Robotics 2014 in a word: MORE
The list of top stories in robotics for 2014 is a story of “MORE”: MORE uses of and for robots; MORE serious discussions about robots; MORE robots in unusual places; MORE news in the financial press; MORE funding, acquisitions and IPOs; and MORE choices.
2014 was the year when spectacular online sales drove companies like Amazon, Alibaba, FedEx, DHL and UPS to new records: Amazon hired 80,000 temporary workers for its Christmas season; Alibaba created a new holiday, Singles Day, and had its biggest sales day ever during which it sold, amongst other things, 70,000 robotic vacuum cleaners; Amazon used 15,000 orange Kiva robots to bring shelves of goods from their warehouse to their pickers and packers at new US distribution centers. 2014 was the year robotic vacuum cleaners hit the mainstream consumer products marketplace.
- Christmas is orange at Amazon
- Over 70K robotic vacuums sold on a single day
- Google discloses its drone delivery program
- Dyson launches new robotic vacuum cleaner
- Robotic vacuum sales switch from niche to mainstream
2014 was a year full of editorials and position papers about the need to build ethics into future robots and AI; about humanitarian uses for drones; about income disparity, hi-tech jobs and job losses; and included Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine saying that there will be job loss and that we should get over it. Most of the job loss articles were fear-mongering attention grabbers but a few were truly newsworthy and thought-provoking, from the NY Times and the MIT Technology Review in particular.
- UN discusses humanitarian uses of drones
- Bloomberg Businessweek says: “Factory Jobs Are Gone. Get Over It.”
- As Robots Grow Smarter, American Workers Struggle to Keep Up
- Technology and Inequality
2014 found robots in unusual places: on Royal Caribbean cruise ships as bartenders and entertainers; in Lowes hardware stores as guides; in Aloft hotels as deliverers and gofors; at concerts and shows as illusionists; and as guides and sales agents in airports, museums, telephone and coffee stores. Robots began to supplement the already automated agriculture industry.
- Royal Caribbean adds robotic-based entertainment vision system
- Lowe’s Orchard Hardware store testing mobile kiosk/guide
- Hotel delivery robots debut in Silicon Valley
- Harvest Automation starts selling nursery robots
- 27 companies bringing robotics to the agriculture industry profiled
- NY Times and San Jose Mercury report on ag industry
2014 was also a year when robots, robotics and AI were talked about in the financial press: a 34-page special in The Economist; Google investing in and acquiring AI companies; Google leaking its drone program and acquiring Titan; IPOs, partnerships and some failures, plus an IndieGoGo crowdfunding phenomena (JIBO).
- The Economist – Rise of the Robots
- Seegrid files for Chapter 11
- JIBO: a game changing social robot
- 3 exoskeleton companies go public
- Changes in Google’s robotics management
- Titan Medical secures $34.8 million in public offering
- Titan Aerospace sells to Google for $60 million
- Facebook acquires Ascenta for $20 million
- Liquid Robotics continues growth-by-partnering with Boeing
- Robo-stox introduces robotics and automation index to European markets