Already widely used in manufacturing, robots are now performing increasingly complex tasks and proving extremely useful in the service industry and even collaborating with humans.

robot-of-the-futureRobots are starting to collaborate with human workers in factories, offering greater efficiency and flexibility.

By Will Knight
Robots on human production lines at BMW and other manufacturers promise to transform the division of labor between people and machines as it has existed for the past 50 years. The more traditional robots that apply paint to cars, for example, work with awesome speed, precision, and power, but they aren’t meant to operate with anyone nearby. The cost of setting up and programming these robots has helped ensure that plenty of small-batch manufacturing work is still done by hand. The new robots, with their ability to work safely next to human coworkers, let manufacturers automate parts of the production process that otherwise would be too expensive. And eventually, by collaborating with human workers, the robots will provide a way to combine the benefits of automation with those of human ingenuity and handcraft.  Read more on MIT Technology Review

How Collaborative Robots Are Changing Small Business Productivity

By Graham Winfrey
So-called collaborative robots priced as low as $20,000 are increasing productivity at some small businesses by working with employees, rather than replacing them. As the Wall Street Journal reports, one robot working at Illinois-based machine shop Panek Precision has doubled the output of a machine that used to be operated by a human by working through the night. [...] The use of robots for small business manufacturing and other processes is expected to grow beyond just a handful of early adopters, however. Global spending on robotics is projected to spike from roughly $15 billion in 2010 to about $67 billion in 2015, according to a study from The Boston Consulting Group. While the investment data covers the entire robotics market, including personal robots for household duties, robots used for medical purposes and military robots, industrial robots for factory automation are expected to account for the largest chunk of investment, growing from nearly $6 billion in 2010 to more than $24 billion by 2025. Read more on Inc.

Our Autonomous Future with Service Robots

By Tanya M. Anandan
“When you start thinking about the future of the service robotics industry, in particular systems that will be operating in more unstructured environments or in environments that have close interactions with people, you end up with some additional challenges or opportunities as compared to the industrial automation setting,” says Dr. Chris Jones, Director of Strategic Technology Development at iRobot. [...] “Whether they’re in a hospital, or the office, or in the home, you end up with some new challenges given the dynamic nature of those environments, where the people aren’t necessarily savvy with robots,” says Jones. “They may not even know what they are, or what the robots are trying to do. You have to thoughtfully design your robot systems to be effective in those types of environments.” Read more on Robotics.

robotique -rowbot-agricultureA Nimble-Wheeled Farm Robot Goes to Work in Minnesota

By David Talbot
The latest in autonomous farming is a robot that weaves between corn stalks, applying fertilizer as it goes. [...] Rowbot’s system is part of a technological revolution in farming that has gained momentum in recent years. GPS-guided tractors routinely apply seed and fertilizer across large areas, and new airborne drones are providing farmers with high-resolution sensing ability, although drone services can’t yet be offered commercially in the United States. Read more on MIT Technology Review