CSC: Are the Robots Really Coming?

InsightaaS: CSC’s Leading Edge Forum is home to blog posts by noted author and analyst David Moschella, who has grown from a role as the executive responsible for IDC’s international research into his current position as an advisor to CSC’s global enterprise clientele. This post provides a terrific example of why Moschella’s perspective is so well-regarded in the IT industry. In it, he frames a discussion of robotics that delves into four use scenarios (hazardous environments, replacing manual labour, healthcare, and entertainment/hobbyists), asking “does the activity justify the hype?” In the end, Moschella believes that “cobotics” that combine human and robotic aptitudes represent the most promising path forward, “at least for now…”

Robots are once again in the news, with prominent coverage in The Economist and much of the mainstream media. Some of this interest has been driven by Google’s acquisition of at least eight robotics firms, some by the rising use of drones, and no doubt some by the current enthusiasm for all things tech. But how much of the hype is really warranted? Haven’t we seen this movie before, with its sci-fi mix of wonder and fear, opportunities and job loss, and human vs machine intelligence?

Opinions differ. One reason why robotics industry forecasts vary so widely is that robot definitions span everything from washing machines to R2D2. Is a driverless car a robot or just a next generation vehicle? Smart products are a vast and growing industry, but useful walking/talking robots are still pretty much non-existent. Society tends to focus on android (human-looking) robots, but will this inclination ultimately make sense?

To get past both the hype and the definitional issues, we have sought to understand how advanced robotic technologies are being applied today. In addition to the many current and potential military uses, there appear to be four main commercial application classes, each at a different stage of development…

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