The robots are coming. And while they may come in peace, that doesn't mean they won't put you out of a job.
According to a report published by the Pew Research Center, robotics and A.I. will probably seep into almost every aspect of our lives by 2025, "from distant manufacturing processes to the most mundane household activities," the report's authors, Aaron Smith and Janna Anderson, write. And, the study predicts, they'll definitely put lots of us out of work, which is something that is already happening--robots are surveying, collecting data, writing articles, practicing medicine, doing manual labor, fighting wars, conducting search and rescue, and more. Marc Prensky, director of the Global Future Education Foundation and Institute, writes that almost every profession will be affected by robots and A.I.
"The penetration of A.I. and robotics will be close to 100 percent in many areas [by 2025]," Prensky writes. "It will be similar to the penetration of cell phones today. Over two-thirds of the world now have and use them daily."
Thankfully, the Great Robot Takeover of 2025 is still a decade away. While you wait, these are some developments in robotics you'll see in 2016.
The robotic postman
Everyone is waiting for Amazon drone delivery, but we're a few years away while the regulations and logistics shake out (and while we wait for the drone landing pad to replace the mailbox). But ground-based automated delivery robots are already in action. Starship Technologies, an Estonia-based startup launched by the founders of Skype, has made a small, six-wheeled plastic robot that looks like a cooler and is slated as the future of "last mile" delivery. Developed by Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, the plan is to partner with major retailers to deliver packages directly to your doorstep. As the last mile of delivery is the most expensive, Starship says its service can cut costs from up to $15 down to $1.
Silicon sex dolls are also already here. Matt McMullen, CEO of sex doll manufacturer Abyss Creations, has made anatomically correct sex dolls but, for their new product, the RealDoll, Abyss is now trying to incorporate virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics. McMullen hopes his ReadDoll can promote "bonds between man and machine," he told the New York Times. Bad sexual euphemisms aside, the RealDoll is packed with animatronics, sensors, artificial intelligence, and a whole lot of silicon and robotics, and is set to break barriers in the field of robot/ human "interaction."
Thanks to advances in robotics and neurology, engineers and scientists have made prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by the mind. Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory is testing its newest technologies with patients. Although still in clinical trials and far from commercialization, watch out for more in the intersection between robotics and neurology.
Robots are already doing manual labor and dangerous tasks in factories, Amazon fulfillment centers, and warfare, and disaster cleanups at places like the Fukushima nuclear power facility in Japan. From creepy robotic animals from Boston Dynamics, to Google's self-driving cars, to iRobot's gear-footed 710 Warrior that sucked up radioactive material at Fukushima, check out this year's DARPA Robotics challenge to see what robots can do. (Oh, and you should also watch these epic robot fails, just to feel good about yourself.)