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Editors note: 2020 a year of robotics growth but many challenges
“May you live in interesting times,” goes the old saying. Change has been a constant for robotics developers, but never more so than this past year. From growth in existing sectors to macroeconomic challenges, not to mention a global pandemic and a contentious U.S. election, engineers and businesspeople have been forced to pay attention to the world outside their laboratories and boardrooms in 2020.
All of these challenges have also provided opportunities for robotics. In this year’s-end issue of The Robot Report, we’ll look back at robotics trends, triumphs, and failures. What do you care about? We’ll review some of our most popular articles of the past year.
We’ve been honored to serve at The Robot Report, which is part of WTWH Media’s robotics network. This includes sibling sites Robotics Business Review and Collaborative Robotics Trends, as well as numerous events, webinars, and a weekly podcast to keep you informed. We hope to be able to return to in-person conferences in 2021!
This past year, manufacturing slowed, but disinfection robots, legged systems, and supply chain automation of all kinds boomed. Factories around the world used a total of 2.7 million robots, an increase of 12%, according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). By comparison, service robot sales — including supply chain and healthcare robots — are catching up, increasing 32% worldwide, said the IFR.
What do shifts in consumer and work habits mean for automation? China was the first country in the world to suffer from the novel coronavirus and one of the first to begin recovering — how does that affect manufacturing demand and robotics development?
Waymo, Cruise, Tesla, and others have raised billions of dollars in the past year or so — how come so much money is flowing into autonomous vehicles, when fully self-driving passenger cars are likely still years away? We’ll examine these and other 2020 megatrends.
We’ll also peer into our crystal ball and make a few predictions about 2021. We think robotics innovators, investors, suppliers, integrators, and end users will still need to watch out for new regulations, emerging applications, and business pitfalls. Fortunately, there is help in the global community.
ROS 2, BVLOS drone deliveries, workforce retraining, and ongoing efforts to refine and apply machine vision and motion control are just some of the areas to follow in 2021. We look forward to sharing what we learn with you, and don’t hesitate to reach out to us with your own robotics news and insights!
Eugene Demaitre and Steve Crowe | Editors, The Robot Report