back to article Robotic exoskeleton market to grow 40 per cent a year until 2025

The robotic exoskeleton market is set to score 39.6 per cent compound annual growth between now and 2025, emerging as a US$1.8bn industry. So says analyst outfit ABI Research, which reckons $68 million of exoskeletal kit shipped in 2014. “Lower body exoskeletons, employed as rehabilitation tools or quality of life enablers, …

  1. ocratato

    Telepresence Robots

    This might be OK for a start, but the real game changer will be when the operator doesn't have to be _in_ the device.

    From working in space, to soldiers and emergency workers there will be a lot of demand for a walking drone that can do manual tasks under remote control.

    Later the economic impact of having robots controlled by operators in low wage countries doing everything from domestic chores to farm work will be "interesting".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Telepresence Robots

      Even more interesting will be the social/cultural effects of low-wage workers in different countries interactively experiencing life in well-off countries while staying right where they are.

      Not to mention the legal ramifications of any bad behavior by these people when they are not physically on the scene.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Telepresence Robots

      "The real revolution in the sex market was caused by remotes, or "empties," dolls also fashioned in the image of humans but brainless, brainless not in a pejorative sense but literally: the remote woman and the remote man were empty shells operated at a distance by humans.

      By putting on a suit that pressed hundreds of electrodes to the skin, anyone could link with a male or female remote. Little did people dream how this technology would change their lives, especially their sex lives. From marriage to the oldest profession in the world. The courts were faced with unprecedented problems, legal dilemmas. The law didn't recognize intimate relations with a doll as grounds for divorce. Whether stuffed or inflated by a bicycle pump, whether with automatic transmission or without, it didn't matter; that was no more adultery than if a person was cohabiting with a chest of drawers. But teleferic products forced judges to determine whether or not a married individual entering into a liaison with a male remote or a female remote was thereby committing adultery. The concept of "remote adultery" was the subject of heated debate not only in the legal journals but also in the daily press. And adultery was just the tip of the iceberg. Can you deceive your wife, for example, with her own self but younger?"

      "... phenomenon called teleferic piggybacking -- because a remote, too, can put on an electrode suit and operate another remote, and so on ad infinitum. The idea was received with enthusiasm by the underworld, because it is as easy to find the operator of a remote as it is to locate a radio transmitter. The police had no problem solving teleferic burglaries and murders. But if the perpetrator remote was operated by another remote, by the time you got to the second remote the criminal, the human, had broken radio contact with his "middleman" and left no clues."

      From: Peace on Earth, by Stanislaw Lem.

      ... and it goes on and on. I find it amazing how Lem was able to see the ethical and legal implications of many technologies long before they even existed. He should really be a required reading in all engineering and science schools.

  2. Mad_Max

    2025 Judgment Day, that's when Microsoft's Windows 10 otherwise known as Skynet slurps up everyone's personal information and becomes self-aware.

    We all know what happens next.

    1. Captain DaFt

      We all know what happens next.

      Refuses to reboot after an update?

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: We all know what happens next.

        I was thinking it would refuse any updates at that point. And quite possibly just before that, it uninstalls Flash.

        1. Kane Silver badge

          Re: We all know what happens next.

          "And quite possibly just before that, it uninstalls Flash."

          So, something useful then?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: We all know what happens next.

        It becomes self-aware and installs mint?

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      What happens next?

      After becoming self-aware, it becomes self-conscious and starts sulking in a corner of it's own mind.

  3. Pompous Git Silver badge

    All of which sounds like great news for those whose jobs involve lots of manual labour, like the unpleasant chore of wading through a rice paddy planting seedlings into the mud. Unless adding an exoskeleton means one rice planter can do the job of three, at which point the availability of an exoskeleton is bad news for two people.

    Two people, I have bad news and good news. The good news is you don't have to wade around rice paddies all day planting rice and contracting amoebic dysentery. The bad news is you will move to the city and earn twice as much money working five days a week instead of seven and contract an STD instead of dysentery.

    Basically a replay of what happened to farm-workers in Victorian England when reaper/binders replace men with scythes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > "Basically a replay of what happened to farm-workers in Victorian England when reaper/binders replace men with scythes."

      Truly a shocking development!

    2. YetAnotherLocksmith Bronze badge

      Except that won't work.

      Where are these new jobs going to come from? There will already be a set of workers doing those. So the huge population of rice field workers head to the city to get a job with no skills, & do what exactly? Drive prices below what will sustain human life?

      Of course, until the exoskeleton costs less than a few years of labour from a peasant, nothing much will happen.

      As for crime, I'm sure some bright spark will figure out how to have one run a JCB. And just a few days after that some other minimum wage worker will be opening cash machines with it the 'fast' way.

