You know robotics has ‘made it’ when Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) is reporting on it. Just five years ago, SVB barely had a hardware division, let alone a robotics and frontier tech team. This report itself shows the maturity of the field of robotics, and that’s also one of the key takeaways. There may be fewer deals in robotics, but the deals are getting bigger, as consolidation in new robotics markets starts to happen.
“Robotics is the latest advent in the multi-century trend toward the automation of production. The number of industrial robots, a key component of Industry 4.0, is accelerating. These machines are built by major multinationals and, increasingly, venture-backed startups.
As the segment continues to mature, data are coming in that allow founders, investors and policymakers to establish a framework for thinking about these companies. In this special sector report, we take a data-driven approach to emerging topics in the industry, including business models, performance metrics and capitalization trends.
Finally, we zoom out and consider how automation affects the labor market. In our view, the social implications of this industry will be massive and will require continuous examination by those driving this technology forward.”
Austin Badger, Director of Frontier Tech Practice at Silicon Valley Bank
Beyond the startup funding information though is valuable assessment of the economics of automation, from the shift from CapEx to OpEx and ARR, to the shift from automation to productivity to wealth creation. While it’s clear that automation increases wealth and productivity, there are still justifiable fears that automation will reduce labor opportunities. At the same time, it’s going to be primarily an issue for the developing countries that are currently serving as cheap labor for the world’s on-the-move manufacturing facilities.
ICRA is the largest robotics meeting in the world and is the flagship conference of the IEEE Robotics & Automation Society. It is thus our honor and pleasure to welcome you to this edition, although the current exceptional circumstances did not allow us to organize it in Paris as planned with the glimpse and splendor that our wonderful robotics community deserves. Now, for sure, Virtual ICRA 2020, the first online ICRA, will be one of the most memorable ICRA editions ever! [Message from the General & Program Chairs]
Our first Plenary is a hot topic panel on COVID-19 Pandemic & Robotics, moderated by Ken Goldberg and chaired by Wolfram Burgard. Catch it on Big Screen or on IEEE.TV.
Robin Murphy Brad Nelson Richard Voyles Kris Hauser Antonio Bicchi Andra Keay
Ayanna Howard Kirsten Thurow Helen Grenier Howie Choset Guang-Zhong Yang
Join us for the virtual conference taking place May 31 to August 31 with sessions available both live and on demand. Plenaries and keynotes will be featured every afternoon (Central European Time) from June 1 to June 15, with live interactive Q&A sessions with the speaker. Our goal is bringing cutting-edge ICRA sessions to our community around the globe and provide opportunities to network with like-minded professionals from around the world. We hope that this offering reaches new members of our community and creates engaging discussions within the virtual conference platform.
RAS Meet the Leaders (formally Lunch with Leaders)
RAS Meet the Leaders is the virtual equivalent of the popular RAS Lunch with Leaders event traditionally held at IEEE RAS’s flagship conferences: ICRA, CASE, and IROS.
Meet the Leaders is planned for multiple dates and time zones to accommodate the international robotics community. Each Leader will begin with an informal 5-minute presentation about their career, followed by a question and answer session.
Participants (students and young professionals) may sign up for ONE session to participate in a relaxed chat with academic and industry leaders from around the world.
The following Leaders are confirmed for the dates and times listed below (check back often for additional sessions):
Tuesday, June 2nd @ 12:00 PDT / 19:00 GMT Aleksandra Faust, 2020 RAS Early Industry Career Award in Robotics and Automation
Wednesday, June 3rd @ 10:00 am AEST / 00:00 GMT Peter Corke, 2020 RAS George Saridis Leadership Award, (and colleagues)
Thursday, June 4th @ 8:00 pm JST / 11:00 GMT Toshio Fukuda, IEEE President
Thursday, June 4th @ 13:00 EDT / 17:00 GMT Jaydev Desai, RAS AdCom Class of 2022
Robots are increasingly being deployed in retail environments. The reasons for this include: to relieve staff from the performance of repetitive and mundane tasks; to reallocate staff to more value-added, customer-facing activities; to realize operational improvements; and, to utilize real-time in-store generated data. Due to the impact of the 2020 Coronavirus outbreak, we can now add a new reason to use robots in retail: to assist with customer and employee safety.
In this Research Article, the Retail Analytics Council at NWU presents information on the benefits associated with deploying robots in stores. Estimates of the size of the global retail robot market are advanced. The impact on demand for robots in the grocery industry, in light of the Coronavirus outbreak, is discussed as well. This is followed by a review of U.S. retail robot deployments and the advancing of some emerging applications.
In summary, we find that the trend toward deploying robots in retail environments is accelerating. The reasons for this include their functional utility, advances in AI, and the ability to address both labor challenges and customer and employee safety concerns. The introduction of new uses of real-time, in-store generated data is another advantage. Further, the movement toward multimodal robots that are efficient at performing various functions adds to the value equation. We also find that changing consumer behavior to increase online purchases, especially in grocery, is a major impetus fueling this movement. Finally, establishing industry standards, which is ongoing, will fuel adoption.
