New, affordable robots are being developed that can perform advanced tasks and may threaten jobs.
"We’ve reached a tipping point in robotics," says Daniela Rus, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. The possibility exists to run a factory, she notes, "all while you are sleeping."
U.S. companies such as General Electric and Kiva Systems (owned by Amazon.com) are using some of the new robots. In fact, sales of industrial robots climbed 38 percent between 2010 and 2012.
Economists, labor experts, and businesses have yet to determine whether the robot trend will add good-paying jobs or just eliminate jobs. "There will certainly be winners and losers," says University of Washington professor Ryan Calo. "We’re talking about robots now because they are so versatile and affordable, and that will have profound effects on manufacturing, the entire supply chain, and jobs."
MIT fellow Andy McAfee says companies are becoming more productive without hiring more workers. However, a recent International Federation of Robotics study found that paid employment has risen in nations that are the largest users of industrial robots. Although jobs have been lost in manufacturing, others have been created in distribution and services.
From The Washington Post
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