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.
What does that car of the future look like? There is no one answer; in this world, the car that is sent to pick you up can be tailored for your trip. The more people traveling, the bigger the car. If your trip does not involve a highway, it may not be a car capable for the highway.
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.
Reports from Tesla suggest they are gathering massive amounts of driving data from logs in their cars — 780 million miles of driving, and as much as 100 million miles in autopilot mode. This contrasts with the 1.6 million miles of test operations at Google. Huge numbers, but what do they mean now, and in the future?
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.
According to Remy Glaisner, CEO and founder of Myria Research, the future robotics revolution will significantly impact the C-Suite of business. As Robotics and Intelligence Operational Systems (RIOS) technologies scale up, companies will require more structured and strategic approaches to managing the implications of this global transformation on their verticals. Enter the CRO or Chief Robotics Officer.
Brad Templeton argues that government interference with robocar safety regulations at these early stages, rather than 10-20 years after deployment, could significantly slow down the development of safety technologies for cars. Regulations and standards generally codify existing practice and conventional wisdom. Instead, he offers another solution.
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.