Why Collaborative Robots are Changing the World

Poised for hypergrowth throughout the next decade,the cobot market may hit the projected $95 billion by 2024

The ability of machines to work and coordinate with humans safely is fueling the demand for collaborative robots (cobots) across the globe. Poised for hypergrowth throughout the next decade, the cobot market may hit the projected $95 billion by 2024. We’ve long seen robots in different industries, handling repetitive tasks and heavy machinery, but new technologies are moving robots out of their confined safety cages and liberating them to work in new roles. Next-generation robots, including cobots and service robots, are projected to account for two-thirds of unit robot sales by 2025, up from 22 percent in 2015.

Why are robots emerging from their cages and stepping into new roles? Because technological advances are endowing them with powerful capabilities and making them easier to use. Progress in both software, including cognitive technologies, and hardware, particularly sensors, actuators, and batteries, plays a role. Some new-generation cobots possess remarkable dexterity as well. Computer vision and machine learning help them identify objects and learn how to grasp them; grippers featuring suction, electro-adhesion, or articulated fingers and force sensors help them grasp and manipulate objects with precision. Increased dexterity is expanding in a wide array of applications across several different industries.

This next generation of robots is an embodiment of the powerful trend in which the physical and the digital worlds increasingly interact with and affect each other. Robots act upon data they receive from their environment and, in response, aim to alter their environment, for good. Some may say that the increase in collaborative robotics will lead to higher unemployment rates, but John Santagate, an analyst with IDC Manufacturing Insights, part of research firm IDC, has said, “Cobots are not meant to replace human labor, instead, they help achieve higher throughput with the same size workforce”. Cobots are not only improving efficiency by taking on tasks that human workers used to do—they have the potential to enhance manufacturing by speeding up production timelines, all while ensuring precision and accuracy across the board. In other words, your cobot is coming soon.

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