I reported earlier on a presentation by John Roemisch, general manager at FANUC Robotics, speaking at BIOMEDevice Boston. Roemisch concluded his presentation by saying that vision and tactile feedback will become ever more important for robots as they become increasingly collaborative with people. (View my earlier post here.)
Now, the Wall Street Journal reports that companies including Fanuc, Kawada Industries, and ABB Ltd. are already developing dexterous robots that can perform such tasks as assembling smart phones—”something now typically done by nimble-fingered women in China,” the Journal notes.
This could be bad news for workers in China. The Journal adds, “If these experimental robots pan out, they may cut the labor costs of consumer-electronic product companies, reducing the allure of low-wage countries.” (See related posts here and here.)
But the Journal continues, “The aim isn't to shoo humans out of factories. It is to give people more efficient tools, says Nicolas de Keijser, ABB's global product manager for small robots.” The article quoted him as saying, “'There are things that people do better than robots,' such as improvising or quickly adapting to design changes.”
The Journal goes on to note that Kawada's new NextAge robot, with prices starting at about $90,000, can replace or collaborate with humans.
The Journal article concludes by quoting Julie Shah, an assistant professor in the aeronautics department at MIT, as saying, “The idea of people working hand in metal fist with robots 'is becoming less like science fiction every year.'”