Last week, my colleagues and I at Institute for the Future held our Robot Renaissance conference, where we presented our research on the future of robotics. As part of this year-long project, we developed the above map to summarize our big forecasts and present some striking signals, present-day examples of technologies that we think indicate or embody a future trend. As with much of our work at IFTF, this map, lovingly designed by our creative director Jean Hagan, is available for free under a Creative Commons license. I hope you enjoy it! Klaatu barada nikto! From the introduction to the map:
After decades of hype, false starts, and few successes, smart machines are finally ready for prime time. In some areas, the robots will replace humans, freeing us up to do the things we are good at and actually enjoy. In other domains, the machines will become our collaborators, augmenting our own skills and abilities. The first robot boom was in the 1950s, when factory workers met the first industrial robots. Films like The Day The Earth Stood Still and Forbidden Planet packed theaters, and tin toy robots delighted kids. And now, as robots move out of the factories and make real a century of science fiction, we will once again see these machines in a new light, and we will also reconsider how we see ourselves.
Of course, visions of the future of robotics could easily veer into dystopia. Hollywood loves a good cautionary tale of robots turning against humanity, taking over the world, and generally wreaking havoc. But as you delve into the specific domains where robots will likely have the most impact, a much richer canvas of possibilities emerges. That is because machines never replace humans but rather change the nature of what humans can do and establish new expectations and standards of performance. Certainly some routine jobs will be taken over by machines. That has already happened and will continue. But the real power in robotics technologies lies in their ability to augment and extend our own capabilities. Our tools change us in unexpected ways, and the next generation of robotic tools can be no different. We will make new robots, but the robots will also make us.