Some of the most impressive service robots are made by Boston Dynamics and, surprisingly, by Honda Motor Company (NYSE: HMC). Robots made by these companies are carrying on the MegaTrend in impressive ways. Boston Dynamics is currently owned by South Korean automaker Hyundai, although in the recent past it was owned by Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL).
For years, the company has worked with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop four legged robots to replace pack mules. The advantage of a biomimetic design, rather than using wheels or tracks, is the ability to walk over the roughest terrain and climb the steepest climbs.
The early versions, like the BigDog, were powered by gasoline and internal combustion engines. But they were too loud and made it difficult for soldiers to stay hidden or to communicate with one another. Current versions of Boston Dynamic’s four legged service robots use battery power to eliminate the noise of a combustion engine.
Perhaps more importantly, the company now incorporates artificial intelligence (AI), which enables the robots to take commands from the soldiers using it. Moreover, the current versions are able to decipher communications between soldiers and commands to the robot.
Boston Dynamics also famously developed the humanoid robot named Atlas. This robot went viral with films of it running through obstacle courses and doing choreographed group dance moves.
Honda has been developing robots since 1986.
Perhaps the most famous of these is named ASIMO. At 51 inches (130 cm) tall, ASIMO was the first humanoid robot to be able to walk up and down stairs without guidance. It can also dance and walk alongside humans.
Now here is where things get a little creepy. Through a separate helmet that a human user wears, it is possible for ASIMO to read the user’s brainwaves and cerebral blood flow. Using AI, ASIMO is able to translate this information into movement. Therefore, in a sense ASIMO is able to read the human mind!
Although ASIMO is more a research project, Honda has taken what it’s learned from ASIMO over the years to commercialize exoskeleton-like walking assist devices. Besides being useful to injury survivors or senior citizens, Honda has fitted some of its automotive assembly line workers with such devices. This allows them to make deep knee bending moves while carrying and installing hefty components.
The idea of using aerial drones to deliver packages, and even deliver pizzas, came about more than a decade ago. However, it took until recently for the Federal Aviation Administration to determine how to safely manage the airspace for aerial drones.
Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has been developing the concept for about the same amount of time. Engineers at Amazon have been through about two dozen prototypes and currently have a trial going on in Lockford, California that started in June of this year.
The goal of Amazon’s aerial drone delivery program is to develop a way for its Prime customers to receive packages in less than an hour of ordering them. Reports indicate the program is a success and should be winging its way to new locations soon.
Industrial robots are the largest market for modern robotics, and they keep getting more and more useful. Primary areas of improvement include interoperability, where robots from disparate manufacturers are able to communicate between each other and function in unison.
Another rapidly developing area is in artificial intelligence. This will allow factory robots to work closer and safer with human partners.
Finally, networked industrial robots are subject to attack from hackers. Therefore, industrial robot manufacturers are heavily focused on embedding cybersecurity into their latest creations.
From reading about all the exciting developments in the robotics space, it’s clear this MegaTrend isn’t an interesting fad, but has a real impact on societal transformation. The stocks that benefit from this expanding MegaTrend are already in our portfolios and will continue to grow and dominate the sectors the companies already lead in.
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