Aside from giving disabled people a new level of empowerment, avatar robots present myriad possibilities for work with concomitant economic benefits. If you're a doctor, for instance, you could log into a robot in Antarctica or on a space station to tend to a critically ill person. Robots as a whole are beneficial for economies. According to a 2017 study by the London-based Centre for Economics and Business Research, robotics investments have "contributed around 10 percent of GDP per capita growth in OECD countries from 1993 to 2016" and offer "better long-run value for money than investments in financial services, real estate or transportation."
Avatar robots are still experimental, but if the market for collaborative robots is any indication, there could be significant demand. Also known as cobots, collaborative robots are covered with soft materials and can work alongside people in assembly and other jobs. The market for cobots is expected to grow to $12 billion by 2025, according to Barclays Equity Research. Remote operation of robots for work outside the factory, however, is already well established. Intuitive Surgical, for instance, has sold over 4,200 of its da Vinci surgical robots, which reproduce a surgeon's hand motions through small incisions in a patient's body during operations such as hysterectomies; benefits may include shorter recoveries.
Many workers around the world may be concerned about losing their jobs to automation, but the risk varies from country to country. A recent OECD study estimates that 33 percent of jobs in Slovakia are "highly automatable", but only 6 percent in Norway, though the authors caution that "the actual risk of automation is subject to significant variation." Nonetheless, unions are protesting encroaching machines. Earlier this year, Unifor, Canada's largest private-sector union, decried a decision by Canadian energy company Suncor to introduce driverless ore-hauling trucks in the Alberta oil sands; the move could replace hundreds of heavy machinery operators.
Japan has embraced automation in the factory and elsewhere. It has long held a leading position in the development of humanoid robots, with machines like Honda's Asimo exhibiting remarkable abilities in locomotion and dexterity. It's now integrating that technology with user interfaces to project human abilities into mobile machines.