Robotics: A Bullish Market Facing Great Controversy

Posted by - Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

There's a theoretical basis for every phenomenon in society. And the robotics industry is certainly one such phenomenon that has aroused a lot of careful thought and research to evaluate the evolution of today's robots.

Robotics is in the midst of some serious break-throughs, changing the face of the work force, the military, and every other type of intrigued potential-product-consumer.

Some experts suggest that there's “something going on in the history of war and maybe even the history of humanity. The machines from science fiction really are starting to play out in our modern day battlefields.”

There are robots contributing to war efforts over in Iraq right now. They're working in warehouses and even serving as easily accessible companions to lonely people.

If they can do nearly everything we can do and look more and more like every day, the fine line that separates humans from robots has become thinner than ever before. It poses a serious question that is no longer as sci-fi as it once was:

Are we creating an entirely new species with this technology?

Over in Japan, engineers have created female and male androids that look eerily similar to actual Japanese women and men. These androids are able to talk and move like humans...they even blink and have complex facial expressions on a human-looking face attached to a remarkably human-looking body.

Take a look at a female model:

There are a multitude of pros and cons accompanying the robot trend. And, right now, some investors are growing very bullish on robots.

On the other hand, a lot of workers fear for their job-security, feeling threatened by the quickly advancing skills, intelligence, and agility of modern day robots.

Additionally, there are concerns about the uncanny valley – a term coined by robotics professor Masahir Mori in 1970. It's a hypothesis asserting that human beings respond with revulsion when looking upon robots that are TOO similar to actual human beings.

Take a look at this familiarity chart to understand the hypothesized emotional responses human have to robots and related objects:

familiarity
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

No matter what your personal opinion may be regarding robots, it seems to be something we must embrace. Robots are definitely on their way to becoming the next big thing; perhaps bigger than we think. They, for better or worse, offer the next level of luxury and efficiency for a variety of work fields...and it's only the beginning.

Here's a list of robot stocks to keep your eye on, compiled by Everything-Robotic.com. The first four are American companies :

  • iRobot (NASDAQ:IRBT) derives 100% of its revenue from robotic products, mostly military (PackBots), but also consumer-related (Roomba vacuum cleaners).
  • Raytheon (NYSE:RTN), an aerospace/defense company, has many kinds of robotic products: drones, exoskeletons, vision systems, etc. Still, robotics represents only a very small portion of their overall revenue.
  • Moog (NYSE:MOG.A), another aerospace/defense contractor and systems integrator, derives some revenue from the manufacture of sensors, haptics, unmanned aerial systems and ancillary products.
  • Dover Corp (NYSE:DOV), a machine manufacturer, gets just a small amount of their revenue from robotic grippers and components.
  • ABB (NYSE:ABB ADR) is a Swiss conglomerate; robotics represents only 18% of total revenue.
  • Sony (NYSE:SNE ADR), a Japanese company, presently has no robotic products for sale, although it has many under development, the most prominent of which is Asimo.
  • Panasonic (NYSE: PC ADR), also Japanese, is a multi-product company with robotics representing a small percent of the total.
  • Koninklijke Philips Electronics (NYSE:PHG ADR), from the Netherlands, has few robotic products which represent only a minimal percentage of their revenue.
  • Elbit (NASDAQ:ESLT ADR), an Israeli defense contractor, is actively involved in unmanned aircraft, surveillance and other robotic systems - nevertheless robotics represent less than 20% of gross revenue.

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