The world is watching as developers constantly create robots and gadgets that grow in complexity. The technology's implicit promise is that it will eventually make working and living easier and less stressful, whether it's with advanced prosthetic limbs or by deploying robotic firefighters that spare humans from having to enter deadly fires in emergencies.
Multiple research studies indicate that robot development has increased over time, and it's a trend that will continue. Allied Market Research claims that the global industrial robotics market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.4 percent to reach $41.17 billion by 2020. According to the Robotic Industries Association, North American robotics companies ordered 14,135 robots, worth $788 million, in 2014's first half, a unit increase of 30 percent and a revenue increase of 16 percent over the same period in 2013.
Most research and development focuses on industrial or military robots, but many projects could potentially take some of the stress out of daily life at home and at work. The following three examples show that sophisticated robotics and technology may subtly find their way into the office, the living room or the doctor's office.
- The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology lab is developing morphing robots called "Roombots" that merge with outside material to create furniture that moves and changes shape to accommodate people's needs. The adaptive, intelligent modular furniture comprises large dice-shaped modules with motors inside that move around and detach from each other. Developers' immediate plans are to create mobile furniture to assist elderly owners and those with special needs. Creators are still developing the Roombots' communication methods and are experimenting with units that respond to voice recognition.
- According to the Motley Fool, iRobot is on track to generate between $500 million and $515 million in sales this year of its consumer home robot units. The company sells the Roomba line of cleaning bots that are programmed to move across floors and vacuum on their own without a remote controller.
- Multiple groups are developing electronic noses to sniff out cancer. They include Finnish researchers who are developing the eNose to sniff urine samples and detect prostate cancer molecules in the liquid thanks to internal olfactory sensors. The Israeli Technion institute is also developing the NaNose to detect lung cancer by smelling breath samples for organic compounds in a gaseous state.
If projects like these take off, no one will be able to deny the technology's usefulness. iRobot's Roomba model for has already penetrated the market successfully, but it remains to be seen what other workplace or medical gadgets and robotics will follow suit.
In that vein, Tamara Walsh of the Motley Fool predicted this past spring that robotics will be the next big industry, dwarfing the wearable market and the buzz-worthy "Internet of Things." She cited Google's acquisition of eight robotics companies and Amazon's investment in robotics as examples of its popularity, suggesting that robotics development will become a commercial juggernaut with such major companies supporting it.