2015 was a banner year for robotics, with numerous robot products coming out of the prototype phase and into the hands of consumers and industrial users. In examining a few of the commercially released robots in different market segments, it is clear that innovative robots are being released not only by established robotics companies, but also by large companies that were not even involved in the robotics sector until recently. A few of the most notable new robots released in 2015 are summarized below.
YuMi (Collaborative Robot)
The dual-arm robot YuMi is the first commercially available collaborative robot from ABB. The device was officially introduced to the market at Hannover Messe in Germany on April 13, 2015. The starting price for YuMi is about $40,000. According to ABB, this robot is fully capable of handling items with a very high level of accuracy thanks to its advanced vision system, dexterous grippers, part feeding systems, sensitive force control feedback, and flexible software. The flexibility to utilize YuMi for a wide variety of applications might justify the price in terms of saving labor cost for mid-sized and large manufacturers.
Pepper (Personal Robot)
On June 20, 2015 in Japan, SoftBank Robotics Corp. and SoftBank Mobile Corp. launched Pepper, the world’s first personal robot with emotional reading capabilities. The robot was priced at ¥198,000 ($1,600) along with an additional monthly service plan for an app, data, and insurance. Just days before the initial limited release of 1,000 units, SoftBank announced a partnership with Foxconn and the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba for further investment (around $236 million) in the robot. According to SoftBank, the robots were sold out within 1 minute on the day of commercial launch.
i-limb quantum (Healthcare – Prosthetic Robot)
Touch Bionics, a company focused on prosthetic technologies, introduced a bionic hand called i-limb quantum on June 22, 2015 at the International Society of Prosthetics & Orthotics (ISPO) World Congress, which took place in Lyon, France. The i-limb quantum incorporates the company’s patented i-mo technology and is the first upper limb prosthesis that can change grips with a simple gesture, which enables an automated grip to be accessed by moving the i-limb quantum in one of four directions. Available in different sizes, the i-limb quantum can accommodate men, women, and children and comes with a hefty price tag, averaging around $100,000.
OTTO (Logistics Robot)
On September 23, 2015, Canadian service robotics company Clearpath Robotics launched its first self-driving warehouse robot, named OTTO, with GE Ventures as a strategic investor and, not surprisingly, with GE as the first customer. OTTO is designed with heavy load transport (capacity of 1,500 kg) in mind and has a maximum speed of 2 meters per second. OTTO can be easily integrated with the standard industrial systems such as carts, manipulators, lifts, and conveyors. The technical specifications of the robot look impressive, both in terms of hardware and control software. The robot is offered as an integrated warehouse solution for businesses, so the pricing of direct purchase is unknown for the time being.
Dyson 360 Eye (Cleaning Robot)
A late arrival to the vacuum robot party, the Dyson 360 Eye was commercially launched in Japan by Dyson on October 26, 2015. The robot is expected to be released in other countries, including the United States, in early 2016. Equipped with a powerful suction motor, patented Radial Root Cyclone technology, and internet connectivity that enables the user to check cleaning progress and reporting tools, Dyson claims that 360 Eye is the best in class among vacuum cleaning robots. However, this advanced feature-packed robot comes with a high price tag of ¥149,040 (tax included) which is around $1,240.
Apart from these commercially available robots, there are other notable products such as Jibo and Rotimatic, which were sold out in the pre-order sales phase before full-scale commercial launch. Moreover, in 2015, many robotics companies received healthy investments that could provide a boost for faster product introductions based on existing research concepts, and we expect many new robots to be launched commercially during 2016. According to Frank Tobe, the owner and publisher of The Robot Report, “Over $1.2 billion has been invested in more than 50 robotic startup companies, and an amount well above that figure has been involved in 29 acquisitions. All this year, 2015.” So far, all of these developments are in line with what Tractica has forecast for the growth of the global robotics industry.