By Sindhu Bhattarai

The United States is leading the world in robotics investment, totalling $732 billion – nearly double the economy of Switzerland, according to recent research by Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) and Redwood Software. The size of the economy and its large base of production in the automotive and electronic sectors lead to an increase in automation. Investment in robotics offers a long run value of money. Mostly manufacturing and finance industries find the biggest value in robotics and automation.

In 2016, a total of 14,583 robots, valued at approximately $817 million, were ordered from North American companies during the first half of the year. In the same timeframe, 13,620 robots, valued at $838 million, were shipped to North American customers. These figures represent the second highest total for units shipped and a new record for shipment revenue in the first half of a year. The number of robots ordered by automotive original equipment manufacturers and component suppliers increased 16% and 4%, respectively, to begin the year, and was the largest driver of the market’s record performance. The food and consumer goods industry soared in the first half of the year, ordering 41% more robots than the same period in 2015. Total orders to all other non-automotive industries decreased by 14%.

Manufacturers always race to meet consumer demands and adopt the latest technology, increasing the market of robotics and automation. As these technologies continue to advance and the market continues to grow, manufacturers can utilize robotics and automation to improve their operations. The larger focus is driven towards the industrial robotics as the demand is high in this sector. The Manufacturing Institute reveals that industrial manufacturers across all industries are seeking to gain a competitive edge through the use of advanced robotics. Fifty-nine percent of the 120 manufacturers polled currently use some form of robotics technology. Industrial robots have become smarter, faster, and more affordable, and have developed advanced capabilities, such as sensing, dexterity, memory, and trainability. Currently, there are 1.5 million industrial robots working worldwide. By 2020, the global industrial robot market is expected to reach $41 billion.

More advance incorporation of robotics and its adaptation continues to increase with every single penny invested in these new technologies. We can see ongoing progression towards automation. World-famous companies have already predicted this revolution and are making heavy investments in automation and robotics. Google has acquired many robotics companies like Industrial Perception, Inc, Redwood Robotics, Meka Robotics, Holomini, Bot & Dolly, and more. The company’s largely letting its new robotics divisions continue to work on their pre-existing projects. These companies are doing great, and Google, itself, is getting a huge competitive advantage. Similarly in 2012, Amazon spent more than $700 million to acquire Kiva Systems, which makes a mobile robot for carting items sitting on shelves over to packers working inside Amazon fulfillment centers. In 2013, Apple announced it was investing more than $10 billion in supply-chain robots.

Robotics has come up in a huge way. Various new projects in robotics and automation have been emerging from innovative companies and students. For example, one project presents a robot that can be controlled using an app running on an Android phone. The aim in another project is to build a robot that can detect and extinguish fire. Further modifications for applications, like automatic vacuum cleaners, are also available. In such an application, the vacuum cleaner will automatically clean the floor, or you can direct it using the RF remote while sitting relaxed on your sofa. Robotics is making life much easier and more advanced.

We can see a clear picture of the robotics and automation industry growing. Take a look around the workplace; it’s hard not to find an example of the revolution. Modern robotics or artificial intelligence has made our lives easier but also affected human workers. Henn-na Hotel in Japan, people are greeted by a robotic staff said to run 90% of the hotel’s operations. The other 10% is handled by the hotel’s only 10 human employees. In New York, there’s YOTEL, which employs robots to take care of guests’ belongings, make coffee, deliver laundry, clean rooms, and take on many other service-related jobs. Hotel giant, Starwood, introduced its robotics staff called “Botlrs”, responsible for delivering amenities to guests by navigating around hotels and using elevators without human assistance. Therefore, the workforce is going through radical changes in such a short amount of time. A study by Oxford in 2013 reports that work automation will put 47% of existing jobs in the United States at high risk. Human workers in those jobs will be replaced by robots within 20 years.

A question here arises: Is the world ready for this industrial revolution? Robots are certainly going to automate millions of jobs in the US and around the world. On one hand, the possibilities of human job takeover by automation is increasing, but in other hand, ideas like universal basic income is being generated. Universal basic income is a system in which all citizens receive a standard amount of money each month to cover basic expenses like food, rent, and clothes. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has become the latest major tech figure to call for universal basic income. “Every generation expands its definition of equality. Now it’s time for our generation to define a new social contract,” Zuckerberg said during his commencement speech at Harvard University. “We should have a society that measures progress not by economic metrics like GDP but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful. We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things,” Other major figures that have also publicly supported the idea as a form of more efficient government welfare include Sam Altman, President of Y Combinator, and Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, who argues that the concept is a solution to unemployment caused by automation. Various tech figures and countries have started thinking about this revolution and presenting ideas to overcome this problem of unemployment. The world needs to prepare for this revolution now!