Robotics technology is leaving the pages of science fiction and becoming a reality. While key challenges such as computer vision and grip need solving, companies like GXO Logistics are delivering huge efficiencies to the industry with the technology currently available. Robotics will have an ever-growing impact across a range of sectors as the industry continues to innovate.
Advances in engineering and computer science over recent years have brought the robotics revolution closer to reality.
Back in 2017, a report from McKinsey estimated that more than half of human work would be automated by 2055, with a twenty-year margin of error in either direction. Today, the time horizon for investment into the space remains medium-term. Over the coming years, however, technologies which are currently conceptual or developmental will begin to dominate the business and economic landscape.
The global supply of operational robots hit a record high of 3.5 million units in February 2023, with the value of installations reaching approximately $15.7bn.
According to Statista, the global market for industrial robots was approximately $43.8bn in 2021, and it is slated to grow at a CAGR of 10% to reach nearly $70.6bn in the next five years. According to Global X, the robotics theme is still in the early adoption stage, meaning it can expect significant growth over the long term.
Manufacturing, ecommerce, defence, agriculture and healthcare, in particular, are undergoing an automation boom thanks to advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and mechanical technology.
The robotics theme dovetails with AI, with innovations in one field feeding into the potential of the other. Most companies in the robotics space incorporate some degree of AI into their offerings. As a result, most robotics ETFs have some overlap with AI. Furthermore, robotics manufacturers tend to supply robots for specific industries, so any given robotics stock will likely offer exposure to AI and another industry, such as ecommerce or defence, as well as robotics.
Intuitive Surgical [ISRG] is a good example of this. The company produces robots that make use of advanced computer vision technology, a subset of AI, to help surgeons perform surgery; the company therefore sits at the intersection of robotics, AI and healthcare.
The picking arms race
Robots have been part of manufacturing processes for decades, but two technological challenges are in the process of being solved, which should make more of the labour currently performed by humans achievable by robots.
The first of these is computer vision. The applications of advances in computer vision are far-ranging, and could one day enable anything from self-driving cars to robotic security guards. The limits of computer vision are continually being stretched; researchers at Northeastern University developed a breakthrough device in late 2022 that can recognise “millions of colours”.
The second challenge is grip. The human hand is remarkable for its dexterity and sensitivity, but robotics researchers are quickly catching up with millions of years of evolution. Private robotics developer Soft Robotics, for example, has created robotic picking arms that are capable of handling delicate foods and packaging them in warehouses, offering a potential boon to the food distribution industry.
As Mark Manduca, chief investment officer of GXO Logistics [GXO], told Opto: “Human beings right now are still better than robots at picking differently sized and, particularly, delicate items.”
The theme’s future will thus be defined by which companies can develop and scale advanced picking technology the fastest.
A typical robot arm can pick three — in some cases four — times what the human hand can, said Manduca. Every company involved in robotics development is aiming to increase this number. “[Companies] are engaging in what can only be described as an accelerating arms race.”
Chart by TradingView
Robots in the warehouse and the home
GXO is one of the companies at the forefront of applying robotics to warehouse logistics and has made several innovative strides in 2023. In an industry first, in February, it successfully deployed autonomous mobile robots from partner Lowpad in a food and beverage customer’s warehouse in the Netherlands before rolling out similar fleets of robots across the country and in the UK.
In May 2023, GXO announced an extension to its partnership with Kellogg [K]. The partnership operates a number of European sites, including a 290,000-square-foot warehouse in Kutno, Poland, where automation has shortened the palletting process from 24 to 1.5 minutes.
However, robots aren’t just revolutionising industrial and business processes. Since 1990, iRobot [IRBT] has been developing a range of domestic robots, with over 40 million sold as of 2021.
Its Roomba s9+ series of automated vacuum cleaners have the ability to map their surroundings using computer vision, and can be taught to avoid specific areas, such as pets’ sleeping zones.
The field of robotics dates back at least to the mid-20th century, and it could still be fifty years before the economy, as we currently understand it, is primarily driven by robotic labour.
