Collaborative Robots of the Future: 2019 and Beyond

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At the beginning of this year, a report by Loup ventures noted that global spending on collaborative robots would rise to $13 billion. In addition, even though collaborative robots only account for 3% of all robot sales currently, the number would rise to 34% by 2025.

A key reason that will contribute to this rise in the adoption of collaborative robots is the new and emerging technologies that keep improving the precision and cost of cobots.

Taking this into account, here are a few ways that emerging technologies will shape the robots of the future and by extension increase adoption.

1. Robots That Seamlessly Adapt to Human Behavior

To eliminate barriers and increase collaboration between human and machine; then robots must of necessity be able to adapt to human behavior.

That means the robot can observe and learn from its human colleagues and if it needs to make any changes to fit the environment, then it will do so with minimal interference. A good example is a robot that learns by mimicry and immediately self-programs in real-time to accommodate this newly learned behavior.

For this to happen, it requires advanced AI and machine learning technologies. With the current advancements in both AI and machine learning, this is not such an impossible occurrence.

2. Robots That Can Completely Interact with Humans Without Compromising on Safety

Safety is a major reason that has impeded increased interactivity between collaborative robots and humans. Though cobots are incredibly safe, compared to industrial robots, there is still a gap that manufacturers are yet to breach.

However, advancements in both machine vision and sensor technologies present a scenario where complete interaction might be possible. With robots that see just as well as humans and in some cases better thanks to machine vision; then it becomes possible to ensure the robot will not harm its human colleagues under any conditions because it can recognize the difference between human and object.

Advanced sensor technologies, on the hand, mean that it will be possible for a robot to communicate with humans using gestures. Additionally, research is ongoing on how to make robots respond to voice cues or understand human language.

This is not such a stretch when you consider that virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant already understand human languages.

With increased interaction, companies can easily achieve maximum efficiency in production environments that incorporate robots.

3. Robots with Unrestricted Movement and That Can Perform in Dynamic Environments

Again thanks to future advanced sensor technologies, it will be possible to have a robot that senses and reacts to a dynamic environment.

At the moment, collaborative robots such as those from Universal Robots are highly efficient in defined situations where they perform repeatable tasks. That means if it is a pick and place robot, then the environment does not change, and the robot will keep picking and placing the same item and in the same manner until instructed otherwise.

With robots that can sense and react to a dynamic environment, then it means they can do more than just repeatable tasks. That will give rise to new applications.

A good example to consider is a cooking robot. The kitchen environment is dynamic, and it requires a robot that reacts to emergencies such as fire and a robot that can handle different equipment’s from knives to forks and wooden spoons and cooking pots.

4. Robots That Communicate with One Another

While robots that can communicate with humans are highly desirable as noted above, robots that can communicate with each other also make for a significant contribution.

Research is ongoing on how collaborative robots can mimic bees and ants to facilitate robots that communicate with each other to guarantee increased efficiency.

A great application of such robots would be in the agriculture industry. While current agricultures robots, such as those from Universal Robots already do a lot; the incorporation of the communication element can give rise to new applications such as targeted spraying of herbicides and pesticides.

Summary

Though the reality of the robots mentioned above is still a while away, it is not impossible. The chances are high that collaborative robots of the future will be vastly different from those that are available currently.