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Robotics is a diverse industry with many variables. The future is full of uncertainty: no one can predict how it will develop and which direction it will go in a few years. Robotics is also a growing sector of more than 500 companies working on products that fall into four categories:
- Conventional industrial robots,
- Stationary professional services (such as medical and agricultural applications),
- Mobile professional services (construction and underwater activities),
- Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) for transporting small and large loads in logistics or assembly lines.
According to data from the International Federation of Robotics, 3 million industrial robots operate worldwide – the number has increased by 10% from 2021. The global robotics market is estimated to be $55.8 billion and is expected to grow to $91.8 billion by 2026 at an annual growth rate of 10.5%.
Biggest Challenges in the Industry
The field of robotics faces numerous problems based on its hardware and software capabilities. Most of the challenges relate to facilitating technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), perception, power sources, etc. From manufacturing procedures to human-robot collaboration, several factors are slowing down the pace of development of the robotics industry.
Let’s take a look at the major problems facing robotics:
Different real-world environments can become challenging for robots to understand and take appropriate action. There is no match for human thought; so robotic solutions are not completely reliable.
Significant progress has been made in sensing and navigating by robots in the environment, for example self-driving vehicles. Navigation solutions will continue to evolve, but future robots must be able to operate in environments that are unmapped and not fully understood.
Full autonomy is currently impractical and too far away. However, we can reason about energy autonomy. Our brains need a lot of energy to function; without evolutionary mechanisms to optimize these processes, they would not be able to reach current levels of human intelligence. This also applies to robotics: more power required reduces autonomy.
Comprehensive hardware is crucial for today’s robots. There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done with artificial muscles, soft robotics and other items that will help to develop efficient machines.
The above challenges are not unique and are generally expected for any evolving technology. The potential value of robotics is enormous, attracting huge investments aimed at eliminating existing problems. One of the solutions is collaborating with artificial intelligence.
Robotics and AI
Robots have the potential to replace approximately 800 million jobs worldwide in the future, make about 30% of all positions irrelevant. Not surprising, only 7% of companies do not currently use AI-based technology, but are investigating it. However, we must be careful when discussing robots and AI, as these terms are often assumed to be identical, which has never been the case.
The definition of artificial intelligence is about allowing machines to perform complex tasks autonomously. AI-powered tools can solve complicated problems by analyzing large amounts of information and finding dependencies that are not visible to humans. we at ENOT.ai contained six cases where improvements in navigation, recognition and power consumption reached between 48% and 800% after applying AI.
Although robotics is also connected with automation, it combines with other fields – mechanical engineering, computer science and AI. AI-powered robots can perform functions autonomously with machine learning algorithms. AI robots can be described as intelligent automation applications where robotics supplies the body and AI supplies the brain.
AI applications for robotics
The collaboration between robotics and AI is, of course, called to serve humanity. Numerous valuable applications have been developed to date, starting with domestic use. For example, AI-powered vacuum cleaners have become a part of everyday life for many people.
However, much more extensive applications are being developed for industrial use. Let’s go through a few:
- Agriculture. As in healthcare or other fields, robotics in agriculture will mitigate the impact of labor shortages while providing sustainability. Many apps, such as Agrobot, enable precise weeding, pruning and harvesting. Powered by advanced software, apps allow farmers to analyze distances, areas, volumes and many other variables.
- space travel. While NASA wants to improve the AI of its Mars rovers and is working on an automated satellite repair robot, other companies want to improve space exploration through robotics and AI. Airbus’ CIMON, for example, was developed to help astronauts with their daily tasks and to reduce stress through speech recognition, while acting as an early warning system to detect problems.
- Autonomous driving. After Tesla, you can no longer surprise anyone with self-driving cars. Today, there are two critical cases: self-driving robotic axis and autonomous commercial freight transport. In the short term, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) technology will be essential as the market gears up for full autonomy and seeks to capitalize on the technological capabilities.
With the advances in artificial intelligence increasing by leaps and bounds every year, it is certainly possible that the line between robotics and artificial intelligence will become blurred in the coming decades, resulting in a huge increase in valuable applications.
Main market trend
The competitive field of artificial intelligence in robotics is becoming more fragmented as the market grows and presents clear opportunities for robot suppliers. The companies are ready to take the first-mover advantage and seize the opportunities presented by the various technologies. Also, the suppliers see expansion in terms of product innovation and global impact as a way to gain maximum market share.
However, there is a clear need to increase the number of market players. The potential of robotics to replace routine human work promises to have major implications by freeing up people’s time for creativity. That’s why we need a lot more players to speed up the process.
Future of AI in Robotics
Artificial intelligence and robotics are already a concrete target for business investment. This technology alliance will undoubtedly change the world, and we can hope it will in the next decade. AI enables robotic automation to improve and perform complicated operations without a shadow of error: a straight forward path to excellence. Both industries are the driving force of the future and we will see many amazing technological inventions based on AI in the next decade.
Sergey Alyamkin, Ph.D. is CEO and founder of ENOT†
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