However, recent tailwinds have undoubtedly accelerated adoption. Chief among these, according to Daniel Navarro, managing director of consumer segments and service robotics at ABB Robotics [ABB], are “the explosion of ecommerce, changing consumer demands and global labour shortages”, all of which were accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Manduca agrees that the macro environment following Covid and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine provided tailwinds for robotics firms.
“Wages over the last couple of years are probably 20% higher, and robotics prices are lower during that period. Therefore robotics are inherently deflationary.”
Closing the gap between the capabilities of robots and those of humans continues to be the main challenge for industry participants.
Jay Jacobs, US head of thematics and active equity ETFs at BlackRock, believes that the increased ability of robots to perform these kinds of tasks will drive investment into the space.
“We think companies are really going to invest heavily into [robotics and AI]... to keep costs low,” he said on a 9 March episode of Opto Sessions.
According to Manduca, however, fears that this will completely displace human labour are misplaced. The trend is towards “people working alongside robots rather than people versus robots”, he says.
Funds in focus: Global X Robotics & Artificial Intelligence ETF
The Global X Robotics & Artificial Intelligence ETF [BOTZ] tracks the Indxx Global Robotics & Artificial Intelligence Thematic Index, and invests in “companies that potentially stand to benefit from increased adoption and utilization of robotics and AI”. 43.7% of its holdings are in information technology (IT), 38% in industrials, and 16% in healthcare, as of 30 April.
BOTZ is up 17.1% in the past 12 months and up 22.7% in the past six.
The First Trust Nasdaq Artificial Intelligence and Robotics ETF [ROBT] tracks the Nasdaq CTA Artificial Intelligence & Robotics Index. This index is comprised of global companies with a minimum market cap of $250m engaged in AI, robotics and/or automation. Its holdings represent exposure to the sectors of IT (59.20%), industrials (21.99%), consumer discretionary (10.51%)and healthcare (5.46%), with the remaining split between communication services, real estate and consumer staples, as of 22 May.
ROBT is up 8.2% in the past 12 months and up 11.2% in the past six.
Investors can also gain exposure to the trend via the ARK Autonomous Tech & Robotics ETF [ARKQ], an actively managed fund that invests in automation and robotics companies as well as autonomous transport, 3D printing, energy storage and space exploration.
ARKQ is down 3.5% in the past 12 months and up 8.7% in the past six.
- McKinsey predicts robotics will handle more than half of all work by 2055.
- GXO Logistics is a leader in deploying robotic technology to automated warehouses.
- The Global X Robotics & Artificial Intelligence ETF is up 23% in the past six months.
What will be the future of robotics? ›
By the 2030s, the future of robotics in manufacturing could be completely autonomous, from assembly to quality control, thanks to advancements in AI and the Internet of Things (IoT). Robot maintenance and operation will replace traditional jobs in this industry.What is the future of robotics automation? ›
The field of robotics has a very bright future ahead, and soon there will be a great increase in the use of sophisticated robots that will work in collaboration with humans. The best thing about robots is that they will not replace human workers, but will help them in their work.How advanced robots of the future will be? ›
The future of robots
We'll see advances in robots' ability to use natural language processing solutions, allowing them to process and interpret conversations more accurately. We'll see major gains in AI and machine learning, with experts anticipating that more self-aware and self-learning devices will hit the market.
By 2050 robotic prosthetics may be stronger and more advanced than our own biological ones and they will be controlled by our minds. AI will be able to do the initial examination, take tests, do X-rays and MRIs, and make a primary diagnosis and even treatment.What is the future of robots and AI? ›
They will automate tasks that are currently done by humans, freeing us up to focus on more creative and strategic work. This will boost economic growth and make us better able to compete in the global marketplace. AI and robotics will also improve our quality of life in many other ways.What is the future technology? ›
Hypothetical technology, technology that does not exist yet, but that could exist in the future. Futures studies (also called futurology), the study of postulating possible, probable, and preferable futures and the worldviews and myths that underlie them.Are robots the future of manufacturing? ›
Industrial robots will perform tasks faster and more efficiently than humans because they are specifically programmed to complete them with high accuracy. They also automate processes that are very time consuming, increasing the efficiency of production lines and saving time and resources.
