This week I attended an “Artificial Intelligence (AI) Roundtable” of leading scientists, entrepreneurs and venture investors. As the discussion focused mainly on basic statistical techniques, I left feeling unfulfilled. My friend, Matt Turck, recently wrote that “just about every major tech company is working very actively on AI,” which also means that every startup hungry for capital is purchasing a dot ‘ai’ domain name. As the lines blur between what is and what reallyisn’t, I feel it necessary to provide readers with a quick lens of how to view intelligent agents for mechatronics.
Why are so many farm equipment manufacturers so heavily involved in the ag industry yet things are going so slowly in relation to robotics? Perhaps farmers need to first incorporate the digital era — and the concepts and practices of precision agriculture — before taking the next step toward the use of robots.
After reading the press releases for this batch of 24 research reports, although they vary widely in their forecasts, they almost all agree that most segments of the robotics industry are expected to grow at a double-digit pace at least through 2022.
iRobot (IRBT on the NASDAQ stock exchange) jumped from $70 to $80 per share on news that iRobot’s quarterly earnings were so good that the company raised their forecast for 2017 to new highs. KUKA also had good Q1/17 earnings as did Intuitive Surgical.
According to AgFunder’s 2016 AgTech Investing Report (supported by The Robot Report’s own research), 2016 drone funding fell 64% from 2015 levels. Also, the type of companies getting funded were sensor, payload and analytics-based add-ons or service-providing companies rather than drone makers.
April 2017 had 16 robotics-related fundings totaling over $337 million – a fourth solid month for 2017 – $995 million year-to-date. Acquisitions also continued to be substantial with ABB’s $2 billion acquisition of Bernecker & Rainer, plus Baidu, iRobot and Cognex each making strategic acquistions. And there was some IPO activity (but no new stocks).
Most of us are familiar with the podcasts about robotics from the Robots Podcast group. For different perspectives, from the funder’s point of view, here’s a list of podcasts from the VC’s that fund robotics and technology ventures — funders like Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins, Greylock Partners and Y Combinator.
Waymo (Google) has announced a pilot project in Phoenix offering a full ride service in their new minivans. Members of the public can sign up — the link is sure to be overwhelmed with applicants, but it has videos and more details — and some families are already participating.
Whether for research, purchasing, education or in conjuncation with a family vacation, going to and attending robotics-related conferences and trade shows can provide real personal and business benefits, particularly when the venue is in a foreign location.
In a time of “America First,” the benefits of space travel are clouded by the smoke of hyperbole. In reality, there has been over 2,000 inventions courtesy of NASA that are making our lives better here on Earth. Every day, we benefit as much from the journey as from the destination. These innovations include new medicines developed in zero gravity; faster autonomous transportation technologies; and groundbreaking advances in computing (launched above the clouds).
America’s retailers are closing stores faster than ever while demand for warehouse workers by online retailers is higher than ever. Retailers and logistics companies have been opening facilities at a record pace and in this fast-paced world, warehousing and logistics managers are looking for robotics solutions to remain competitive.
Six to ten years ago, exhibitors at Automate were promoting bin-picking in many, many booths. Bin picking wasn’t mentioned this year because it is an available option these days. For the last six years vendors have been promoting human-robot collaboration in manufacturing. Here’s what I saw this year at the big Automate and ProMat trade shows held last month in Chicago.
Tactile sensing and force feedback are – and have been – problem areas for robot grasping. Humans could see, select and pick so much faster. Yet to handle the millions of different everyday items in our factories and warehouses, costly positioning and camera systems have been required. These systems made it easy for fast robots with simple grippers to pick items as they came along – but at great cost.