Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Indoor robots gaining momentum - and notoriety

Recent events demonstrate the growing presence of indoor mobile robots: (1) Savioke’s hotel butler robot won the 2017 IERA inventors award; (2) Knightscope’s security robot mistook a reflecting pond for a solid floor and dove in face-first to the delight of Twitterdom and the media; and (3) the sale of robotic hospital delivery provider Aethon to a Singaporean conglomerate.

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Posted on 07/23/17

ST Engineering acquires mobile robot maker Aethon for $36 million

Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd (ST Engineering) has acquired Pittsburgh, PA-based robotics firm Aethon Inc through Vision Technologies Land Systems, Inc. (VTLS), and its wholly-owned subsidiary, VT Robotics, Inc, for $36 million.

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Posted on 07/21/17

F.I.R.S.T. Global competition off to a rousing start with all teams getting visas

After much uproar, media attention, and political pressure, Pres. Trump intervened and enabled all the teams headed to Washington, DC for the F.I.R.S.T Global Robotics Championship whose visas had been held up or denied to get their visas - some as late as two days before the event. Although the Afghan team got all the press, the team from Gambia was also denied when they first applied.

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Posted on 07/18/17

Hand-wringing hides the fact that Mexico is employing more and fewer are coming to work in the U.S.

Manufacturers, robotics associations, ethicists and media pundits are still fighting the robotics and jobs issue yet The Association for Advancing Automation (A3) cites that between 2010 and 2016, 136,748 robots were shipped to the US —the most in any seven-year period in the US robotics industry. At the same time, US manufacturing employment increased by 894,000 and the unemployment rate fell from 9.8% to 4.7%.

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Posted on 07/16/17

The ups (and downs) of tech, robotic and AI funding

SoftBank’s Pepper humanoid robot operation (a joint venture with Foxconn, Alibaba and SoftBank) has incurred a big $274 million loss while Asia more than doubled the amount of funding for tech startups thus far in 2017. No one ever said VC funding was for the faint of heart.

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Posted on 07/13/17

Robotics industry growing faster than expected

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.

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Posted on 07/10/17

Baidu’s self-driving tech plans revealed

In the race to develop self-driving technology, Chinese Internet giant Baidu unveiled its 50+ partners in an open source development program, revised its timeline for introducing autonomous driving capabilities on open city roads, described the Project Apollo consortium and its goals, and declared Apollo to be the ‘Android of the autonomous driving industry.’

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Posted on 07/05/17

China’s e-commerce dynamo JD makes deliveries via mobile robots

China’s second-biggest e-commerce company, JD.com (Alibaba is first), is testing mobile robots to make deliveries to its customers and imagining a future of a fully unmanned logistics system. Story idea and image courtesy of RoboticsToday.com.au.

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Posted on 07/05/17

June 2017 fundings, acquisitions and IPOs

June, 2017 saw two robotics-related companies get $50 million each and 17 others raised $248 million for a monthly total of $348 million. Acquisitions also continued to be substantial with SoftBank's acquisition of Google's robotic properties Boston Dynamics and Schaft plus two others acquisitions.

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Posted on 07/01/17

Quiet inroads in robotics: 4 company profiles

Robots have been around for 50 years welding, painting, handling and performing herculean tasks in harsh environments. But in the last 10 years, service robots have emerged and are performing all sorts of lesser but equally valuable tasks. Consider MiR, MakeBlock, Grey Orange and Ocado and the inroads they are making into their respective industries.

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Posted on 06/28/17

“I have accepted a group of investors’ request to step aside,” wrote Uber’s Travis Kalanick

Kalanick is still on Uber's board. He owns a majority of the voting shares. Some are already comparing this situation to Steve Jobs' ouster from Apple. It's possible Kalanick could someday return in a blaze of glory. But for now, he is out and Uber is searching for a new CEO.

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Posted on 06/22/17

Answer: Fly your plane; Question: Who or what is CARNAC?

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is researching autonomous co-piloting so they can fly without a human pilot on board. The robotic system — called the Common Aircraft Retrofit for Novel Autonomous Control (CARNAC) (not to be confused with the old Johnny Carson Carnac routine) — has the potential to reduce costs, enable new missions, and improve performance.