The ROS project is a remarkable achievement, and one with broad implications. According to ABI research, by 2024 more than 50% of all commercial robots will include at least one ROS package. Much of that popularity ultimately derives from ROS' open source roots.Why robotic automation is the future in manufacturing? ›
The use of robotics will increase productivity and has the potential to bring more manufacturing production work back to developed countries. As productivity increases, labor is likely to receive a significant share of the benefits.How advanced robotics technology can shape our future? ›
Helping improve quality control and product consistency by removing the human element in tasks that require precision and consistency. For example, self-driving cars could eliminate human error when people are behind the wheel. This would lead to safer roads and better driving conditions for everyone.
What will robots be like in 2025? ›
By 2025, a machine may be putting together your autonomous cars in a factory with no human oversight. A robot house keeper could be cleaning up after you at home, and your financial advisor might be a computer investing for you automatically.How will artificial intelligence change the future? ›
The productivity of artificial intelligence may boost our workplaces, which will benefit people by enabling them to do more work. As the future of AI replaces tedious or dangerous tasks, the human workforce is liberated to focus on tasks for which they are more equipped, such as those requiring creativity and empathy.What jobs will robots take over by 2025? ›
Artificial intelligence and robots are not just challenging blue-collar jobs; they are starting to take over white-collar professions as well. Financial and sports reporters, online marketers, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and financial analysts are already in danger of being replaced by robots.Will robots replace humans in the future? ›
Regardless of how well AI machines are programmed to respond to humans, it is unlikely that humans will ever develop such a strong emotional connection with these machines. Hence, AI cannot replace humans, especially as connecting with others is vital for business growth.What technology will we have in 2050? ›
According to Forbes, by 2050, IoT technology will be in 95% of electronics for new product designs. And by 2050 it is expected to have everything connected to the cloud and to the internet. According to Business Insider, Space tourism could be feasible in 2050, but likely only for the very wealthy.What is the most advanced AI? ›
GPT-3 was released in 2020 and is the largest and most powerful AI model to date. It has 175 billion parameters, which is more than ten times larger than its predecessor, GPT-2.What is the future of machine learning? ›
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are among the hottest technologies in trend right now. The global ML market size is valued at $21.17 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach $209.91 billion by 2029, growing at a CAGR of 38.8% during the forecast period, according to Fortune Business Insights.Will AI replace engineers in the future? ›
It is unlikely that AI will completely replace human programmers and write code from its own research. Therefore, software engineering and web developer jobs will be safe in the foreseeable future. However, AI is expected to dramatically change how computer scientists and software developers work.What are the 5 technologies that will change the future? ›
AI and machine learning are the foundation on which many other technologies are built. For instance, without AI, we wouldn't have achieved the amazing advances in the Internet of Things, virtual reality, chatbots, facial recognition, robotics, automation, or self-driving cars, just to name a few.What are the three technologies in the future? ›
Forrester predicts AI, machine learning, and automation will create 9 percent of new U.S. jobs by 2025, jobs including robot monitoring professionals, data scientists, automation specialists, and content curators, making it another new technology trend you must keep in mind too!
What are 5 emerging technology? ›
- Quantum Computing. ...
- Metaverse. ...
- Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) ...
- Synthetic Biology. ...
- Advanced Robotics and Automation.
Electronics businesses will be able to innovate more because of the rise in automation because it will be easier and less expensive for them to create prototypes. Throughout the whole manufacturing cycle, robots can be utilised for tasks like assembly, dispensing, milling, inspecting, packaging, and palletizing.What is the future of industrial robots? ›
Some analysts believe that by 2024 the industrial robot market could grow by $40 billion. The robot market is expected to have an annual growth rate of 15% over the next ten years. With this growth rate, experts expect the robotic market to reach $119 billion by 2030.
