RaaS defines the second generation of robots that work alongside people
Kyle S. Gibson is a Boston-based writer and videographer currently focused on robotics and the industrial Internet of Things. Kyle has worked for AmericanInno and MIT Technology Review, sales automation developer Pegasystems, and blockchain strategy group New Alchemy. He is currently writing for MIT Horizon, an emerging technology education platform. His work is supported by a regional awareness initiative run by the New England Venture Capital Association.
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- With the start of robotics, machines come closer while people keep their distance
For more than Two decades of robotics market commentary has predicted a shiftEspecially in manufacturing, from traditional industrial manipulators to a new generation of mobile sensor robots called "cobots". Cobots are agile assistants that use internal sensors and AI processing to operate tools or manipulate components in a shared workspace while ensuring security.
It did not happen. Companies have successfully used cobots, but the adoption rate has fallen short of expectations.
According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), the cobots sold in 2019 only made up 3% of the total installed industrial robots. A report published by Statista predicts that the market share of cobots will increase to 8.5% in 2022. That's a fraction of a study cited by the Robotic Industries Association in February 2018 that predicted that 34% of new robots sold in the U.S. will be cobots by 2025.
To see a cobot in action, here is the Kuka LBR iiwa. To ensure safe operation, cobots have built-in restrictions such as limited strength and speed. These restrictions have also limited their adoption.
As cobots' market share declines, standard industrial robots are being retrofitted with computer vision technology to combine the speed and power of industrial robots with problem-solving skills and human finesse.
This article documents the declining interest in cobots, the reasons behind it, and the technology it's replacing. We report on two companies that develop computer vision technology for standard robots, and describe how developments in the field of 3D vision and so-called "Robots as a Service" (yes, RaaS) define this faster growing second generation of robots, which alongside People can work.