China has rapidly become a global leader in robotics and automation. The International Federation of Robotics (IFR), which provided these figures, is forecasting that "from 2018 to 2020, a sales increase between 15 and 20 percent on average per year is possible for industrial robots." And these projections don't include service robots for professional and B2B use, and personal use such as toys, drones, mobile gofers, guides, home assistants, and consumer products like robotic vacuums and floor and window cleaners. At the same press conference, CRIA also reported that China's service robot market will reach $1.32 billion this year, up 28% percent from 2015. According to the ten-year national plan "Made in China 2025," the Chinese government wants to transform China from a low-cost labor-intensive manufacturing giant into a technology-based world manufacturing power.
Boston-based Rethink Robotics, one of a handful of pioneering companies that led the charge to move industrial robots out of cages and alongside human workers, announced Wednesday it was ceasing operations. The news was largely unexpected and has sent shock waves through the robotics industry, where Rethink has been held up as a model of the new industrial automation paradigm. The Boston Globe is reporting that Rethink was in the final stages of a deal to stave off closure by selling itself to an unnamed buyer. Ultimately, that deal fell through and the robotics firm had no alternative but shut its doors. CEO Scott Eckert says the company ran perilously low on cash.
According to Verified Market Research, the Global Smart Robot Market was valued at USD 4.83 Billion in 2018 and is projected to reach USD 26.25 Billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 23.6% from 2019 to 2026. Smart robots are defined as the robots that have been enhanced with advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT. These robots are capable of learning from its environment and further building its capabilities based on that knowledge. Smart robots act like a man's substitution in executing the tasks that are either dangerous or repetitive, where man is incapable of performing due to body limitations, or tasks that occur in extreme environments. Moreover, these smart robots are designed to carry out specific tasks for personal, professional, and industrial applications such as elderly assistance, pool cleaning, and robotic pets among others.
According to a new study from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), nearly 10% of women work in jobs with a high potential for automation, compared with only 4% of men. So what, I hear you say. Substitute "robots" for "austerity", "the demise of unionisation", "public-sector pay freezes", "modern life" – pick any of these and women will always come off worst. Except maybe this time the pointy heads are on to something: perhaps better understanding what the risks are will give us all some agency, and even allow us to change the future. As Carys Roberts, the author of the IPPR report, tells me: "We don't even talk about risks in this area, because there are so many different factors.
Japan's Kawasaki Heavy Industries has announced a dramatic expansion of its robot production line in China. The company is looking to boost sales of industrial robots in China by 70 percent--a target of about 8,000 units--this fiscal year. The company's China division will install three new assembly lines in coming weeks to produce four varieties of small industrial robots. The Chinese robotics market has sparked a gold rush for foreign and domestic firms. As part of its Made in China 2025 plan, the country is hoping to install between 600,000 and 650,000 new industrial robots in less than a decade.