The Robots Are Coming... But Not For a While

There’s excitement in the tech sector over the potential of humanoid robots, but widespread adoption is likely to be years away.

AI Artificial Intelligence robot inside laptop
(Image credit: Getty)

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There’s a newfound excitement over the potential of humanoid robots. Hefty investment has poured into the tech sector to speed up commercialization. Hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital have been invested in the robots in the last few years, including a recent $675 million bet on the start-up firm Figurewhich describes itself as "The team bringing impossible ideas to life... with over 100 years of combined AI and humanoid experience." 

Firms working on cutting-edge robots include Boston Dynamics and Agility Robotics. Tesla made a splash with its effort — Optimus, aka the Tesla Bot. Other notable firms in this space are Apptronik, 1X Technologies, Sanctuary AI and Unitree Robotics. 

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Agility Robotic’s Digit, which is being tested in warehouses now to move boxes short distances, is 5’8”, weighs 140 pounds and lifts up to 35 pounds. However, humanoid robots have specific challenges not easy to overcome including lackluster balance, lack of strength and speed, very high costs and short battery life. It’s especially tricky to develop a robot that can work anywhere on a range of tasks. 

Expect exciting developments in the coming years, but not much adoption over the next decade. The first uses in work settings are likely to be for repeatable and specific tasks — taking a box from a shelf to a conveyor belt, for instance.

This forecast first appeared in The Kiplinger Letter, which has been running since 1923 and is a collection of concise weekly forecasts on business and economic trends, as well as what to expect from Washington, to help you understand what’s coming up to make the most of your investments and your money. Subscribe to The Kiplinger Letter.

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John Miley
Senior Associate Editor, The Kiplinger Letter

John Miley is a Senior Associate Editor at The Kiplinger Letter. He mainly covers technology, telecom and education, but will jump on other important business topics as needed. In his role, he provides timely forecasts about emerging technologies, business trends and government regulations. He also edits stories for the weekly publication and has written and edited e-mail newsletters.

He joined Kiplinger in August 2010 as a reporter for Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, where he wrote stories, fact-checked articles and researched investing data. After two years at the magazine, he moved to the Letter, where he has been for the last decade. He holds a BA from Bates College and a master’s degree in magazine journalism from Northwestern University, where he specialized in business reporting. An avid runner and a former decathlete, he has written about fitness and competed in triathlons.