In conclusion, while it's true that AI is likely to have an impact on the field of mechanical design, it's unlikely that it will completely replace human engineers. Rather, AI is likely to augment and enhance the work of mechanical engineers, enabling them to work more efficiently and effectively.Does SpaceX use ROS? ›
ROS was delivered to ISS aboard a SpaceX rocket as part of a recent resupply mission that also included a set of robotic legs that will be attached to R2 soon. NASA was able to upgrade the R2 torso earlier this month after on-orbit surgery to remove old processors and electronics and install new ones.Does NASA use ROS? ›
NASA uses ROS in other space robots such as Astrobee, the free-flying successor to SPHERES. Multiple Astrobees are at work inside the ISS.Is VR a robotics? ›
On the flip side, VR is an enabling technology in robotics to provide immersive robot teleoperation, to aid in robot programming, to conduct human-robot interaction and collaboration studies, and even to train individuals on how to collaborate with robots.What is the future of automation in manufacturing industry? ›
“Our data predicts that six percent of all manufacturing-related roles could be automated within the next year, rising to 18% within five years and 34% within a decade, so the impact could be considerable,” adds Rogers.How robotics is changing manufacturing? ›
Robotics in manufacturing is being used in multiple different areas due to automation. Robot applications in manufacturing include welding, assembly, shipping, handling raw materials, and product packing. For this reason, multiple manufacturers are leveraging robotic automation for an increased number of tasks.Will robots take over manufacturing? ›
Up to 20 million manufacturing jobs around the world could be replaced by robots by 2030, according to analysis firm Oxford Economics. People displaced from those jobs are likely to find that comparable roles in the services sector have also been squeezed by automation, the firm said.
What current robotic inventions do you think are the most helpful for mankind? ›
- Self-Driving Cars. At first mention, self-driving cars either conjure up futuristic fantasies or concerns about cars gone wild. ...
- Drones. ...
- Moley Robotic Chef. ...
- Medical Robots. ...
- Smart Home.
What Is Advanced Robotics? Advanced robotics is the combination of robust hardware and advanced programming, giving rise to smart technologies that interact with the real-world environment to solve real-world problems.What are some significant advances in robotics? ›
Notable recent advances include a robotic arm so finely calibrated that it can pick up a light bulb without breaking it (Shadow Hand®), robotic cars that drive themselves through urban environments complete with traffic (DARPA Urban Challenge), prosthetic arms controlled by brain-computer interfaces (BrainGate®), and ...What jobs AI can't replace? ›
As such, jobs that require high emotional intelligence, such as therapists, social workers, and nurses, are not likely to be replaced by AI. Specialized Professionals: Jobs that require deep expertise in a particular field, such as doctors, lawyers, and scientists, are less likely to be fully replaced by AI.Which is better AI or robotics? ›
AI-driven robots can perform functions and tasks expected of them autonomously with machine learning algorithms. AI robots can be explained better as intelligent automation applications in which robotics provides the body while AI supplies the brain.What will be some of the jobs replaced by AI in the near future? ›
An Oxford University report predicts medical transcriptionists, medical records, medical secretaries and health information technicians are the most likely jobs in the field to be automated, not actual providers.What the future holds for artificial intelligence technology? ›
AI projects in the future could include robots with more advanced cognitive abilities that can be used to automate mundane tasks, making them much more efficient. We may also see AI being used in healthcare, with machine learning and data science used to help diagnose medical issues more quickly and accurately.How will AI change the world in the next 10 years? ›
In the next 10 years, it is predicted that advancements in AI technology will continue to allow for a more efficient way of life. Through machine learning algorithms and deep neural networks, AI can also learn how to solve complex problems faster than humans ever could.Could robots take over 20 million jobs? ›
The rise of Robots will replace jobs. However, it is predicted by Oxford Economics that the machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI), the rise of robots will replace jobs, 20 million manufacturing jobs all across the globe by 2030.What year will robots take over? ›
We've been warned for years that artificial intelligence is taking over the world. PwC predicts that by the mid-2030s, up to 30% of jobs could be automated. CBS News reports machines could replace 40% of the world's workers within 15 to 25 years.
