July 2017 was a big month for robotics-related company funding. Four raised $588 million and 19 others raised $370.6 million for a monthly total of $958.6 million. Acquisitions also continued to be significant with ST Engineering acquiring Aethon for $36 million, iRobot buying its European distributor for $141 million, and SoftBank purchasing 5% of iRobot shares for around $120 million.
Two reputable research resources are reporting that the robotics industry is growing more rapidly than expected. BCG (Boston Consulting Group) is conservatively projecting that the market will reach $87 billion by 2025; Tractica, incorporating the robotic and AI elements of the emerging self-driving industry, is forecasting the market will reach $237 billion by 2022.
Robotics manufacturing in the US will be getting federal support to match business or startup investments via the new Advanced Robotics Manufacturing (ARM) Institute. Perhaps more importantly, the ARM Institute can act as a conduit to connect and amplify robotics innovations between regions of the USA. As the global robotics ecosystem becomes flooded with interest, and investors, any technological lead the USA currently has is rapidly disappearing.
Uber, the global ride-sharing transportation company, has named two replacements to recover from the recent firing of Anthony Levandowski who headed their Advanced Technologies Group, their OTTO trucking unit, and their self-driving team. Levandowski was fired May 30th.
It is unclear if Masayoshi Son, Chairman of Softbank, was one of the 17 million YouTube viewers of Boston Dynamic’s Big Dog before acquiring the company for an undisclosed amount this past Thursday. What is clear is the acquisition of Boston Dynamics by Softbank is a big deal. Softbank’s humanoid robot Pepper is trading up her dainty wheels for a pair of sturdy legs.
In 2015, after much research, I wrote about China having 194 robot companies and used screen shots of The Robot Report’s Global Map to show where they were and a chart to show their makeup. We’ve just concluded another research project and have added hundreds of new Chinese companies to the database and global map.
May 2017 had two robotics-related companies get $9.5 billion in funding and 22 others raised $249 million. Acquisitions also continued to be substantial with Toyota Motor’s $260 million acquisition of Bastian Solutions plus three others (where the amounts weren’t disclosed).
Andy Rubin, who developed the Android operating system at Google then went on to lead Google through multiple acquisitions into robotics, has launched a new consumer products company. Anthony Levandowski, who, after many years with Google and their autonomous driving project, launched Otto which Uber acquired, was sued by Google, and just got fired by Uber.
Here’s a video you will want to watch. “The Wolf: The Hunt Continues” is really an ad showing how a hacker can enter a network through an unprotected printer (or robot). Christian Slater stars as the evil hacker.
SoftBank, the giant telecom company, is venturing out into the world of robotics and transportation services. DealStreet Asia said that SoftBank is trying to transform itself into the ‘Berkshire Hathaway of the tech industry’ with the recent launch of a $100 billion technology fund.
UPDATED 5/24/17: SoftBank’s acquisition of 4.9% of the outstanding shares of Nvidia Corp.
Dig below the surface of some of today’s biggest tech controversies and you are likely to find an algorithm misfiring. These errors are not primarily caused by problems in the data that can make algorithms discriminatory, or their inability to improvise creatively. No, they stem from something more fundamental: the fact that algorithms, even when they are generating routine predictions based on non-biased data, will make errors. To err is algorithm.
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.
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.