This post is part of a series of broad explainers aimed at demystifying complex exponential technologies impacting the world and driving Fuel Venture Capital’s investment thesis and prospects. For more explainers, including a post on AR/VR/XR, see our main page.
From delivering faster customer service to producing higher quality products with increasingly precise and efficient operations, robotics technology is dramatically reshaping the global economy. As the world continues to be digitized and powered by AI, increased computing power and advances in machine learning, robotics is at the cusp of radically changing industries. How companies harness robotics power will dictate their overall success.
Through the evolution of robotics, the abilities and use cases of robots have expanded alongside technological advancements. Industrial robots, which are the precise, stable — yet inflexible — robots built for manufacturing, make up the biggest segment of robotics. However, sales of more versatile and dexterous next-generation robots, including collaborative and service robots, are projected to grow 40% by 2025.
Collaborative robots, commonly known as cobots, are capable of working alongside humans, learning and mastering multiple tasks. Service robots, both semi- and fully autonomous, are designed to perform tasks outside of manufacturing and serve certain requirements of humans including autonomous guided vehicles, drones, medical robots, agricultural robots and more.
Today, the second generation of robots are more accurate, efficient, versatile, and affordable than ever. As robotics production has increased, the average robot price has fallen by half which has led to increasing demand. Further advances in computing power, software-development techniques, and networking technologies have made assembling, installing, and maintaining robots less expensive and faster than in the past. More flexible and intelligent robots, driven by artificial intelligence, sensor technologies and cognitive computing, continue to allow robots to cope with a far greater degree of task-to-task variability.
With expanded robotics applications in segments like agriculture, autonomous vehicles, consumer unmanned aerial vehicles, warehousing, and logistics, we have identified three trends that will drive the increasingly widespread adoption of service robotics throughout 2019.
First, robots are poised to solve the last-mile delivery problem through multiple solutions, from indoor delivery robots such as Segway’s Loomo robot, to delivery drones, or autonomous local delivery vehicles, such as the Nuro vehicle.
Second, because of robots application as a platform for edge computing, 2019 will usher in advances in smart sensors, enabling smarter, more autonomous robots with quicker processing speeds.
Lastly, as robots reliance on personal data increases along with its autonomy, regulatory frameworks will emerge to protect the individual while continuing to harness the power of the robot.
According to a recent McKinsey & Co. report on “the factory of the future,” the next wave of robotics will be driven by similar demands that first drove the use of robotics and automation in the workplace: to transfer difficult, dangerous, repetitive tasks from humans to robots; to improve quality by eliminating human error and reducing variability; and to cut manufacturing costs by replacing increasingly expensive people with ever-cheaper, faster and smarter machines.
In addition, advances within the robotics industry will continue to be a value add to businesses, governments, workers and society.
Jack Treas is a senior at the University of Kansas, pursuing a degree in finance. He was part of Fuel Venture Capital’s Summer Intern Class of 2018 and 2019. Follow Fuel Venture Capital on social media, via Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.