Tech companies are planning to add to their designs the parts that can move on their own and also use electrical energy to generate the force of their movements.
The new technologies are expected to help make robots more robust and safer, with the aim of making them more adaptable to environmental challenges and making them easier to maintain and repair.
They also will help companies like Tesla Inc. TSLA, -0.03% make better use of energy and materials, said Elon Musk, chairman and chief executive of Tesla.
“We are looking at things like batteries and actuators, we’re going to be using that for some of the more advanced systems that will make the robots more energy efficient,” Musk said at a conference in Las Vegas.
The company has announced plans to add a 3-D printed robotic arm to its Model 3 sedan.
Tesla’s robots will be able to bend and stretch their arms in ways that require no mechanical actuators.
The move could allow them to carry out tasks like welding or cutting metal.
In another example, a robotic vacuum cleaner is expected to be used in hospitals to vacuum up human waste and debris.
Tesla is working on a robot that could take care of the cleaning of the homes of some elderly people, said Dan Rechtshaffen, an analyst at research firm Ovum.
The companies are also working on systems that can handle complex tasks like taking measurements or removing heavy metals, said Rechs, who said they’re also working to develop artificial intelligence to help them.
A company that manufactures parts for robotic cars, which are expected in about five years, is testing a robotic arm that can lift a 3D printed plastic model of the car.
That is likely to be the first robotic arms, Rechst said.
Tesla and other companies are already exploring the possibilities of using sensors to measure pressure and temperature in the body.
The sensors could be used to measure muscle activity or heart rate, or for more advanced monitoring of muscle tension, said Eric Shih, an automotive researcher at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Musk, who owns a majority stake in Tesla, also has plans to build self-driving cars in the near future.
Musk recently visited a Tesla testing facility in California.
He also said he’s planning to build a fleet of vehicles that will be self-propelled.
Tesla will be competing in a $3 billion contract with Toyota Motor Corp. TMS, -1.19% for a pair of cars that would be the company’s first to use a self-balancing system.
The project was backed by the government of Taiwan and other Asian governments.
The program will cost about $200 million.
Tesla, which has about 200 employees, has said it wants to make the robot technology mainstream.
It has been testing a small, small, and cheap version of the robot arm in an industrial park near Seattle, Washington.
The robots are being tested in the United States at the University of Washington, and at the company has said they will soon be available in California and other states.
Tesla said it will be a good first step.