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 and future technical and economic trends. During the past twenty years the use of industrial robots that are equipped not only with precise motion control systems but also with sensors such as cameras, laser scanners, or tactile sensors that permit adaptation to a changing environment has increased dramatically. Intelligent robot products have been developed in many cases for factory automation and for some hospital and home applications. To reach an even higher degree of applications, the addition of learning may be required. Recently, learning theories such as the adaptive critic have been proposed. In this type of learning, a critic provides a grade to the controller of an action module such as a robot. The adaptive critic is a good model for human learning. In general, the critic may be considered to be the human with the teach pendant, plant manager, line supervisor, quality inspector or the consumer. If the ultimate critic is the consumer, then the quality inspector must model the consumer's decision-making process and use this model in the design and manufacturing operations. Can the adaptive critic be used to advance intelligent robots? Intelligent robots have historically taken decades to be developed and reduced to practice. Methods for speeding this development include technology such as rapid prototyping and product development and government, industry and university cooperation.