The use of AI in boosting the capabilities of commercial robots has proven integral to the new era of automation. Let’s look at a few of the key players at the forefront of robotics–specifically: those who are using AI technology to make new things possible.

In San Francisco, Bright machines uses machine-learning to enhance the performance of its industrial robots. Meanwhile, Bossa Nova Robotics uses AI to make today’s robots more effective. Its robots can be found on the floors of major retailers like Walmart. The robots roll up and down the shelves, spotting inventory problems–saving time and money on human workers.

Vicarious seeks to develop a robot brain that emulates the mind of homo sapiens–and thus thinks like a human. Its “smart” robots are geared for industrial automation, so can “learn” as they do more tasks. The company has secured backing from prominent tech figures like Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk. Engineers at this trailblazing enterprise make robots that are equipped with artificial general intelligence (AGI), who’s circuitry is modeled on the neurological structure of biological brains. The company’s mission is to eventually create machines that surpass human intelligence.

CloudMinds develops the Human Augmented Robotics Intelligence (HARI) platform for robots, for what it calls an end-to-end cloud intelligence (CI) system. CI combines the machine with humans, allowing the robot to be controlled by human beings if need be. In essence, it’s a cloud-based solution for intelligent robots.

UiPath is a pioneer in bringing robotics to the process automation sector. The company makes an enterprise software platform that includes tools for robot licensing, provisioning, scheduling, monitoring, and alerting. The idea is to free people up from having to attend to mundane tasks. For example, its robots can communicate between legacy apps so that developers can focus on new AI-oriented apps.

AIBrain is an AI company that builds AI solutions for robotics applications. Its products include AICoRE (an AI agent), iRSP (an intelligent robot software platform), and Futurable (a future simulation AI game where every character is a fully autonomous AI). The focus of their work is to develop AI infused with the human skill set of problem solving, learning, and memory. Engineers at AIBrain are now working diligently to create fully autonomous AI. The idea is to build systems that learn and adapt without human assistance.

Of course, not all progress is transpiring in the U.S. Japan has long maintained its position as the world’s top exporter of robots, selling nearly 50% of the global market-share in terms of both units and dollar value. Initially, Japan’s robots were found mainly in factories–making automobiles and electronic equipment. This involved performing simple jobs (e.g. lifting / moving objects and assembling parts). Now Japan is seeking to incorporate robotics in diverse areas like aeronautics, medicine, disaster mitigation, search and rescue; as well as performing jobs that humans can’t or shouldn’t do–such as defusing bombs and handling radioactive material.

Uses include hazardous cleanup in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster that destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. After those events, Japan accelerated its development and application of disaster-response robots to go into radioactive areas. The University of Tokyo offers programs to teach students not only how to create robots but how to understand the way robot technology is transforming Japanese society. Research institutions, corporations, and government entities are collaborating to implement the country’s next generation of AI-enhanced robotic technology.

At the University of Tokyo’s School of Engineering, advances in robotics are also being made by mimicking the capabilities of the human eye. One application allows scientists a clear field of vision in extreme weather conditions that are otherwise difficult or impossible for humans to study. Researchers are also developing a robotic surgical system with a 3D endoscope that can be used to remotely conduct high-risk surgery in remote mountainous regions–meaning that no specialized doctors need be present. We can now use such technology in other ways, such that the patient is a thousand kilometers away from the doctor performing the surgery. This system is now in use in operating rooms in Europe and the U.S.

In Japan’s manufacturing culture, robots are viewed as solutions to many of the nation’s most critical problems. Japan’s work force has been aging quite rapidly. In fact, beginning in 2010, the Japanese population started shrinking. Robots have the potential to be tremendously important when it comes to offsetting a diminishing labor force. It’s no wonder, then, that Japan is devoting so much attention to the role smart machines will play in society in the coming generation.

Robotics has come a long way. And AI has accelerated the process, expanding the possibilities of what robots are capable of. Stay tuned for more developments, as there are further technological advances around the corner.