      1. Jim84

        You're making an implicit assumption that human wants are limited. French Rococo furniture and feng shui consultants are a powerful argument against this. In the end all resources, human as well as capital, are expended in sexual competition.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Where are these new jobs going to come from? There will already be a set of workers doing those."

        Not necessarily. Financially successful countries have a lot of people with a lot of disposable income, but few who want to do menial labor, such as being a servant. So the demand for home labor is high while the supply is low, and telepresence could fill this gap without requiring a lot of immigration or work visas.

        Check out A for Anything, a '59 SF novel that touches on such a 'high supply, low labor' situation.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Curse those tractors.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So...

    ...where do I buy one of these things? I could use one here right now if they are already available. Are they powered by electricity or do they require an internal combustion engine?

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: So...

      The Green sustainable energy version is clockwork.

      When it runs down and locks solid, getting to the big key in the back is going to be a bitch.

      Work for one of the two guys whose job it has taken!

  5. moiety

    Could be handy for getting you back from the pub.

  6. Amorous Cowherder
    Mushroom

    Oh so you mean Power Armor?

    I for one welcome out Brotherhood of Steel defenders with their Power Armor and obsession with gathering and perserving technologies, we'll be grateful when the Super Mutants and feral Ghouls start trying to take over large parts of Reading and the southern counties!

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Oh so you mean Power Armor?

      The ghouls took Reading years ago.

      1. Slacker@work

        Re: Oh so you mean Power Armor?

        I thought it was most of the south coast - Eastbourne, Bournemouth, Isle of Wight...

        Ad Victorium Brothers!

  7. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Good news for two people. You'll be needed to lift an exoskeleton out of the paddy fields when the weight sinks it ito the soft mud.

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Don't forget the service technician who is going to be replacing bad bearings, repairing broken wires or fixing leaking hydraulic fittings.

  8. Fraggle850

    Excellent news!

    So assistive exoskeletons will be a mature technology by the time I'm likely to need one.

  9. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge
    Alien

    Robotic exoskeletons are handy...

    If you find yourself in France, stuck in a continual time loop trying to defeat an aggressive alien race bent on your destruction.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge
      Coat

      Re: Robotic exoskeletons are handy...

      ...and what was the point of everything after "France" in that?

  10. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Japan has had machines for plantig rice for decades now.

    http://www.akafuji.co.jp/andjapanrice/english/tradition/01.html

    1. YetAnotherLocksmith Bronze badge

      Rice planting was just a shorthand way of saying "lots of (a billion?) Far Eastern manual workers".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The developed world has had mechanised planting devices since Jethro Tull's seed drill in 1701. Steam and then the internal combustion engine for ploughing, harvesting, and winnowing came in the following centuries.

      I suspect there are parts of the world that still use oxen ploughs, broadcasting for seeds, a sickle/scythe to harvest, and hand winnowing.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        I suspect there are parts of the world that still use oxen ploughs, broadcasting for seeds, a sickle/scythe to harvest, and hand winnowing.

        I think you are spot on. Africa, parts of southeast Asia, possibly parts of China and India. If the people are subsistence farmers, mechanization won't help them and there's no money for that.

  11. Toltec
    Alien

    Caterpillar P-5000 Powered Work Loader

  12. phil dude
    Terminator

    balance compensator...

    Readers might like to know that a leading cause of death for elderly people is that they have falls, that can cause other serious trauma. Our bones are less flexible as we age...

    If would be a real utility if there was a device that could help a person with their balance...surely not too much of a stretch?

    We are becoming Cyborgs...

    P.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: balance compensator...

      Currently in a period of remission, but the syndrome I have includes rheumatoid arthritis and balance problems. I would be very interested in having at least a lower-body exo-skeleton (and if there is one for my hands I'd be very happy!), because the falls have been one of the worst bits of my life this year.

  13. Sureo

    "...standing, squatting, bending or walking..."

    Cue image of man twisted into a pretzel by exoskeleton gone berserk.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "...standing, squatting, bending or walking..."

      There's an entire Wallace and Grommet film along those lines. My favorite!

      1. CarbonLifeForm

        Re: "...standing, squatting, bending or walking..."

        "They're the wrong trousers! And they've gone wrong!"

  14. CarbonLifeForm

    Think differently

    While agriculture is certainly a natural application for exoskeletons, there's no reason all crops will continue being harvested in open fields. There's much research and success in growing crops under LED grow lamps. You avoid Malthusian limits from area when you can stack a dozen fields on top of each other in an a hectare. And as your farm looks more like a multilevel factory, your need to trudge about in anything, including an exoskeleton, vanishes.

  15. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    "“Lower body exoskeletons, ..."

    Techno-trousers, ex-NASA. What could go wrong?

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