A robot shut down Wall Street last night.
Surrounded by industry insiders and company executives, with all the pageantry of high finance historical firsts, Universal Robots' UR5 robot arm, equipped with a three-fingered gripper from SCHUNK, rang the closing bell at the NASDAQ last night – the first non-human hand to ever yield such (symbolic) power.
It was a stunt intended to celebrate a number of things, as these things always are.
Officially, the bell ringing was scheduled to celebrate the launch of the ROBO-STOX Global Robotics and Automation Index ETF. According to ROBO-STOX CEO, Rob Wilson, these will give the world a better – and more focused – measure of the value of robots and automation technologies. By doing that, he said, "We’re giving investors the world’s first benchmark by which to track the growing field of robotics.”
And that's fine. But it also symbolized something bigger – for the first time, a robotic hand took control of the economy. It is the same robotic hand that has begun taking over the controls at manufacturing plants from Denmark to the Michigan, standing alongside workers on the line at Volkswagen for the first time in a safe, collaborative manner. It is a new kind of robot for a new kind of plant for a new kind of manufacturing, as they say.
Seeing it up on the NASDAQ stage last night – beyond the razzmatazz and PR fanfare of the ritual – seemed to solidify the progress of the robots and the technologies behind them as they creep ever further into everyday life.
This what the future looks like. And it looks pretty good.