In my previous blog (see: https://blogs.gartner.com/werner-goertz/2018/12/21/expect-incremental-innovation-not-disruption-consumer-electronics-show-ces-2019/) I argued that value creation from hardware is becoming subordinated to that created by ecosystems and AI. Nowhere is this more manifest than in personal robotics: for many years, CES has shown plenty of toy robots, many for children’s education and entertainment. The expected democratization of reinforcement learning will open new value creation in retail, hospitality, logistics, and of course, personal use cases.
Samsung’s suite of mechanical helpers is not an yet an example of adaptive reinforcement learning AI, but its concept announcement is indicative of what to expect:
– Bot Care is an entry point into robotics-enabled personal care systems that can be extended into remote healthcare and elder care ecosystems
– Bot Retail offers an additional interactive service channel for enterprises such as restaurants, some of which are exploring omni-channel UIs and delivery modes (see Panera Breads, for example)
The challenge for reinforcement AI-enabled robotic devices is the intersection of the digital and the analog domains. While rapid and disruptive progress can be expected from the evolution and democratization of AI in the digital domain, the laws of physics in the real world are more difficult to overcome:
– Gravity is (literally) holding us down! It causes us to devise complicated mechanical apparatus to lift, accelerate and manipulate objects.
– Energy storage is not evolving like Moore’s law is: the energy density of Li-Ion cells improves at only 3-5% YoY.
– Stuff breaks! In the digital domain, malfunctions are fixed with a reset button or an OTA software update. In the real world, a broken belt, gear or motor requires mechanical intervention.
I expect reinforcement AI enabled robotics to be a major personal technologies trend by the end of 2019 and beyond. Solutions presented at CES this year are still programmed in the traditional sense, but by CES 2020, we will see more robots that learn and adapt to their environment and become acquainted with the physical, sensory world and the humans they are designed to assist.
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