2019 was an eventful year for the robotics industry. Whether it was iRobot unveiling its long-awaited robot lawn mower, Windows announcing official support of the Robot Operating System (ROS) or Anki suddenly shutting its doors, robotics stories in 2019 were full of ups and downs.
Before we turn our attention to 2020 trends to watch, let’s recap the year that was. Below are the 10 most popular robotics stories on The Robot Report in 2019. We will follow up soon with our editors’ take on the most important stories of the year. What robotics stories will you remember most from 2019? Share your thoughts in the comments.
10. ROS for Windows 10 now official
Microsoft announced during its Build conference in May that its support of ROS was generally available on Windows 10 IoT Enterprise. ROS for Windows 10 is an opportunity for Microsoft to expose its Azure cloud platform to ROS developers around the world.
But that was just the start. At ROSCon 2019 in Macau, Microsoft expanded its ROS capabilities with new tools, including a Visual Studio Code extension for ROS, Azure VM ROS template support for testing and simulation, an Azure Kinect ROS Driver, and more. Read Full story
9. 6 autonomous mobile robot trends to watch
Autonomous mobile robots (AMR) have reached new levels of maturity and adoption. But as AMR companies are preparing to scale their products in 2020 and beyond, technical and business challenges still remain.
Eugene Demaitre, Senior Editor, The Robot Report, looks at AMR trends to watch, including mobile manipulation, vendor-to-vendor communication, ongoing standards development, improving localization accuracy and more. Read Full story
8. Automate/ProMat 2019: 10 takeaways for robotics developers
There were many commercial robots at Automate and ProMat 2019 in Chicago, but what stood out? Many of the exhibitors and conference speakers said that designing for ease of use is essential to helping robotics spread beyond automotive and electronics manufacturing.
The Robot Report was on the scene and culled the following observations from discussions with engineers, suppliers, and analysts at Automate/ProMat. Read Full story
7. 6 advances in robotic grippers to watch
Robots have used multiple types of grippers for years, but the push for more manual dexterity has become more urgent because of rising demand from e-commerce order fulfillment and other applications. Human-level manipulation of various objects is a difficult technical challenge, and robotics developers and vendors have responded with a range of solutions. From better sensing and controls, lighter materials and new approaches to suction, here are six advances in robotic gripping that are worth following. Read Full story
6. Medtronic’s upcoming surgical robot
Medtronic teased us in the summer with a sneak peek, but in the fall it finally revealed a robot-assisted surgical platform it said will be upgradeable, modular, and able to support laparoscopic applications. Medtronic positioned its system as being more flexible and cost-effective than those currently available, in a direct challenge to market leader Intuitive Surgical Inc.’s da Vinci SP platform. Medtronic noted its robotic system is still in the investigational phase, with plans to launch it in 2020 and get European and U.S. regulatory approval in 2021. Read Full story
5. Acutronic Robotics fails to find funding for H-ROS
Acutronic Robotics, which developed ROS-based communication tools for modular robot design, shut down on July 31. Its Hardware Robot Operating System (H-ROS) was a communication bus to enable robot hardware to interoperate smoothly, securely, and safely. It was waiting on financing and received acquisition proposals, but it was unable to agree to any of them. The company was founded in 2016 after Acutronic Link Robotics AG’s acquisition of Erle Robotics. Read Full story
4. iRobot Terra robot lawn mower hopes to jumpstart U.S. market
One of the worst-kept secrets in the robotics industry was that iRobot had been working on a robotic lawn mower for years. There has been talk of an iRobot mower since at least 2006. iRobot introduced its Terra Robot lawn mower in February 2019, rolling it out in Germany and announcing a beta testing program in the U.S. iRobot is hoping to accomplish with robot lawn mowing what it accomplished with robot vacuuming. But getting there might be more difficult this time. Read Full story
3. Researchers back Tesla’s non-LiDAR approach to self-driving
While not as anti-LiDAR as Tesla CEO Elon Musk, it appears researchers at Cornell University agree with his LiDAR-less approach. Using two inexpensive cameras on either side of a vehicle’s windshield, Cornell researchers discovered they can detect objects with nearly LiDAR’s accuracy and at a fraction of the cost. The researchers found that analyzing the captured images from a bird’s-eye view, rather than the more traditional frontal view, more than tripled their accuracy. Read Full story
2. 10 robotics startups to watch in 2019
As part of the year’s kick-off coverage, The Robot Report named its 10 robotics startup to watch in 2019. We focused on young companies that were less than five years old and hadn’t raised, with one exception, more than $6.8 million in funding. We will soon follow-up with analysis about how these robotics startups fared this year, but at first glance, Badger Technologies, Dusty Robotics, Realtime Robotics, and Stocked Robotics each are entering 2020 with great momentum. Keep an eye out for our look at 2020 robotics startups to watch. Read Full story
1. Coverage of Anki shutdown
Anki shut down in April, dealing a major blow to the consumer robotics market. Multiple follow-up stories about Anki would have cracked this Top 10 list, too, but we limited it to The Robot Report‘s ongoing coverage of the Anki shutdown to get more robotics stories onto the countdown.
I have never received more emails about a story I’ve covered than I have about Anki. Unfortunately, for those hoping for a comeback, that won’t happen in 2020. Not only have Anki’s founders moved on to new companies, Anki lost a patent infringement lawsuit and is auctioning of its patent portfolio. Offers for the portfolio were due Nov. 21, 2019, but according to one source with knowledge of the situation, the IP is still being shopped around. Coverage of Anki Shutdown