Kawasaki Heavy Industries, a Japan-based robots company, announced that it has signed a deal with an unnamed Chinese company based in Chongqing. The company will set up a new factory in Jiangsu Province as early as this month, and has plans to begin industrial robot production in China. In China, the use of robots in factories has increased rapidly in recent years. In 2014, China increased their usage by 54%, and became home to a quarter of the world’s industrial robots. Inevitably, a rise in the use of robots has lead to a decrease in the human workforce. Foxconn produces Apple products, and plans for 70% of their work to be automated within three years. It is clear that robots are taking over tasks at work. Could they soon be doing the same at home?
The image of robots dashing about the house is not as far-fetched as some may think. Artificial intelligence is already all around us in the home. From automatic thermostats that control the temperature, to motion-sensor lights in the garden, even the simplest technology is already operating without human input. We could soon see technology take on a much more physical role in the home. Household robots are far from science fiction. As far back as 2005, Mitsubishi created what it called the ‘world’s first household robot‘. Known as Wakamaru, the robots were able to recognise different faces, relay the news, and even have conversations. But this was simply the beginning.
Robots: Recent Developments in the Industry
The development of human-like robots to help around the house is already an industry in Japan. The robotics market is expected to be worth $22.7bn by 2019, and household and service markets are expected to constitute one third of this.
There are robots are being developed that can unload dishwashers, and learn from instructions. Big names have seen the potential in this market, and have begun to explore. Google acquired Schaft Inc, a Japanese robots start up. Toshiba’s retail robot Aiko Chihira is already greeting customers. Japan’s government is encouraging this explosion in robotics, with hopes that the use of robots in the service industries will increase twenty-fold by the year 2020. The competition to be a pioneering company is fierce. In 2013, Chinese internet giant Baidu opened a research laboratory in Silicon Valley, with the aim of developing artificial intelligence. Not only did Baidu set up shop in Google’s own backyard, the tech giant even hired a former Google researcher as their chief scientist. The race to create the perfect household robot is well under-way. With billions at stake, it will be here sooner rather than later.
If you like this article you may be interested in “Meet Chihira Aico: The World’s First Female Humanoid”.