所谓“机器人”，其实就是一种执行操作或任务的机械设备。 而软件领域的日渐进步带动了人工智能产业的兴起，这种新技术大幅度提高了计算机工作、学习和解决问题的能力。 总而言之，这些技术正在彻底改变我们完成任务、分析数据和作出决策的方式。
许多人可能不知道，如今最先进的机器人所需的人力监督其实已经非常少了。比如 一个日本工厂已经在"熄灯（即无人工）"模式下运行了15年以上。 这样的自动化工厂能够制造的物品从电动剃刀到其他机器人都有，可谓是包罗万象。 此外，人工智能的突破使得计算机可以利用各种数据集和输入来执行复杂的任务。 例如，IBM的沃森电脑能够通过分析人群噪音和运动员的姿势来生成体育项目精彩回放。 将机器人的机械能力与AI的智能结果结合起来，能使机器完成清洗、烹饪、驾驶和照顾其他人等人类工作。
世界人口的两极正在快速变化。 首先，大部分人口正在进入退休年龄，而出生率则正在下降。 据世界卫生组织称："65岁以上的人口预计将从2010年的5.24亿增长到2050年的近15亿。" 由于缺乏替代这些退休职工的新生人口，许多国家都面临劳动力萎缩的前景。 例如，日本的劳动力预计将在2060年下降到高峰期大约一半的水平。
即使足够的劳动力资源也不足以维持经济增长。 劳动力成本昂贵而且仍不断上涨，这对制造业等竞争性行业来说是极具挑战性的前景。 近几十年来，许多企业都选择将工作离岸外包，还有许多公司正在寻找机器人来进一步提升成本效益。 一项分析发现，离岸外包工作可以节省大约65％的劳动力成本，而用机器人取代工人可以节省约90％的资金。
最后，机器人和人工智能自身也能够促进生产率提高。 使用这些技术可以提高生产的效率与质量，而无需处理疲劳或操作不当导致的相关的认知和身体问题。 在德国、韩国、中国、日本和美国这样的地方采用机器人技术，预计将在2025年之前将生产力提高30％。
制造业：机器人在制造业方面有悠久的历史。 今天，他们可以比以往任何时候都做得更多，包括视觉识别和运动检测功能，这些功能扩大了它们思考与行动方面的功能。 因此，依赖自动化的制造工序所占比例预计将从2015年的10％增长到2025年的25％。
农业：人工智能和机器人正在为农民提供分析土壤，灌溉和作物产量的新方法。 这些数据可以帮助人们更有效地利用农田以及增加收成。 到2020年，全球农业机器人市场预计将超过150亿美元。
正如计算机和互联网几乎成为每个行业无处不在的工具，人工智能和机器人未来也将变得随处可见。 从这一发展中获益最大的是处于开发或实施这些技术的前沿行业和国家的公司。 这些公司包括开发工业制造机器人的制造公司、开发手术机器人的医疗器械公司、生产无人机的国防公司、生产无人驾驶车辆的运输公司以及推动人工智能边界的软件开发商等。
这类公司很多可以在 "Global X Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Thematic ETF (BOTZ)"这个网站中找到，该指数基金旨在通过密切接触机器人和人工智能主题，为世界各地的公司提供有用信息。
Recent technological advancements in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are disrupting a range of industries from manufacturing, to health care, defense, and transportation. To better understand the potential growth of these revolutionary technologies, we explore the following questions:
- What are robotics and AI?
- What are the drivers of growth within robotics and AI?
- Which sectors are being disrupted by these technologies?
- What types of companies are expected to benefit most?
What Are Robotics and AI?
Robotics is a term for a mechanical device designed to perform an operation or task. These engineering feats are increasingly joined by advancements in software, which allow computers to work, learn, and problem-solve- an area of computer science called artificial intelligence. Together, these technologies are revolutionizing the way we complete tasks, analyze data, and make decisions.