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Posted on 06/22/17

Notes and pics from Xponential in Dallas, Innorobo in Paris and ICRA in Singapore

Conferences and trade shows, held in interesting locations around the world, can be entertaining, informative and an opportunity to explore new places, meet new people and renew acquaintances. Three recent examples: Xponential, the mostly defense-related unmanned land, sea and air show, held in Dallas; Innorobo, focused on service robotics, in Paris; and ICRA, the IEEE's premier robotics conference, in Singapore.

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Posted on 06/18/17

Tidal wave of Uber news eclipses regrouping over Levandowski firing

Uber, the global ride-sharing transportation company, facing angry drivers, worried investors, the death of the CEO's mother, and a host of sexual harrassment claims, IP infringement suits, and departures and firings of key personnel, 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.

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Posted on 06/11/17

Finally! Google sells Boston Dynamics to SoftBank

In a long-awaited transaction, The New York Times Dealbook announced that SoftBank was buying Boston Dynamics from Alphabet (Google). Also included in the deal is the Japanese startup Schaft. Acquisition details were not disclosed.

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Posted on 06/08/17

China’s strategic plan for a robotic future is working: 500+ Chinese robot companies

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.

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Posted on 06/02/17

May 2017 fundings, acquisitions, IPOs and failures

May 2017 saw 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).

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Posted on 06/01/17

Two stars; different fates

Andy Rubin, who developed the Android operating system at Google and 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.

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Posted on 05/30/17

Christian Slater plays an evil hacker—perfectly!!

Here's a video you will want to watch. "The Wolf" 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.

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Posted on 05/24/17

Transportation as a service (TaaS): a look ahead

SoftBank just invested $5 billion in Didi Chuxing, China's biggest ride-sharing service. Last year Uber sold their China business to Didi resolving (by giving up) all the legal and antitrust investigations it was undergoing in China. In other news, Chris Urmson, long time CTO of Google's self-driving car program, left to start a new company; and Waymo and Lyft just partnered to develop autonomous vehicle tech projects and products.

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Posted on 05/14/17

SoftBank invests $5 billion into Didi Chuxing and $4 billion more in Nvidia

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.

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Posted on 05/14/17

What’s slowing the use of robots in the ag industry?

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.

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Posted on 05/10/17

Think Amazon is leading in drone delivery? Think again!

In a 2013 interview of Amazon's Jeff Bezos by CBS' Charlie Rose, Bezos launched drone delivery by e-commerce companies by announcing the new Amazon Prime Air - and demonstrating a delivery system designed to get packages to customers by drone.

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Posted on 05/03/17

24 research reports dissect the robotics industry

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.

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Posted on 05/01/17

April 2017 fundings, acquisitions, IPOs and failures

April 2017 had 17 robotics-related companies get funding totaling over $390 million - a fourth solid month for 2017 - $1.05 billion 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.

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Posted on 05/01/17

iRobot, KUKA and other robotic stocks exceed earnings expectations

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.

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Posted on 05/01/17

As DJI dominates camera and commercial drone sales, drone funding falls

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 types of UAS companies that got funded weren't drone makers.

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Posted on 04/28/17

Podcasts are the new blogs

Most of us are familiar with the podcasts about robotics from the Swiss-based Robots 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.

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Posted on 04/25/17

Trip Planning: 35 remaining 2017 robotics-related events

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. Here are the 35 remaining events for 2017:

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Posted on 04/21/17

The changing landscape of mobility as seen at Automate and ProMat

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.

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Posted on 04/17/17

Smart grasping demonstrated at Automate and ProMat trade shows

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.

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Posted on 04/16/17

Collaborative robotics at the Automate and ProMat trade shows

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.

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Posted on 04/16/17

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CBS News outlines jobs and robotics debate; IFR fills in gaps

CBS News, and reporter David Pogue, displayed some new technologies threatening jobs while the International Federation of Robotics suggested that deploying robots actually increases jobs. Are either true? Or both?

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Posted on 04/10/17