the intersection of consumers and innovations in robots at ces

in rethinking robotics, trending now by Jim Lawton

Looking for the latest innovations that will change our lives — I mean really change the way we live our lives – at home, in our cars, how we play and work? The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is a very good place to be.

I was there to join two discussions on the topic of robots. My colleagues from a diverse group of companies found a lot of common ground when we talked about the transformative nature of robots in real-world working environments and what we expect to see in 2016.

This year’s show didn’t disappoint. Showcased this year were new technologies ranging from useful (like smart control of our homes to make our daily lives better) and exciting (new experiences interacting with technology like virtual reality (Oculus Rift)) to awe-inspiring (gorgeous OLED televisions that can be rolled up and moved from place to place. All of this got me thinking about the role that consumers – that’s regular people like you and me – have to play when it comes to innovation in industrial robots.

I found three takeaways from the event that I believe will influence the next waves of innovation in smart, collaborative robots:

#1 We’ll see the shape and form of robots advance much more toward making these machines “touchable”.

Well beyond safe to work side-by-side with humans, robots will engage with humans directly, allowing people to interact and collaborate with robots in ways that are much more like they engage with other people. They will be able to “understand” our language and communicate through gestures and more.

#2 We as humans, are becoming much more comfortable with the integration and application of data and analytics in our daily lives.

There were a lot of devices designed to make day-to-day living much simpler and easier through the use of data-driven insight. Home automation was hot. So were devices that improve our fitness regimens. For robots, this comfort-level is likely to manifest itself in applications that will allow the robot to provide real-time feedback and recommendations for problem-solving or process improvement.

#3 Just as we’ve seen in other B2B technologies, the consumer experience will strongly influence how robots are designed to work with people in industrial environments.

Industrial robots have already come a very long way since the early days of automation. In fact, a big reason why our robots have “faces” is to help people on the factory floor feel comfortable working alongside the robot.

What’s next will include more and more robots that respond to human voice and gestures – making it even easier for people to direct the robot and modify its work as needed.

When I watch our customers engage with Baxter or Sawyer, I see the ways in which their experiences could inform our product road maps. After all, we’re building machines to transform the definition of work in manufacturing – and who better to learn from than those who do the work every day? And just as the technology found at CES offers consumers ways to live better, I think there’s a great opportunity for industrial machines to take a page from that sector to make work all that much easier.


About the Author

Jim Lawton

Jim had a choice upon graduating from Tufts University – chase a dream as a concert pianist or become part of the inaugural Leaders for Manufacturing Program at MIT. He chose the latter– dedicating his career to developing and delivering innovative solutions that improve the business of manufacturing. Internally at HP, and then at breakthrough start-ups in e-commerce, inventory optimization and supply chain risk management, Jim’s never once looked back. His charter today: capture the power of data and analytics to push the standard for world-class manufacturing higher—once again.

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