New data from Juniper Research has forecast that over 1 in 10 American households will own a consumer robot by the end of the decade, up from under 1 in 25 this year. At this early stage in the market, shipments are expected to be dominated by so-called ‘task’ oriented robots assigned to take over household chores, such as lawn mowing or vacuum cleaning.
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.
AI remains a Work-in-Progress
The new research, Worldwide Consumer Robotics: Markets & Strategies 2015-2020, found that the performance of more complex robots, such as SoftBank’s Pepper while improving, are heavily limited by present-day technology. Thus, in order to meet consumer expectations, smarter, more contextually aware robots are required.
Achieving a leap forward in artificial intelligence (AI) will demand not only more computing power, but also much greater efficiency if processing is to be offloaded from the cloud. Therefore, new approaches in chip design, such as IBM’s TrueNorth, are likely to become important in the medium-term.
Price and trust will be key hurdles
Additionally, the 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.’
Other key findings:
- 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.