Monday 23rd May 2016
- The AI revolution is the most profound transformation human civilization will experience in all of history. – Ray Kurzweil
Rise of the Robots is Sparking an Investment Boom
- Global influx of machines set to open one of the hottest new markets in tech
An army of robots is on the move.
In warehouses, hospitals and retail stores, and on city streets, industrial parks and the footpaths of college campuses, the first representatives of this new invading force are starting to become apparent.
“The robots are among us,” says Steve Jurvetson, a Silicon Valley investor and a director at Elon Musk’s Tesla and SpaceX companies, which have relied heavily on robotics.
A multitude of machines will follow, he says: “A lot of people are going to come in contact with robots in the next two to five years.”
The machines are starting to roll or walk out of the labs. In the process, they are about to tip off a financing boom as robotics — and artificial intelligence — becomes one of the hottest new markets in tech.
A boom is taking place in Asia, with Japan and China, which is in the early stages of retooling its manufacturing sector, accounting for 69 per cent of all robot spending.
“There is an exponential pace of improvement in hardware and machine learning algorithms,” says co-founder of Dispatch, a Silicon Valley company that is testing an autonomous delivery vehicle, Uriah Baalke. The result is a new class of machines that can operate by themselves in human space.
The technology advances behind this wave of innovation have come together remarkably quickly. Funding over the past five years by Darpa, the research arm of the US defence department, has brought breakthroughs in mechanical areas such as robotic limbs, says SRI International’s Mr Kothari.
But the biggest advances have come in software. Improvements in computer vision, for instance, have made possible many companies like Dispatch, whose machines rely on being able to “see” the world around them, says Chris Dixon, a partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.
Machine learning algorithms, which are designed to adapt through an endless process of trial and error, play the biggest part in teaching robots how to navigate a world beyond the normal rules-based systems that computers are designed to handle.
“You won’t have to programmatically tell it what to do; it will figure it out,” says Vinod Khosla, a venture capitalist who has backed robot companies in markets including agriculture and healthcare. “Today, it’s really dumb intelligence — but that will change quickly.” – Richard Waters