Many don't realize just how little human oversight is required of today's most advanced robots. One Japanese factory has been running in "lights out" mode for more than 15 years, meaning there are no human factory workers. Automated plants like this are capable of manufacturing everything from electric razors to even other robots. In addition, breakthroughs in AI allow computers to perform complex tasks by drawing on various data sets and inputs. For example, IBM's Watson computer is able to generate sports highlight reels by analyzing crowd noises and player gestures. Joining the mechanical abilities of robotics with the intelligence of AI has resulted in machines capable of cleaning, cooking, driving, and caretaking among other human-like tasks.
What Are The Drivers of Growth Within Robotics and AI?
Robotics and AI are addressing a host of problems characterized by an aging workforce, rising labor costs, and quality improvement needs.
The demographics of the world are changing rapidly on two fronts. First, a greater portion of the population is entering retirement age while birthrates are plummeting. According to the World Health Organization, "The number of people aged 65 or older is projected to grow from an estimated 524 million in 2010 to nearly 1.5 billion in 2050."3 With a shortage of births to replace these retired workers, many countries are facing the prospect of shrinking workforces. Japan's workforce, for example, is expected to decline to roughly half its peak level by 2060.
Even adequate labor resources are not necessarily enough to sustain growth. Labor costs are expensive and rising, which is a particularly challenging prospect for competitive industries like manufacturing. While in recent decades many businesses turned to offshoring these jobs, many companies are finding robots to be even more cost efficient. One analysis found that offshoring jobs could save a firm approximately 65% on labor costs while replacing workers with robots can achieve an estimated 90 % in savings.
Last, robots and AI are drivers of improved productivity. Engaging these technologies can yield faster, higher quality outputs without cognitive and physical problems associated with fatigue or malpractice. The adoption of robotics in places like Germany, South Korea, China, Japan, and the U.S. is expected to boost productivity by up to 30% by just 2025.
Which Sectors Are Being Disrupted?
Nearly every industry can find ways to incorporate these innovative technologies in an effort to improve output or reduce costs. This is why analysts expect that by 2020 the robot and AI market will exceed $150 billion. The industries that are at the forefront of this adoption include:
Manufacturing: Robots have a long history in manufacturing. Today, they can do more than ever, including vision-recognition and motion detection capabilities, which broaden their utility to both think and do. As a result, manufacturing processes relying on automation is expected to grow from 10% in 2015 to an estimated 25% in 2025.
Military And Defense: Drones are reducing the need to put soldiers in danger in major conflict zones. In addition, robots used for transportation, search and rescue, and reconnaissance are all seeing increased adoption.
Medicine: Robots and AI are making headway in administering procedures on patients and diagnosing illnesses. IBM's Watson supercomputer has a 90% accuracy rate in lung cancer diagnosis compared to 50% by humans.
Transportation: Autonomous cars are already appearing on streets. By 2030 autonomous cars could account for up to 15% of passenger vehicles sold worldwide.
Agriculture: AI and robots are equipping farmers with new ways to analyze soil, irrigation, and crop yields. This data can make more efficient use of farmland while boosting harvests. The global market for agriculture robots is projected to exceed $15 billion by 2020.
Finance: The financial sector is at the fore of advancements in AI as Financial Technology (FinTech) such as the introduction of robo-advisors which can create and maintain customized portfolios for investors.
What Types of Companies Stand to Benefit The Most?
Just as computers and the internet became ubiquitous tools for virtually every industry, it is expected that AI and robotics will become equally as commonplace. The companies that stand to benefit the most from this development involve companies in a range of industries and countries that are at the forefront of developing or implementing these technologies. Such companies include those developing industrial manufacturing robots, medical device companies developing surgical robots, defense corporations producing drones, transportation companies involved in driverless vehicles, and software developers pushing the boundaries of artificial intelligence.
Many of these firms can be found in the Global X Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Thematic ETF (BOTZ), which seeks to provide exposure to companies around the world with high exposure to the Robotics and Artificial Intelligence theme.