Previous impediments to adoption, which are not detailed here, are also at play. These, for the most part, include issues of cost and training. The costs of robots will decrease, and the ROI will greatly increase, as complex computing moves off the payload via 5G and sensor costs continue to decrease. Increased vendor competition will also be a factor. The cost and complexity associated with environmental training are also being addressed via the introduction of synthetic data.
As the industry is still in its infancy, there are minimal reliable studies regarding market size. Estimates range from $4.8 billion to $19 billion in the 2015 to 2018 time frame, to as much as $52 billion by 2025. In April 2018, Bekryl Market Analysts published its Global Retail Robots Market Size Analysis, 2018-2028. Bekryl estimates the global retail robot market at $19 billion in 2018. They further estimate that the market will grow at a CAGR of 12.7 percent over the next ten years.
Now consider a different perspective. Verified Market Research valued the global retail robotics market at $4.78 billion in 2018, but expects a much more rapid rate of growth of 31.89 percent from 2019- 2026, reaching $41.67 billion by 2026.12 In 2016, yet another point of view was advanced by consulting firm Roland Berger, which stated “[t]he segment of robots designed for retail stores is emerging in a global robotics market that is already significant ($19 billion in 2015) and growing steadily ($52 billion in 2025).”
As the current Coronavirus pandemic constrains consumers’ ability to shop in stores, there is ample evidence that a shift to online purchasing is occurring in select categories, particularly grocery. To realize operating efficiencies while meeting this increased demand, grocery retailers, which represent the largest segment currently invested in robotics technology, are expected to accelerate their rate of investment.
The pressing question is whether this current movement to online grocery purchases during the pandemic represents a more permanent shift in consumer behavior. Consumers seem to think so. For example, in an April 2020 survey, 43 percent of adults said they were somewhat or very likely to
continue ordering groceries online once the pandemic ends (see Chart 11). McKinsey & Company’s COVID-19 U.S. Digital Sentiment Survey found that fully “75 percent of people using digital channels for the first time indicate that they will continue to use them when things return to normal.”
In conclusion, we see the pace of retail robot adoption accelerating, especially in the grocery segment. Technology advancements surrounding deployments in stores, backroom/warehouses, and delivery applications will continue to improve. Deployment costs will fall, as will the time to deploy, which will increase ROI, as will multi-functional payloads that perform a variety of tasks. Emerging innovations will add interesting new use cases. Increasing uses of real-time data generated, and the application/integration thereof, will also create additional value. Finally, ongoing efforts to establish industry standards will aid in industry adoption.
Until recently, AGVs were the only option for automating internal transport tasks. Today, a more sophisticated technology is competing with them: Autonomous Mobile Robots AMR. Although both AGVs and AMRs allow materials to be moved from point A to point B, the comparison ends there.
Researchers have developed new software that can be integrated with existing hardware to enable people using robotic prosthetics or exoskeletons to walk in a safer, more natural manner on different types of terrain. The new framework incorporates computer vision into prosthetic leg control, and includes robust artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that allow the software to better account for uncertainty.
Using biologically inspired robotic swarms consisting of large groups of robots that have been programmed to operate cooperatively, much like individuals in an ant or bee colony, scientists from the University of Colorado demonstrate that the locally observed distribution of robots can be correlated to the location of environmental features, such as exits in office-like environments. The study's findings were published in IEEE/CAA Journal of Automatica Sinica.
Researchers at the University of Bristol have recently trained a deep-neural-network-based model to gather tactile information about 3-D objects. In their paper, published in IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine, they applied the deep learning technique to a robotic fingertip with sensing capabilities and found that it allowed it to infer more information about its surrounding environment.
Jim Kircher, the Chief Commercial Officer at FAULHABER MICROMO shares with us his thoughts on how FAULHABER MICROMO is managing through the pandemic as well as insights into what the future of Robotics and Automation may be.
RoboBusiness Direct is built to foster robotics innovation in all its forms, expand robotics business opportunities, and build a community of like-minded problem solvers with the goal of driving the growth of robotics businesses. More than a webinar or virtual event, RoboBusiness Direct is an ongoing, integrated series of presentations and media coverage delivered by brightest minds from the leading robotics and automation companies from around the world - Nuro, FedEx, Lockheed Martin, Samsung, Siemens and more.
The analytical examinations of the painting were carried out not only before starting the treatment, but also during the cleaning. This allowed valuable information to be gathered on the condition of the surface layers as well as the layer structure and the materials used.
The importance of autonomous robots has been highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic where many have been used to encourage social distancing, clean public spaces and hospitals, and even deliver vital medication.
A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) in Stuttgart invented a tiny micro-robot that resembles a white blood cell traveling through the circulatory system. It has the shape, the size and the moving capabilities of leukocytes, and could perhaps revolutionize the minimally invasive treatment of illnesses.