months.
This actuator is constructed entirely from sustainable materials and possesses the same versatility as conventional hydraulically amplified self-healing electrostatic (HASEL) actuators.
It can endure bending for over 100,000 cycles without sustaining damage. This innovative material system presents intriguing possibilities for applications that necessitate components designed for one-time or limited usage, including areas like food processing or medical applications.
This research marks a significant step toward sustainability in robotics, as it allows for the creation of compostable robotic systems that can be safely disposed of at the end of their useful life.
Furthermore, another way that soft robotics can contribute to sustainability is through energy efficiency. Soft robots can be designed to require less energy to operate than traditional rigid robots, as their soft actuators can be powered by fluid pressure, electroactive polymers, or shape-memory alloys.
Moreover, soft robots can be designed to use energy-harvesting technologies, such as solar cells or piezoelectric materials, to generate power from their environment.
5. Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS)
Robots-as-a-service (RaaS) is an emerging trend in robotics that is changing the way businesses approach automation. By providing a subscription-based model, RaaS eliminates the need for a large upfront investment, allowing smaller firms to access the latest robotics technology.
RaaS offers a flexible and scalable solution that can be adjusted in real time, allowing companies to optimize their production processes.
Moreover, RaaS providers offer maintenance and support services, freeing companies from the burden of maintaining and repairing their robots.
The emerging trends discussed in this article are just the tip of the iceberg, and we can expect to see even more disruptive and transformative technologies in the coming years.
As robotics technology continues to advance, robots will play a critical role in addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges, such as climate change, disaster response, and sustainable agriculture.
However, the ethical implications of robotics also demand careful consideration, particularly concerning privacy, data security, and accountability.
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