The Service Robot Ecosystem Evolves

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The Service Robot Ecosystem Evolves

Trends has been tracking the evolution of "service robots" for many years. As we define them, service robots include self-driving cars, self-piloting airplanes, and autonomous wheelchairs, as well as C3PO-like anthropomorphic robots and simple cleaning robots such as the iRobot Roomba.

Robots have been commonplace in factories for decades, but now, a new generation of robots is also beginning to show up in homes, offices, and hospitals, as well as the battlefield. The more sophisticated robots are looking for snipers, minding children, caring for the elderly, acting as tour guides, and giving people baths or doses of medicine. Less advanced units are performing basic tasks like cleaning floors and mowing lawns. As with all digital technologies, the prices of robots are falling, while at the same time, their capabilities are growing rapidly.

While Moore's law plays an indispensable role, it's not the only really important factor driving the advance of service robots. In fact, it's the "co-evolution" between users' habits and the technological design that is driving the most beneficial results. This "co-evolution" is based on the naturalistic idea that when one organism changes, it influences changes in the other species that interact with it.

In the case of technology, the user changes his or her habits to accommodate the limitations of the technology, and the technology changes to fit the constraints imposed by the user. So ultimately, the user's habits and the technology end up changing many times, converging on an outcome that was not originally anticipated, but that serves a distinct and desired purpose.

Top 10 Countries by Robot Density (Industrial Robots per 10,000 Manufacturing Workers)

Top 10 Countries by Robot Density (Industrial Robots per 10,000 Manufacturing Workers)

An example would be an elderly person changing his or her speaking habits to talk more slowly and precisely to a service robot, because speech recognition software is still evolving. By moving forward without the most sophisticated speech recognition, other, more advanced capabilities of the robot are allowed to evolve and "learn," rather than waiting for the speech component to improve.

Currently, the world leaders in robotic research are Japan and the United States, though some important development work is also coming out of European institutions...

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