Why The Robotic Revolution is Incredibly Exciting
Margie is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
I think the easiest way to make money investing is to be able to recognize trends as they evolve, whether that be the "Crackberrys" in everyone's hand, the mocking of by PC users by newly converted Apple loyalists, or lines outside the door of an expanding restaurant chain.
So I'm here to share with you a no-brainer of a trend that will be sweeping the world over the next 10 years: robotics. Today I want illuminate how robots are already being employed by various companies.
Robots- They're Already Here
Right now you're interacting with robots far more frequently than you believe, at the kiosk, the ATM, the self-checkout grocery lines. Machines have been replacing human beings in menial jobs since the dawn of the industrial revolution, and it's not going to stop any time soon.
As an investor I suggest you get on board, because as software and technology become more sophisticated and cheaper to produce, this trend will continue at a much more rapid pace.
I'm not the only one who considers robots a good investment.
Several months ago, Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) purchased Kiva Systems for $775 million. Why? Because those little robots the company creates will be used to make their warehouses safer and more efficient, thus benefiting us all as consumers. I am sure Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will have them continue to develop new technologies that might be sold to other companies, or directly to consumers.
Toyota (NYSE: TM) has been using robots in its production line for years. They can perform repetitive tasks forever. In a tour conducted for reporters earlier this year, Toyota demonstrated how much faster and more accurate the process of welding had become using laser robotics, improving the Lexus luxury models' ability to withstand sharp turns.
But Toyota is not stopping there. With subsidies from the Japanese government, the company is producing a Human Support Robot (HSR) designed to assist the aging Japanese population be more independent by helping out around the house, picking things up, and with a communication set built in that would allow the owner to communicate with family members by Skype.
According to this column, “No word on the expected price of the robot (or its battery life), but given that Japanese public health insurance will cover 90% of associated costs (a law designed specifically for robot technology that was passed recently), it seems HSR will have a decent shot at becoming a real consumer product, though it may take another couple of years of development.”
I highlight this quote to show how a government can encourage the development of new technologies through incentives. Obviously this is not exactly “free-market” but incentives are the easiest way to channel peoples’ energies.
Honda (NYSE: HMC) has a walking and talking human-shaped robot named Asimo (check out the robot on the Honda website) who comes with voice recognition, pours juice into a cup, and can run around on two legs.
It’s a technological wonder, but not quite ready for the consumer yet, and when it comes out will run you an estimated one million dollars.
The company also has a robotic lawnmower available now, which means you can stay inside watching football for the price of $2,700, assuming you don’t need to rake.
Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) is the current leader in in the field of driver-less car software. I mentioned above that Asimo is expected to cost a cool million whenever it comes out, but expect the robotic car to cost far less.
Why, you might ask? Because the infrastructure to create the hardware is largely already there in the form of car factories. Yes, obviously the designs of the cars will have to change to seamlessly incorporate this new technology, but Google has already outfitted a typical Toyota Prius with add-ons, and has tested it on public roads, logging over 300,000 miles without an accident, putting it far ahead of its human counterparts.
The company will not be stopping there. At Google X Labs, I assure you they are continually working on new prototypes of which we have no idea, but I’d be willing to bet every dime in my bank account that the company will be coming out with more robotic offerings than just driver-less cars. Heck, a whole division of their company is named Android.
Although my next column will consist of analysis of one publicly traded company whose products at least one of your friends owns, I wanted to introduce you the possibilities of bringing what was formerly science fiction to life, and in the near future. To give you a taste of how it might affect your life.
Robotics are a technology that will truly change the world, that will create real value for society. From fewer roads needing to built as robotic cars will be able to move in unison together- thus stacked closer together, to cheaper car insurance, to not having to drive Grandpa and Grandma around, to not having to worry that your aging parents are constantly in harms way even at home, to menial jobs like mowing the grass or vacuuming being performed by a machine while you are at work, allowing you more leisure.
Much like the industrial revolution, many people, especially those on the lower rungs of the labor force, will have to find other jobs. One has to wonder, as robots become more and more complex and able to do more and more tasks, will we one day live in a society where the only remaining human task will be to design better and better machines?
Either way, as an investor, this is something to get really really excited about, and the purpose of this column was to whet your proverbial beak with this idea.
margiecfl has a position in Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Amazon.com and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Is this post wrong? Click here. Think you can do better? Join us and write your own!