Thematic Take

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Cyrus Mewawalla, Head of Thematic Intelligence, GlobalData

Foreword: unlocking robotics’ full potential 

At GlobalData, we define a theme as any issue that keeps a business leader awake at night. 

Companies are impacted by multiple themes that frequently conflict with one another. What is needed is an effective methodology that reflects, understands, and reconciles these conflicts. 

Our thematic research ecosystem is a single, integrated global research platform that provides an easy-to-use framework for tracking all themes across all companies in all sectors. 

Viewing the world’s data by themes makes it easier to make critical decisions. Companies that invest in the right themes become success stories. Those that miss the essential themes in their industry end up as failures. 

Robotics has a long history, but only relatively recently have conditions aligned to unlock its full potential. Those conditions are technological, economic, and demographic: 

  • Cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) enable robots to collaborate and access huge amounts of data uninterruptedly. 
  • Automation is key to improving productivity across various sectors, including healthcare, manufacturing, and logistics. 
  • Societies are using robots to care for older people and address shortages in the workforce. 

Science fiction often speculates about robots that are virtually indistinguishable from humans. Yet, the most popular consumer robot is still a vacuum cleaner shaped like a disc. In factories and warehouses, human staff work alongside robots that are incredibly good at performing repetitive and dangerous tasks but do not look or behave like humans.  

In the future, AI will allow robots to identify human emotions, and the field of soft robotics is developing robots from materials similar to those found in living organisms. There is a chance that one day, life will imitate art, and robots will look like people. If and when that happens, societies will face an ethical conundrum: what rights do we give non-human creatures that look like us?