Frank Tobe is the owner and publisher of The Robot Report After selling his business and retiring from 25+ years as a provider of computer direct marketing and consulting to the Democratic National Committee, major presidential and other campaigns and initiatives, he has energetically pursued a new career in researching and investing in robotics. In 2013 he co-founded Robo-STOX™ LLC (renamed in 2015 to ROBO-Global) and developed a tracking index for the robotics industry: the ROBO-Global™ Robotics & Automation Index.
Frank is a member of Robohub and also a panel member for panel member for Robohub's Robotics by Invitation series.
Industrial robots used to be dumb, somewhat inflexible, and mostly blind – but also fast, precise and very efficient. As the cost of components, sensors and vision systems has been dropping, vision-enabled robots are becoming more prevalent and capable, and the industry is dramatically changing.
Worldwide sales of industrial robots set a new record: 248,000 units sold in 2015, 12% more than 2014. 66,700 units sold in China of which 20,400 were made in China.
Asia is still the strongest growth market with 156,000 units for the region, a 16% increase over 2014, but that figure is much lower than the 27% projected. The rate of growth of China-made robots penetrating the market also didn’t grow at the projected rate but it did grow at a healthy 31% rate.
IAI’s RoBattle unmanned, heavy duty, highly maneuverable, combat and support robotic system (UGV) is being shown at the Eurosatory 2016 Land and Airland Defence and Security tradeshow in Paris this week.
The latest acquisition is Gimatic, an Italian pneumatic and electric grippers, sensors and positioners maker, by Agic Capital. The Financial Times reported the sale price to be between $112 and $169 million.
Xiaomi, one of China’s star Internet, phone and electronics startups, develops cut-rate but reliable phones and consumer devices and markets them directly to consumers online. Their new HD drone starts at $380, and the 4K video model at $450. Both directly compete – at half the price – with DJI’s popular Phantom drones.
FANUC, the world’s largest maker of industrial robots, plans to start connecting 400,000 of their installed systems by the end of this year. The goal is to collect data about their operations and, through the use of deep learning, improve performance. Similarly, Kuka is building a deep-learning AI network for their industrial robots.
What is a robot? There are business, legal, insurance and safety considerations which make that definition important and the Tech Policy Lab at the University of Washington gave it a try with an interesting 6-minute video.
UPDATE: June 1, 2016: Forbes wrote today that Toyota is in discussions with Google not only for Boston Dynamics but also for Schaft, the Japanese startup that won the DARPA Robotics Challenge — a two-company sale.
There are likely close to 10,000 Peppers out in the world. Online sales have been 1,000 units each month for the last seven months with additional sales to businesses, such as Nestle's coffee shops and SoftBank's telecom stores. However, do Peppers offer value for money spent?
In China’s relentless state-stimulated quest to grow their robotics industry, Midea Group, a Chinese appliance manufacturer which already owns 13.5% of KUKA’s shares, has offered to buy up to 49% of the remaining shares at a 59.6% premium.
UPDATED 6/13/ & 6/16: Adjusted to reflect news from Reuters that Midea is only seeking a 49% stake in Kuka instead of a full takeover.
Artificial intelligence that programs itself on the fly – from the team that developed Siri at SRI and Apple – was demonstrated this week in New York and it quickly performed complex spoken tasks, live and onstage.
More than 20,000 students from around the globe traveled to St. Louis to compete in the annual FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Championship. The 4-day event ended Saturday night in front of a crowd of more than 40,000.