Mobile isn’t the future.It’s the technology of today.
Other cool new technologies are already on the horizon, from wearable computers (Jawbone, Google glasses) to 3D printers and biotech.
But what will the next mass consumer technology trend be?
I think it’s robots.
I’m not talking about R2-D2 or The Jetsons. Robots, by definition, are simply “mechanical or virtual intelligent agents that can perform tasks automatically or with guidance, typically by remote control.”
Mobile devices are becoming those remote controls.
The robot revolution is already happening. Fortune 500 companies are spending a lot of money to acquire robotic companies. Amazon purchased robot-run warehouse Kiva Systems for $775 million. Apple acquired and incorporated Siri into iPhones. Google is making a robot car that drives itself.
Startups are beginning to create more reasonably priced robots in the marketplace too. Orbotix is a Boulder-based robotics company that’s working on “mixed-reality gaming.” It meshes physical objects and virtual reality.The first product it released is Sphero, a robotic ball that can be controlled with an iPhone. Japanese company Bandai is working on a “smart pet”; the iPuppy, that has an iPhone for a face.
Romotive is a startup based in Las Vegas that will soon have its robots sold in stores nationwide. More than 2,000 of its devices were ordered on Kickstarter before there was a product to ship, and CEO Keller Rinaudo wants to put a robot in every household by 2022.
“We grew up watching movies with amazing robots,” says Rinaudo. “Unfortunately they suck today. They’re either cheap plastic toys that break or they cost $5 million dollars. That’s a huge gap. There needs to be one that’s affordable that can do normal things.”
Right now, Romotive is just a mini car that an iPhone, Android, or iPad can control. The mobile device becomes the brain of the robot on wheels. But it wants to create a robot API so developers can create actions for its smart phone-controlled devices.
Products like Romotive’s and Bandai’s are the future of toys and mobile gaming — they’re toys that keep evolving without ever having to buy new versions. Product improvements will be downloaded, not bought.
Photo: Kane Hsieh
Rinaudo says the amount of time spent on computers five years ago is the amount of time spent on mobile devices today. He believes that’s also the amount of time we’ll spend interacting with robots five years from today.
The industry seems to be moving in that direction. In the US, robotics is a $1.35 billion industry; It’s a $20 billion industry globally. By 2015, personal robots are expected to be a $15 billion industry. Robitics is expected to become a $70 billion industry by 2025.
Right now, robots are seen most in big industries like automotive, aerospace, and pharmaceutical, and they come with a hefty price tag. But they’re starting to become more mainstream. The National Robotics Initiative, for example, is spending $70 million to design “co-robots” that help and interact with people, like the elderly.
Robots are getting easier to make, too. Willow Garage is creating an ROS (Robot Operating System) so developers can create robot applications, much like they develop mobile apps and games.
As robots become cheaper to produce, they’ll make everything cheaper to produce. The average salary of a Chinese worker is $3 an hour — the average cost of running a small robot factory in China is $0.15 per hour.
Venture Capitalists are noticing the robotics trend and they’re pouring more money into these companies — $160 million in 2011 — than ever before. Soon you’ll be picking out personal robots instead of personal computers from the shelves of stores like Best Buy.
Because, when you think about it, what’s cooler than a mobile device?
A mobile device that does things for you.
NOW WATCH: Tech Insider videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.