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Wednesday, 31 October, 2001, 10:23 GMT
Robot investment on the rise
Toyota cars under construction by robots
The car industry is a big user of robots
By the BBC's Imogen Foulkes

A survey into the use of robots around the world has found that last year marked a record for the robotics industry.

The survey was carried out by the Geneva-based United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, and the International Federation of Robotics.

About 750,000 robots are currently in use worldwide, many of them in the automobile industry.

Investment in the robotics industry increased by a record 25%, and 100,000 new robots were installed in the workplace.

Japan Science and Technology Corporation humanoid robot - Dynamic Brain
About 750,000 robots are in use worldwide

Japan leads the world, with 389,000 robots, followed by the European Union, which has 198,000.

The growing popularity is felt mainly in the automobile industry, where high precision robots are increasingly taking the place of people.

Among German and Italian car manufacturers, one worker in 10 is now a robot.

Robot cost falls

Price is also an important factor.

Whereas wages for humans are increasing, the cost of a robot is now only 20% of its 1990 level.

The survey predicts that the number of robots will grow to more than one million worldwide over the next three years.

They are becoming increasingly popular in the service industry too, but there are some crumbs of comfort for old-fashioned human workers in the survey - the average life expectancy of a robot is only 12 years, and they too are susceptible to economic recession.

The year 2000 may have been a boom year, but the expected global economic downturn will, analysts say, also hit the robotics industry, and investment is already decreasing.

See also:

10 Sep 01 | Artificial intelligence
Timeline: Real robots
13 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
Robot brains become more human
27 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
Acceptable face of robotics
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