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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Consumer Robotics will Adapt to the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) will have numerous home-related use cases. One application that may seem futuristic is residential connected robots. In this context, a consumer-oriented robot can be programmed by the owner via an interface to the device.

Besides, consumer robots will be controlled through a mobile software app or by a link to a personal computer. In some cases, the robot will also incorporate embedded connectivity to enable it to communicate directly with an online service.

As a general rule, the more complex the function of the robot, the greater reliance it will have on parallel processing and storage capabilities offered by cloud computing infrastructure.

It's forecast that one in ten American households will own a consumer robot by the end of the decade, that's up from under one in twenty-five this year, according to the latest market study by Juniper Research.

At this early stage in the market, shipments are expected to be dominated by relatively simple task-oriented robots assigned to take over routine household chores -- such as lawn mowing or vacuum cleaning.

These robotic devices offer rudimentary types of convenience for consumers, and despite the obvious design limitations, Juniper believes that they are very likely to usher in a new era of automated housekeeping.


"The state of consumer robotics could be compared to the PC in the late 70s era," said Steffen Sorrell, senior analyst at Juniper Research. "Venture capitalist and corporate investment has ramped-up tremendously -- they know that this is the start of a paradigm shift in the way we use and interact with machines."

The Juniper study found that the performance of more complex robots, such as 'Pepper' from SoftBank, are heavily limited by present-day technology constraints. In order to meet consumer expectations, smarter, more contextually aware robots are required.

Achieving progress in artificial intelligence will demand more on-board computing power, and also improved wireless communications efficiency for some processing activity to be placed in the cloud. Therefore, new approaches in chip design, such as IBM’s TrueNorth, are likely to become important in the medium-term.

Additionally, Juniper discovered that cost and trust are key factors in preventing mass-market adoption. 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.

Other key findings from the study include:

  • Healthcare: an ageing global population means that the scope for healthcare-related 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.