The 21st century robotics industry impacts nearly every facet of life – business, health, commerce, education, and even government. In fact, Tractica, a market research firm, forecasts that this technological area will grow from $31 billion in 2016 to $237.3 billion by 2022.
The advancements in the robotics industry over the next few years will be so significant that there is a good chance my two-year-old daughter may never have to learn to drive a car and will instead be driven around by autonomous public cars. This thought alone is astounding.
A lot of the science fiction staples of we grew up on have now become scientific fact, and there is no doubt Israel's technological robotic startups have played an important role in this.
The practical applications of this emerging field are sizeable. While some of the applications have already changed our day-to-day activities, several, in the near future, will also dramatically change our lives.
Artificial Intelligence Leads the Way
In the last few years, it feels that no matter where you look, startups all around the world are implementing artificial intelligence (AI) in their pitches. The popularity of AI is highly relevant to Israel's hi-tech robotics industry. Israel has an impressive number of startups that are among the world's leading pioneers of applied AI.
For example, Mobileye is making AI advances that allow for autonomous vehicles to safely navigate streets. In the medical field, MazorRobotics has revolutionized spinal surgery with their advanced robotic system. There is also Ben-Gurion University's Robotics Lab, which is creating animal-like robots that can find and pick specific fruit, climb walls, and even fit into tight spaces too small for humans. Finally, Intuition Robotics' ElliQ is assisting senior citizens with daily activities ranging from reminding them about medication and important appointments to connecting them with friends and family.
As always in technology and regulation, while the AI robotics phenomenon is on an exponential curve, the legal systems are lagging behind. This situation creates some unique questions: Should certain human rights be applied to robots? Should we create specific regulations and policies? Who is liable in the event my intelligent robot hacks a third party system – me, as the owner of the robot, or its manufacturer?
There are also questions regarding the ownership of the intellectual property. In general, in the absence of a written agreement, the author of a work owns that work. But this then leads to the question of who owns intellectual property in the event a person was assisted by a robot (with sophisticated deep learning) in creating such work? Is the copyright of the work owned solely by such person or jointly by such person and the owner of the robot? Is the robot entitled to claim moral rights to the work?
As the implications of this industry continue to raise numerous questions, which the current regulatory regimes do not provide clear answers to, the importance of a good and clear agreement covering the relevant vague issues cannot be diminished.
It is very true that any startup requires the best professional legal advisor right from its initial stages. However, in the event of a technology company that has any sort of interface with robotics or AI, the presence of such a legal advisor is imperative.
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