“Experience of the future” initiative is taken by McDonalds announced their plans to launch digital ordering kiosks by replacing cashiers in their about 2500 of locations. Company is about to extend their services in about 14,000 locations by deploying mobile ordering system, ultimately extending customer self-service. Now the question arises, where does the future lies in the age of robotics and automation. Well its nowhere near what we see in science fiction. We might picture robots as human like (credits to transformers) but they are actually different and look more related to functions or tasks they performs. In early stage, they were more of like big machines, with significant brawn and little else. They were dull, dirty and dangerous. But with passing time, they have became more portable and easy to handle. For instance, in 1980, robots transformed from being hydraulically powered to electrically driven.
Industrial robots currently at work
Currently there are about 1,000,000 functional unit of robots in the world and 50% of the number can be found in Japan alone, whereas US acquires 15% of them. In early stages, 90% of these robots are functioning in car manufacturing for the dirty work, typically in assembly line. But today, the ratio has slipped to 50% of robots in automobile plants, as it is spreading its roots in various other sectors including laboratories, energy plants, warehouse, factories, hospitals and other industries. Currently, robots are handling all the dirty and dangerous work including assembling products, spray painting, handling dangerous materials, cutting and polishing and inspection of products. Robots are also being used for most critical and dangerous tasks including cleaning sewers, detecting bombs, performing intricate surgeries etc. By observing the criticality of the tasks and productivity offered by robots, it has the potential to turn the technology upside down.
Attaining competitive advantage `
Robots and automation not only increases the productivity but can also help organizations to gain competitive advantage. Take the example of websites with chatbots enabled. They can keep their clients engaged with the help of chatbots by offering them 24x7 services. It overcomes the communication barrier and tend to bring more business to the organization. General motors, with ability to bring more intelligence, is currently acquiring about 40-50k robots for utilizing and developing new utilities. Robots are offering them with significant new strategies to improve their productivity and manufacturing. The focus of robotic manufacturing technology is to minimize the capital investment by increasing flexibility. New robot applications are being found for operations that are already automated with dedicated equipment.
Although experts envisions robots in human form by emulating human appearance with machine intelligence but it is not that simple and is not happening anytime soon. Despite a small number of industrial robots are integrated with machine vision systems, robot industry still has to cover a very long distance to reach that level. Industrial robots are currently integrated with machine vision, which is why they are called machine vision rather than robot vision. Today, simple pattern matching vision sensors can be purchased for under $2,000 from Cognex, Omron and others. The price reductions reflect today's reduced computing costs, and the focused development of vision systems for specific jobs such as inspection.