The Jetsons probably had no idea how soon the average American would see robots become a reality. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, a number of devices showed the futuristic concept is here and now. Robotics exhibits at CES grew 25 percent from last year's show, according to the event's organizers.
"It speaks to the category's growth and ability to disrupt and transform the consumer technology industry," said Karen Chupka, senior vice president of CES and
corporate business strategy. "Robots are changing the way consumers learn, do business, monitor their health, and maintain their households as they are capable of doing things that humans can't, or simply don't want to do."
Before the dust settles, let's take a look at some of the robots-related announcements that happened at and during the show.
Diverse Robotics Exhibitors
That tiny dancer in the aisles of CES this year was named Ozobot (shown above), the world's smallest programmable robot with a color-based language. Bridging the physical and digital divide, the smart game piece glides seamlessly from paper to digital tablet. The company is convinced that playing with this robot will introduce kids and young adults to simple coding basics, stimulate their imaginations and encourage life skills.
Other major exhibitors at the CES Robotics Marketplace included ABB, Double Robotics Inc., Lowe's Innovation Labs and Future Robot Co. Furio-iHome also made a big splash at CES. A wheel-mounted smart tablet can take voice commands and connects home networks and devices. Personal robots like Jibo and Pepper also turned heads. Jibo focuses on managing a connected home network and interacts with its owners. Pepper is a white robot that's about the size of a 7-year-old that moves about your home as a friendly companion.
Robotic Trends launched a new consumer robotics Web site at CES. Robotic Trends' aim is to "make robots accessible by sharing with consumers the innovative robots and robotic technologies shaping the high-tech landscape." The Web site will cover what robots are on the market, where you can buy them, how to use them and how they stack up to competing products.
VCs Are Investing
On the investment front, Rethink Robotics, which drives robotic innovation in industrial settings, announced $26.6 million in Series D financing, led by GE Ventures with additional funds from Goldman Sachs. Rethink Robotics will use the funds to support the company's growth and international expansion. This new investment brings the company's total funding to over $100 million since its founding in 2008. That's big money.
"Our customers are building the factories of the future, and our technologies have become an important part of their efforts," said Scott Eckert, president and CEO at Rethink Robotics. "Our new and existing investors recognize the enormous market potential for smart, collaborative robots in manufacturing, and they share our vision for driving ongoing product innovation, volume deployments and continued expansion into global markets."
The growing worldwide demand for collaborative robots like Rethink's Baxter shows that manufacturers of all sizes, and across many industries, are looking for flexible solutions for the 95 percent of production tasks that cannot be effectively automated by traditional technologies.