A critical mass of innovation and billion-dollar investments by global OEMs mean that autonomous humanoid robots will be with us soon. Here’s what you need to know and do to be ready.
There is a critical mass of innovation and momentum in robotics right now. Recent advances in actuator miniaturization, prosthetics, micro-sensors, machine learning, IoT, light weighting, batteries, and manufacturing (often referred to as Industry 4.0) are combining with investments in R&D and growing social and legal acceptance to ensure autonomous, mobile, and often humanoid robots will be with us very soon.
How soon is up for debate but the companies developing these robots are getting bigger and more powerful, and the advances more rapid. Boston Dynamics, the company that makes the robots you may have seen dancing and performing parkour on YouTube, and whose inspection robot Spot is already commercially available for just $75,000, was recently acquired by Hyundai.
Hyundai didn’t acquire Boston Dynamics to Make Videos
Hyundai will soon be mass producing robots like cars. And, unlike the simple, single-function industrial and professional service robots of today or the imaginary individualized humanoid robots of science fiction, the robots they and other OEMs will make will be smart, ubiquitous, capable of taking on multiple complex tasks, and not that expensive.
Equipped with a wide variety of sensors, and connected to the internet, these robots won’t need individual and expensive ‘brains’, they will be managed by cloud-based control systems. Systems that will be continuously improved and updated to offer a wide variety of robot control packages and subscriptions. Want your robot to cook dinner? Subscribe to the chef package. Clean the office? Download the janitorial program. Take care of the garden? Subscribe to the landscaping option.
The Revolution will be Automated & Fast
When they arrive, these robots will revolutionize the world. Businesses are already buying over $100B worth of robots to supplement and replace human labor in manufacturing, inspection, maintenance, agriculture, military, logistics, construction, and medicine. They will buy and deploy these new higher functioning, more flexible robots in much greater numbers.
Consumers will also adopt them as personal service robots to cook, clean, garden, and provide security and companionship at the same rate they bought other highly-priced but desirable consumer items. Automobiles achieved a penetration rate of nearly 60% of US households within 15 years! Cell phones and computers achieved close to 100% within 20 to 30 years.
The Social & Fiscal Impacts & Opportunities will be Huge
If the current labor shortage has continued and/or demand for goods and services has grown, robot labor, and the productivity gains it brings, will be welcomed. If, however, demand has stagnated or declined, robots will be feared and resisted.
Irrespective, the changes will be massive, and policy and preparation will almost certainly lag the technology. Fear or obliviousness will lead many to over or under react. Some will try to preserve revenue and jobs using protectionism. Others will ignore the changes or believe market dynamics will sort everything out over time and fail to adapt to the new market realities.
Far sighted businesses and governments therefore have a window of opportunity. Those who plan and act now will be the first to realize the productivity, revenue, and quality of life gains robots will bring and will be the leaders of the second half of the 21st century.
What You Need to do to Plan for This Now
If you are an entrepreneur or business leader you should be proactively positioning your organization for this change now. Identify where robot labor can and should be added. How robots will reduce costs. And where they can improve your existing products and services.
Think through and plan out how you will manage and lead your employees and customers through the coming changes. When and where the robot revolution will create new and greater opportunities for your business, and where it will remove them. And begin innovating new products and services that will leverage and complement robots now.
In short, work out who the winners and losers will be and make sure you’re one of the winners!
Damian Smith is the Founder and CEO of Pepper Foster Consulting, a strategy and execution consulting firm that makes a difference and helps organizations and entrepreneurs figure stuff out and get stuff done. In addition to consulting with some of the largest and most influential organizations around the globe, Damian has led Pepper Foster to recognition as one of the Inc. 5000 Fastest-Growing Privately Held Companies in America, Inc Magazine Best Workplaces, Oregon Business 100 Best Companies to Work for in Oregon, Oregon Business 100 Best Green Workplaces in Oregon, Startup Weekly Business Products & Services Company to Watch, and Portland Business Journal Fastest-Growing Private 100 Companies. Pepper Foster is the third firm he has led to recognition as one of top 3 best companies to work for in Oregon.