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VICE News

How the humble robotic arm took over the world

A short history of the robot that started it all.

by Ben Craw
Dec 26 2018, 6:08pm

Today there are about 2 million industrial robots being used around the world, and that number is growing exponentially. Robots are doing everything from welding cars and making Adidas sneakers to farming lettuce and exploring Mars. Global sales have doubled over the past five years, according to the International Federation of Robotics.

But how did we arrive at this robot-dominated world of tomorrow? It all started with a simple robotic arm.

For its origin story, we look back to the nuclear industry (like Godzilla got his start). We also explore whether robots create or destroy jobs (spoiler alert: it’s both, depending on which study you read) and the imagine the future of humans and robots working side by side.

VICE News spoke with Howie Choset, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute, and Byron Clayton, the CEO of the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute, about the history of the robotic arm.