Four Market Forces That Will Shape Robotics Over The Next Year

December 15, 2015
John Quinn

“When will I have a robot that can do my laundry?”

This is the number one question I get from friends and family members, whose expectations are unconstrained by the software and hardware technical realities that make robots tick (washing dishes is a close second by the way).

Since most have been waiting a lifetime for this transformational milestone, I have been promising lately, with muted bravado, that it won’t be too long now.

As 2016 approaches, robotics is poised to traverse from a narrow set of industrial and military use cases to broader market applications that include commercial drones, telepresence robots, delivery robots and, of course, mobile vacuum cleaners.

But, are robots ready to be a part of our daily life?

Gill Pratt, a visionary who served as a program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and oversaw the DARPA Robotics Challenge, postulated earlier this year that robotics might soon be headed for a “Cambrian Explosion.”

The term refers to a period of time roughly half a billion years ago when the numbers and diversity of animals became critical to evolution. Pratt offered that technology developments are ushering in a similar upsurge in the diversification and applicability of robotics.

While technology breakthroughs and discoveries are a necessary precursor of mass-market success, there is typically also a set of underlying market forces and trends that create, sometimes unexpectedly, the conditions that result in widespread adoption.

In fact, there are four key market forces that now are creating a path for the emergence of those elusive home laundry robots, and that’s just the beginning.

The cost of robotics hardware has been declining for years. But, more recently, due to the emergence of high quality, low cost sensors, electronics, and communications for consumer electronics, a large portion of the robot bill of materials is now available at commodity pricing. Mobile robot hardware is already commoditized.

We see this in many forms with telepresence robots, a host of vacuum cleaning robots, swarms of drones/UAVs, underwater vehicles, and cars themselves evolving into human transporting mobile robots.

An expected outcome of this status is the burgeoning number of early stage companies based on mobile robot technology. There are so many drone companies looking at the agriculture space that many emerging companies are pivoting to business models based on construction and mining, and beyond. And the delivery robots are not even here yet.

As with the computer industry in the 1980’s, availability of low cost hardware is enabling a larger set of entrepreneurs to explore new applications with limited investment and risk on hardware.

To read the rest of this article, published in TechCrunch, please click here.