Robotics has started to play a bigger part in our lives, whether you realize it or not. For companies, robotics has fueled a productivity boom that continues to grow.
An IDC projection shows that 45 percent of the top 200 global e-commerce companies will integrate robotics into warehouse and shipping functions by 2018. Companies are developing robots to deliver packages and keep lonely seniors happy, showing that there’s no limit to what smart robots can do.
Here’s where I see some of the major robotics trends heading in the near future.
The rise of the Chief Robotics Officer
For some businesses, the CRO will play an important point in growth this year. I don’t mean Chief Revenue Officer. I’m talking about Chief Robotics Officer.
Even if you don’t have one yet, I think we’ll start seeing more and more companies designate or hire a CRO. According to IDC projections, 30 percent of leading organizations will have a CRO in charge of robotics by 2019. Another study shows that by 2025, 60 percent of companies will employ a CRO.
While some robotics-focused companies already have one, I think we’ll soon start seeing Chief Robotics Officers in other industries.
Robots at airports
I was traveling recently, and on my way to the gate, something strange caught my eye: a robot helper. At the time, this particular robot was taking a fun photo of a family, but it also played music for a dance party.
Apparently, this is a growing trend. There are robots roaming San Jose and Oakland airports, not only providing levity, but offering basic airport information. At the Oakland International Airport, a robot named Pepper entices passersby to stop and have a bite at the Pyramid Brewery restaurant.
The technology was tested in shopping centers as a way to engage with guests, but is now finding a foothold in airports.
LG has announced two robots just for airports: one to greet and help guests and another to clean up after travelers. If you’re traveling through Seoul later this year, you’ll have a chance to see them in action.
More in-home robotics
One of the biggest trends from CES was the boom of in-home robotics. While technology like Amazon’s Alexa is becoming more commonplace, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to useful robots.
CES introduced us to robots such as Kuri, which patrols your home while you’re away, with a camera for eyes that can capture video and photos. Olly, a tabletop robot, is able to recognize members of your household and adapts to interact with them individually over time. The AI engine was built by neuroscientists and machine learning scientists.
But there are other home robots doing some incredible things. Intuition Robotics recently announced ElliQ, a robot that helps seniors dealing with isolation. A University of San Francisco study shows that 43 percent of older adults reported feelings of loneliness — which ElliQ can help.
ElliQ is developed to be a friend to lonely seniors, helping them learn more about interacting with technology. The robot can play music, suggest going out for a walk, or use Facebook Messenger to connect with friends and relatives.
Another major trend that buzzed through CES: delivery robots. By now, everyone knows about Amazon using drones to deliver orders.
But did you know that when you order Pad Thai on Doordash, your dinner could be delivered via robot? Both Doordash and Postmates have recently partnered with Starship Technologies, developers of small delivery robots. These robots are designed to carry up to 40 pounds at a time and can deliver within a two-mile radius.
Through October 2016, Starship’s robots have made contact with at least 1.7 million people in 16 countries and 56 cities. It’s been a bigger international phenomenon, but it looks like delivery robots will soon be a major force in the U.S.
3D printing boom
Lastly, I think we’ll see 3D printing on a scale like you’ve never imagined. Major players, such as GE and HP, have made huge investments in 3D printing. I have a feeling that before 2017 is other, we’ll see a few more Fortune 500 companies put more trust in 3D printing.
This has huge implications in the medical field, where AI and 3D printing are starting to take hold. Some experts believe that by 2020, as much as 30 percent of medical implants will come from a 3D printer.
Robots are starting to generate materials that can do some significant good, and now the technology is beginning to scale.