Tuesday, 15 December 2015 21:52

Rise of the Robots: in 10% of US homes by 2020

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The convenience of robots will trump compromise, says Juniper Research, with AI improving slowly so today’s 1 robot in 25 households becomes 1 in 10 by decade’s end.

Although fewer than one in every 25 homes in the US owns some form of ‘consumer robot’ today, Juniper predicts this will jump to 1 in 10 by 2020, with shipments ‘expected to be dominated by so-called ‘task’ oriented robots assigned to take over household chores, such as lawn mowing or vacuum cleaning.’

Robot vacuum cleaners are already on sale, so one would hope they’d be a tad more sophisticated by the time 2020 rolls around, with Juniper noting that ‘devices such as iRobot’s Roomba and Droplet Robotics’ Sprinkler offer tremendous ‘fire and forget’ type convenience for consumers, and despite obvious design compromises, are likely to usher in a new era of housekeeping.’

Meanwhile, artificial intelligence or AI still remains a ‘work in progress.’

Juniper’s Research is entitled ‘Worldwide Consumer Robotics: Markets & Strategies 2015-2020,’ which as per usual is on sale to relevant parties at relevant prices, and it found that ‘the performance of more complex robots, such as SoftBank’s Pepper, while improving, are heavily limited by present-day technology.’

Thus, harking back to my comment that you’d hope to see some advances in robots by 2020, Juniper says that, ‘in order to meet consumer expectations, smarter, more contextually‑aware robots are required.’

Achieving a leap forward in AI (artificial intelligence) will demand not only more computing power, but also much greater efficiency if processing is to be offloaded from the cloud, says Juniper.

Therefore, new approaches in chip design, such as IBM’s TrueNorth, are likely to become important in the medium-term.

It looks like price and trust will be the key hurdles. After all, no-one wants robots to be too expensive, and no-one wants them running around killing everyone in the neighbourhood either, although this is my observation.

In any case, Juniper says its research found that ‘cost and trust are key factors in preventing mass take-up.’

Component economies of scale have yet to be achieved, while R&D costs are high. Meanwhile, studies indicate that trust between robots and humans is rapidly eroded, even if a robot is able to perform better than a human on average.

“The state of consumer robotics could be compared to the PC in the late 70s,” noted research author Steffen Sorrell. “Venture capitalist and corporate investment has ramped up tremendously recently – they know that this is the start of a paradigm shift in the way we use and interact with machines.”

More below, please read on.

Other key findings include:

  • Healthcare: an ageing global population means that the scope for healthcare robots is beyond doubt in the long-term.
  • 3D Printing: falling 3D printer costs and new printer capabilities offer developers to slash the cost of prototyping.

As per usual, there’s a whitepaper available for free download, with this one entitled ‘Consumer Robotics ~ Rise of the Machines’ which has further details of the new research and an interactive dataset.

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One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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