America 2.0 Explained: Robotics and Artificial Intelligence
When you think of artificially intelligent robots, the Star Wars’ C-3PO and R2-D2 may come to mind, or perhaps that mechanical “bucket of bolts” that agitated Dr. Smith in Lost in Space (“Danger, Will Robinson!”).
But these characters are a far cry from the real artificial intelligence-enhanced robots that are changing the way we live, play, work and interact.
In fact, the field of robotics has exploded over the past two decades — remaking a slate of industries from health care and retail to banking, entertainment and information services.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics are two mega trends driving what Paul Mampilly calls America 2.0 — a new economic and manufacturing boom driven by a variety of next-generation technological innovations, industrial upgrades and consumer trends.
It adds up to what Mampilly describes as a Fourth Industrial Revolution that will remake the world we live in and the U.S. manufacturing sector.
What Are Robotics and Artificial Intelligence?
Robotics and artificial intelligence are related technologies, representing two sides of what engineers sometimes refer to as “machine learning” or “smart tech.”
Robotics is an interdisciplinary branch of engineering and science that includes mechanical engineering, electronic engineering, information engineering and computer science among others.
AI refers to a branch of computer science that aims to build machines that can “think” in ways that mirror — but go far beyond — the natural intelligence of humans. These “thinking machines” are programmed with software to have an almost human ability to learn and solve problems.
In some ways, robotics is a sub segment of AI, and it’s a growing industry.
The invention of the world’s first robot is credited to George Devol. The Unimate, a material-handling robot performing basic welding and carrying tasks, was introduced in 1961.
Since then, the industry Devol helped create has grown by leaps and bounds.
According to the latest figures from the Robotics Industries Association, the North American robotics market expanded 7.2% in the first half of 2019.
From January to June, North American companies ordered 16,488 robots, valued at $869 million. In the second quarter alone, companies ordered 8,572 robots, valued at $446 million. This represents 19.2% growth in the number of robots ordered and a 0.6% boost in dollars compared to the same time period in 2018.
Overall, companies in the U.S. and Canada ordered a record 35,880 robots in 2018 — a 7% increase over 2017.
The largest driver of 2019’s market growth was an 83% increase in units ordered by car manufacturers. Conversely, semiconductor and electronics orders increased by 12%, life science orders grew by 8% and food and consumer goods orders grew by 3%.
The AI robotics growth is also boosting semiconductor chip companies, which is what the robotics revolution is built upon.
AI is poised to transform virtually every major industry over the next few decades. It will be a key driver of the new world of connectivity that 5G will bring to health care, agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, financial services and retail.
Because 5G will provide the bandwidth for the massive amounts of data AI needs, the two will become intertwined to bring us a range of innovative consumer products.
We’ll see the first truly driverless cars that “talk” with other vehicles. It will be possible to transmit live video of high-definition robotic surgeries monitored from afar. And ingestible “smart” health monitors will track and alert wearers — and their doctors — to health conditions before serious symptoms emerge.
What’s Driving Robotics and Artificial Intelligence?
The growth in artificial intelligence and robotics is fueled by advances in computer chip technology and consumer demand for faster, cheaper and more convenient tech that makes our lives better.
It’s also being embraced by a number of industries, where AI robotics is improving efficiency and lowering costs — from health care and banking to retail and manufacturing.
But a new tech revolution will boost the applications of AI robotics more than anything we’ve ever seen. That revolution is 5G, the next generation of high-speed wireless networks, which is right around the corner.
It will be the biggest technological breakthrough in history. High-speed 5G wireless will put massive amounts of data and power into the hands of consumers and businesses at lightning speeds, 100 times faster than 4G.
5G will boost the “I-conomy” — the economy based on the Internet of Things (IoT) — which has already touched virtually every industry and every aspect of our lives and lifestyles.
The lifeblood of the IoT is a mind-boggling network of interconnected devices loaded with tech and software that make AI-robotics machines “smart” and useful, as 5G gradually replaces 4G.
What fuels that network — the blood cells of the system, so to speak — are tiny “smart sensors” called microelectronic mechanical systems (MEMS).
MEMS are computer chips that can log and process huge amounts of data in a fraction of a second.
That info can then be relayed instantly to centralized storage systems, or supercomputers used by many industries and consumers. But the reality is the use of sensors is in its infancy, and will skyrocket with the interconnectivity 5G will bring.
Industry research suggests that sensor growth will explode over the next few years. Market Reports Hub estimates MEMS are going to be a $57.77 billion market by 2022, and that the growth rate will soar to 18.1% per year.
What Are Some Examples of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial Inelligence-enabled robots have become so commonplace, you may not have even noticed how they’ve transformed health care, retail, banking, entertainment and information services.
Some examples include:
- AI digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri.
- The da Vinci Surgical System, a robotic surgical technology developed by the American company Intuitive Surgical, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to help surgeons perform more precise, minimally invasive procedures through a console for a range of operations.
- Assembly-line manufacturing industries — from automotive and aviation to 3D printing and electronics, among others — have been transformed by AI-enabled robotics.
- Robotic exoskeletons and “bionic” limbs are helping people who’ve lost the use of their limbs to use them again — sometimes controlling these devices with their thoughts alone.
Perhaps the most visible example of the promise and potential of AI robotics are humanoid robots like SoftBank’s “Pepper,” which are turning up in hospitals, banks, retail stores, shopping malls and even on cruise lines.
But Pepper is more than just a talking robot or a publicity stunt with a high “wow” factor. She is the new face of AI-enhanced robotics. Pepper has an uncanny ability to greet patients in 20 languages. But she and other AI-enhanced bots like her are being coded to do much more — from tracking vital signs to diagnosing conditions to suggesting treatments.
Dr. Robin Smith, a medical tech specialist, notes that Pepper isn’t the only example of how AI is changing health care and other industries.
“With AI and big data, we have a way of getting much more specific in getting the right type of treatment for particular conditions based on the individual patient’s makeup,” says Smith, chairman of the board of directors at Mynd Analytics, a leading health care technology company.
Which Companies Are at the Center of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence?
- SoftBank Group Corp.
- Intuitive Surgical Inc.
- Xilinx Inc.
- Micron Technology Inc.
- Boston Dynamics.
What Are the Global Market Projections for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence?
The global robotics market is expected to hit the $100 billion mark in 2020 and will more than double by 2025 — reaching just under $210 billion — at a compound annual growth rate of around 26%.
The artificial intelligence market alone will grow to $12.36 billion by 2023 — up from just $2.84 billion in 2017 — an annual rise of 28.78%.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, businesses that implement AI over the next few years could see their earnings rise by 20% to 30%.
This is an incredible projection in light of how quickly AI has grown in just the past five years. In 2013, only about $1.7 billion in funding was going into AI research. But by 2017, that number had jumped to $15 billion, a 782% increase.
And by 2020, annual spending is projected to rocket to $46 billion, another threefold increase.