An intelligent robot is a remarkably useful combination of a manipulator, sensors and controls. The use of these machines in factory automation can improve productivity, increase product quality and improve competitiveness. This paper presents a discussion of recent economic and technical trends. The robotics industry now has a billion-dollar market in the U.S. and is growing. Feasibility studies are presented which also show unaudited healthy rates of return for a variety of robotic applications. Technically, the machines are faster, cheaper, more repeatable, more reliable and safer. The knowledge base of inverse kinematic and dynamic solutions and intelligent controls is increasing. More attention is being given by industry to robots, vision and motion controls. New areas of usage are emerging for service robots, remote manipulators and automated guided vehicles. However, the road from inspiration to successful application is still long and difficult, often taking decades to achieve a new product. More cooperation between government, industry and universities is needed to speed the development of intelligent robots that will benefit both industry and society.