Rise of the Robots

These robots will shape the future

Abdulselam Durdak | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

A new generation of robots that are flexible, sensing and in some ways human-like has arrived—and the cyborgs have the potential to change the landscape of many industries and, in turn, the global economy.

According to the Boston Consulting Group, spending on robots globally is expected to jump to about $67 billion by 2025, from just over $15 billion in 2010

Some potentially game-changing robots were on display this week at Hannover Messe—the world's biggest industrial technology fair in Germany. This slideshow brings you some of the highlights.

Written by CNBC's Dhara Ranasinghe on Friday 17 April 2015.

Robotic ants


An ant colony: This is the vision one German firm has for the factory of the future. These tiny, 5.4-inch long cyberinsects could carry items and work autonomously with other factory ants—mimicking the co-operative behavior of their real-life counterparts.

Dubbed "bionicANTs," these small robots will usher in a new era for the manufacturing industry, says automation company Festo, which developed the prototype.

Scared of creepy crawlies? Don't worry—Festo also showcased "eMotionButterflies" at Hannover Messe. These fly pre-programmed routes inside an area mounted with infrared cameras that serve as a GPS system.

Your new workmate

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) touches the dual-arm robot YuMi next to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (2ndR) during their visit of the Hannover Messe fair.
Tobias Schwarz| AFP | Getty Images

"YuMi"—short for you and me working together—is a dual-arm, assembly robot that has the ability to see and feel. It was one of a number of collaborative robots on display at Hannover Messe.

YuMi's manufacturer, Swiss multinational ABB, says the robot can handle anything from the delicate parts of a wristwatch to the components found in tablets and mobile phones and is so dexterous it can thread a needle.


"CR35-iA" on display at Hannover Messe
Abdulselam Durdak| Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Collaborative robots mark a departure from their predecessors, which had to sit in cages or be fenced off to protect humans.

German machinery manufacturer Fanuc unveiled its new collaborative robot, "CR35-iA," this week. Bright green in color—to signify collaboration between humans and robots—the CR35-iA can take a payload of up to 35 kilograms, allowing it to handle heavy-duty, industrial manufacturing operations.

"Collaboration is already a revolution," Olaf Kramm, the general manager at Fanuc Germany, told CNBC.

The butler of the future

The "Care-O-bot 4" robot

A robot for the home and one that can wait on you around the clock: This "gentleman" cyborg, developed by Frauenhofer IPA and manufacturing firm SCHUNK, had its world premiere at Hannover Messe.

Its makers say the robot is a "milestone" in the field of mobile service robots and is more agile and flexible—not to say charming—than its predecessors.

Use and production of robots is on the rise, especially in those countries with ageing populations, analysts say.

Robotic kitchen

Tobias Schwarz | AFP | Getty Images

If a robot butler isn't enough to make life easier, the home of the future may also be equipped with a robotic kitchen that prepares you breakfast, lunch and dinner.

This robotic kitchen prototype, created by U.K.-based Moley Robotics, whipped up crab soup at the world's largest industrial technology fair.

Smarter car production


Future factories could feature electric cars being built by robots: German company IBG displayed a a fully automated assembly cell for electric vehicles at Hannover Messe.

Called the iProcell, it eradicates traditional car manufacturing processes such as welding. IBG says this is something that has never been done before.

The electric car created has four engines located at the wheels and is roughly the size of British Mini.

According to Boston Consulting Group, it is already cheaper to use robots than humans in car production.

Robot bartender

Bartender robot on display at Hannover Messe

End your day with an ice-cold beer… poured by a robot. German company Kuka has created a robotic arm bartender that can do just that.

On display at Hannover Messe, this robot has the ability to pick up and grip a glass, put it into position for filling, open a bottle and pour the beer. All you need to do is gently push the glass out of the robot's hand and say "cheers."