A collaborative robot, also known as a cobot, is a robot that is capable of learning multiple tasks so it can assist human beings. In contrast, autonomous robots are hard-coded to repeatedly perform one task, work independently and remain stationary. Today, advances in mobile technology, machine vision, cognitive computing and touch technology (including collision avoidance) are making it possible for small, lower-power robots to be aware of their surroundings and perform multiple types of tasks safely in close proximity to human workers. A cobot, when working side by side a human, can quickly learn tasks through demonstration and reinforcement learning. As of this writing, the majority of industrial robots are still autonomous.
We all know that robots are already here, changing the way industries across the world work. The robotics industry is evolving at a fast pace. In addition to the more traditional industrial robots, there is an emerging demand for modern cobots which are intended to physically interact with humans in a shared workspace. One example of these modern cobots is ABB's YuMi, which was officially introduced to the marketplace at the end of 2015. YuMi is a "robotic co-worker" that will, according to the company, change the way we think about assembly automation.
Collaborative robots, usually called cobots, are now the fastest growing segment of industrial automation and are expected to make up 34% of all industrial robot sales (a ten-fold increase) by 2025. Universal Robots (UR), the company that helped pioneer the market -- one that was largely nonexistent a decade ago -- just announced its 25,000th cobot sale. The news coincides with the start of the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), which began today. Universal Robots has a 60 percent share of the cobot market, but rapid maturity in the sector has attracted plenty of rivals. In a topsy turvy scramble for share that parallels the hardware wars in personal computing, now-established brands like UR, ABB, Fanuc, and Rethink Robotics are competing with one another while newer entries like Locus and Vecna fill out the sector.
The honored machine is a UR5e collaborative robot made by Universal Robots (UR), which is the market leader in the growing category of flexible, collaborative industrial automation. Despite rumblings that Rethink's closure may portend a bumpy road ahead for the surging industrial automation sector, the post mortem on the news is that Rethink put too many eggs in too few baskets by focusing on a couple flagship models, namely the robots Baxter and Sawyer. Cobots, which can operate safely outside cages and alongside humans on factory floors and industrial lines, are expected to account for a full 34 percent of all industrial robot sales by 2025, according to the International Federation of Robotics. Universal Robots has jumped out to a commanding lead and controls 60 percent of the global cobot market. That lead looks secure for the near future with smart alliances with companies that make compatible hardware, including grippers and other industrial automation end effectors for specialized tasks.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the new engine that is going to launch the fourth industrial revolution after loom, steam engine and assembly line, according to Malcolm Frank, Executive Vice-President, Strategy & Marketing, Cognizant Technology Solutions. In the process, countries that get it right will have strong GDP growth, he said at a session on'What to do when machines do everything!' organised by The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) Chennai in association with Nasscom. The top five global companies in terms of market value are digital companies, and either Apple or Amazon could be a $1 trillion company in next 12-18 months. "We are in the midst of an important economic period," he said. Three scenarios could emerge in future – machines will replace humans; enhance and make people better at what they are doing; or invent entirely new jobs, Frank said.