One small step for a robot…

Robotics is instantly one of those “gee whiz” fields of technology that prod the imagination into the realms of fiction. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or ‘drones’ and driverless ‘autonomous’ cars are two recent headline-grabbing developments that seem to push at the limits of the robotically possible.

What, though, does workaday market research tell us about the commercial reality of the field? Well, MarketsandMarkets estimates that the global market for industrial robotics will reach US$40.08 billion by 2020, at a CAGR of 5.2% from 2014 to 2020.

Transparency Market Research (TMR), meanwhile, forecasts that the global industrial robotics market will grow at a CAGR of 6.2% between 2014 and 2020. TMR projects a market value, for the segment, of US$44.48 billion by 2020, growing from US$28.93 million in 2013.


IT robotic automation

TMR has also identified a segment it terms “the global IT robotic automation market”. “In the IT industry, robotic automation is achieved through automation software.” TMR says that this segment is expected to take “a significant leap”, achieving a CAGR of 60.5% during the period between 2014 and 2020.

TMR expects the global IT robotic automation market to be worth US$4.98 billion by 2020, compared to an overall market value of US$0.183 billion in 2013. TMR also points out that robotic automation in the IT sector is acting as a strong alternative to offshore outsourcing.

MarketsandMarkets has identified a segment it calls “service robotics”. “The service robotics market comprises a wide range of robots used for various applications such as medical and healthcare, aerospace and defense, and security and surveillance.” The market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 21.5% from 2014 to 2020, and reach US$19.41 billion by 2020.


Medical robotics

While not everyone may like the idea of a robot removing their appendix, Research and Markets estimates that the global medical robotics market will grow at a CAGR of 12% from 2014 to 2020.

Notably, Google is one company venturing into this field. In March 2015, Johnson & Johnson announced that Ethicon, a medical device company in the Johnson & Johnson family of companies, had entered into a strategic collaboration with Google, Inc., working with Google’s Life Sciences team “on advancing surgical robotics to benefit surgeons, patients and health care systems.”


Not just a Search company

Google, in fact, seems to be a stealthy but very significant entrant to the robotics field. The online publication notes that Google is now “on everyone’s dance card as the next great robotics giant, with its acquisitions of seven superb and technically diversified robotics companies—all in rapid succession in late 2013: Boston Dynamics, Bot & Dolly, Holomni, Industrial Perception, Meka Robotics, Redwood Robotics, Schaft, Inc.”

Boston Dynamics, incidentally, is notable for its humanoid and animaloid robots, with the latter including four-legged-beast robots that can apparently galumph their way across rough terrain, while carrying heavy loads. A graphic of the company’s ‘Atlas’ humanoid accompanies this post.

Robotics will also form part of Google’s research projects conducted on a 1000-acre site at the former Moffett Field Naval Air Station on the San Francisco Peninsula. The site has been leased from NASA for 60 years, for a reported US$1.16 billion. NASA is reported as commenting that a Google subsidiary, Planetary Ventures LLC, will use the facility for, “research, development, assembly and testing in the areas of space exploration, aviation, rover/robotics and other emerging technologies.”

For Google, it seems, “moonshot” may not be simply a metaphor.



MarketsandMarkets – industrial robotics


TMR – industrial robotics


TMR – IT robotics


MarketsandMarkets – service robotics


Research and Markets – global medical robotics


Johnson & Johnson – Google collaboration – Google


Boston Dynamics


Google/NASA lease


Wikimedia Commons – Atlas, front view


Image courtesy of the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA): ‘Atlas’, a humanoid robot created by Boston Dynamics.