The world is becoming increasingly focused on ecological matters. The global marketplace is all about the better utilization of existing resources. Foremost amongst this is lowering energy consumption.
All of these considerations are having an impact on how industrial robots are employed. Eco-friendly legislation, as well as practicalities, means that industrial robots will require to have the appropriate built-in features. They will need to be built to integrate into any software-organized production line, along with other robots currently working in those environments. More importantly, they will have to be able to react independently – responding autonomously to changes that are made in production orders. They will also be required to co-operate with the work team where aspects of production are being reconfigured.
So the key buzzwords where modern industrial robots are concerned are ‘autonomous intelligence', ‘energy saving' and ‘miniaturization'. Light materials will be all-important, as well as sensor-less controls, and the ability to navigate fluently out-of-doors.
So, over the next decade or so, an industrial robots will be so much more than something that puts vehicles parts in place on a production line. They will become car navigation systems that will assist their driver in steering through foggy regions. Or they might be bulldozers on construction sites, working to a blueprint far more exactly than any of its ‘human co-workers'.
Industrial robots will continue to become more mobile due to enhancements to light manipulation, or haptic interfaces such as touch screens. The possibilities for making industrial robots more versatile are virtually limitless. Think of elderly people being assisted in their homes thanks to 24-hour support from robot assistants or nurses. These machines could monitor their charge's health status, as well as getting in touch with family or medical services in the case of an emergency.
Increasingly, robots are being designed with functionality that is based on replicating life. This is leading to what scientists are referring to as ‘biometric robots'. Emotion-controlled robots are being experimented with, in the hope that robots will become ever more adaptable to their environments. The new generation of industrial robots will be better able to cope with their operational surroundings.
Another area where industrial robots will develop is in ‘microrobotics', or ‘nanobots', These are tiny versions of artificially-intelligent devices for use in medical techniques, such as the clearing of blocked blood vessels, or the repairing of damaged tissue.