They vacuum our floors and help fight our wars, but robots always seem to be just over the horizon. They're never as commonplace as we expected.
Still, that hasn't stopped prognosticators from predicting that robots will be the automobile of the 21st century, or that robots makers are now where Microsoft was in the late 1970s. The markets for industrial and service robots are already worth billions of dollars each, according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) data.
Robotkind certainly got a major boost this week when electronics giant Foxconn, which makes everything from iPads to LCD TVs, announced that it's replacing some of its human workers, which number more than 900,000, with more than a million robots.
Of course, we all wish we'd bought shares in Microsoft and Google early on. That's the kind of thinking that led Frank Tobe, author of The Robot Report blog, to look into the sector and try to identify publicly traded robot makers that have growth potential.
In a recent critique of a list of 10 robot makers that appeared on the Nasdaq Web site, the Report's sub-blog, Everything Robotic, noted that some of the world's biggest robot companies, such as Japanese industrial robot makers Yaskawa and Fanuc, were not included.
Tobe also pointed out that Nasdaq missed rising stars like Intuitive Surgical, which produces the da Vinci surgery system, and Adept Technology, which makes automation systems.
Intrigued, we asked Tobe, a former political consultant, why he thinks now might be a good time to invest in our robotic future. … Read more