Household duties: Robots to the rescue

The use of robots around the home to mow lawns, vacuum floors and manage other jobs will surge sevenfold by 2007 as more consumers snap up smart machines, the United Nations says.

Its annual World Robotics Survey, released yesterday, also reports record orders for &to=' target=_blank>industrial robots.

The report, issued by the UN Economic Commission for Europe and the International Federation of Robotics, said that 607,000 automated domestic helpers were in use at the end of 2003, two-thirds of them bought that year. Most of them - 570,000 - were robot lawnmowers. Sales of vacuum cleaning robots reached 37,000, informs The Sydney Morning Herald.

According to Independent Online, Japan still remains the most robotised economy, home to around half the current 800 000 industrial robots. After several years in the doldrums, demand there jumped 25 percent in 2003.

But Europe and North America are fast catching up, the study said.

European Union countries were in second place, with 250 000 robots in operation by the end of last year, mostly in Germany, Italy and France. Demand from North American businesses rose 28 percent, with 112 000 robots in service by the end of last year.

The machines are also taking off in richer developing countries, including Brazil, China and Mexico, spurred by plummeting prices.

Robotics prices in the U.S. have fallen on average to about 44 per cent of what they were in 1990 on an index compiled by UNECE. "Falling or stable robot prices, increasing labour costs and continuously improved technology are major driving forces which speak for massive robot investment in industry," said survey author Jan Karlsson.

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