Will robots replace 20 million jobs by 2030? ›
The rise of robots and automation is projected to lead to the displacement of 20 million manufacturing jobs by 2030. A report from Oxford Economics estimates that about 8.5% of the global manufacturing workforce stands to be replaced by robots, with about 14 million manufacturing jobs lost in China alone.What will happen to humanity if robots take over? ›
It could be that displaced human workers can't re-skill and don't have it in them to fill the more human-driven roles. This would obviously lead to higher unemployment numbers, which would have a large impact on society and the economy. The impacts of this possibility are far-reaching.What is the negative impact of artificial intelligence? ›
No Creativity. A big disadvantage of AI is that it cannot learn to think outside the box. AI is capable of learning over time with pre-fed data and past experiences, but cannot be creative in its approach.How will robots affect jobs in the future? ›
The “new automation” of the next few decades—with much more advanced robotics and artificial intelligence (AI)—will widen the range of tasks and jobs that machines can perform, and have the potential to cause much more worker displacement and inequality than older generations of automation.What will the average human look like in 3000? ›
The model, called Mindy, provides a terrifying glimpse at what people could look like in 800 years if our love of technology continues. According to the company, humans in the year 3000 could have a hunched back, wide neck, clawed hand from texting and a second set of eyelids.What are the top future trends in technology by 2030? ›
Artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, and virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) are among the key technologies that will underpin the delivery of education in 2030.Will robots replace jobs in the future? ›
So, will machines replace humans for many jobs? The answer is unequivocal, yes. However, I assert that with every job taken over by machines, there will be an equal number of opportunities for jobs to be done by people. Some of these human jobs will be of the creative type.What will happen when robots take all the jobs? ›
Not Everyone Will Work
It could be that displaced human workers can't re-skill and don't have it in them to fill the more human-driven roles. This would obviously lead to higher unemployment numbers, which would have a large impact on society and the economy. The impacts of this possibility are far-reaching.
- Entry-level Admin Roles.
- Data Entry Clerks.
- Software Engineers and Coders.
- Customer Service Reps.
- Copywriters and Content Roles.
- Graphic Designers.
- Bankers and Accountants.
The "world's most advanced" humanoid robot has reassured that there's no need to worry and it is unlikely that robots will take over the world.
What job is most likely to be replaced by robots? ›
- Customer Service Representatives. Most of the time, the queries and problems of customers are repetitive. ...
- Receptionists. ...
- Accountants/ Bookkeepers. ...
- Salespeople. ...
- Taxi and Truck Drivers. ...
- Retail Services. ...
- Proofreaders and Translators. ...
- Security and Military Personnel.
Architects and engineers are a good example. These professionals require a great deal of creative intelligence. Artificial intelligence and robots may not be able to emulate that creative intelligence. As a result, it's unlikely that architects and engineers need to worry about losing their jobs.What year will robots take over jobs? ›
Nonroutine jobs will be next: surgeons, novelists, construction workers, police officers, and so forth. These jobs could all be fully automated during the 2040s. By 2060, AI-based robots will be capable of performing any task currently done by humans.Will robots create more jobs than they destroy? ›
Automation, jobs, and wages
On one hand, automation often creates as many jobs as it destroys over time. Workers who can work with machines are more productive than those without them; this reduces both the costs and prices of goods and services, and makes consumers feel richer.
It is entirely unrealistic to replace soldiers with them yet. But they can help a lot in combat and logistical support: reconnaissance, including combat surveillance, protection, and delivery of consumables.What is the future of robots in the workplace? ›
The World Robotics Report 2021 Industrial Robots report shows a track record of three million industrial robots operating in factories around the world indicating an increase of 10% overall. By 2024, the report forecasts the placement of 518,000 industrial robots.What will happen if robots are smarter than human? ›
This would lead to an exponential situation where human intelligence is quickly and irretrievably left far behind by machine intelligence. Consequently, we'd lose authority and control. Best case, we become slaves to the machines; worst case, we're exterminated as surplus to requirements.Why robots won t replace humans? ›
AI can't replace human talent
Artificial intelligence is superlative at certain tasks, but it can only "think" in terms of its training data. An AI tool can't innovate or create, so businesses will still rely on humans for fresh ideas. Another thing that humans do best is communication.