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Personal robotics – BIRTH OF AN INDUSTRY

Researches in India point at the fact that Androids i.e human-like-robotic-forms are what comes to the responders' minds when the term “robotics” is mentioned!....Here, when we say Personal robotics we mean “ any automatically operated machine that replaces human effort, though it may not resemble human beings in appearance or perform functions in a humanlike manner ”..By Personal robotics, we mean intelligent household chores' machines, entertainment gadgets, mobile surveillance products etc...

An excerpt from the article “ A Robot in every home ” by Bill Gates where the leader of the PC revolution predicts that the NEXT HOT FIELD will be Personal robotics...

Imagine being present at the birth of a new industry. It is an industry based on groundbreaking new technologies, wherein a handful of well-established corporations sell highly specialized devices for business use and a fast-growing number of start-up companies produce innovative toys, gadgets for hobbyists and other interesting niche products. Of course, the paragraph above could be a description of the computer industry during the mid-1970s, around the time that Paul Allen and I launched Microsoft....what I really have in mind is something much more contem­porary: the emergence of the robotics industry, which is developing in much the same way that the computer business did 30 years ago...

Today, Robotics is an area of increasing interest, investment, and hype. Robotics business can be broadly divided into two categories: industrial robotics and personal robotics. Industrial robotics is a very niche segment and these products are primarily used in precision manufacturing and heavy industry.

In contrast, personal service robotics is an area with enormous potential, touted to be the ‘ NEXT BIG THING' after personal computers. According to the IFR (International Federation of Robotics), a service robot is a robot which operates semi or fully autonomously to perform services useful to the wellbeing of humans and equipment, excluding manufacturing operations.

The prevailing wisdom is that the personal robotics market resembles the personal computer market of the mid-1970s. The personal robotics market includes consumer robotic products that have some intelligence, interface with their environment through sensors, and perform a desired function. This function may be to perform a task, to act as a security system, to entertain people, or to be used as an educational tool. Market value is expected hit US$17.1 billion by 2010 and US$51.7 billion by 2025.

It has been forecasted that the majority of personal robotics shipments for the coming years will be task robots and entertainment robots. Education robots will remain a small share of the market through the forecast period, while security and surveillance/telepresence robots will be another rapidly growing market segment.

History of Personal Robotics – An evolution

PHASE 1: Personal robots have been quietly positioning themselves in the help-at-home market for years. The programmable coffee maker providing fresh morning coffee is an early robot that even turns itself off if ignored. The microwave oven tells us when food is cooked and, if we don't remove food promptly, it continues to beep, refusing to stop until we take some action to quiet it, only then assuming a satisfied silence. Both are considered stage one robots, stationary helpers with interactive "smart features."

PHASE 2: Next came interactive second stage mobile bots. The vacuum cleaner was quickly followed by the a pool cleaner and then a gutter cleaner. We even had an alarm clock that runs away while ringing so we must get up, chase it and catch it to make it stop.

The remarkable growth of these personal robotic products showed the world just how hungry consumers are for affordable help to fit their schedules. Toyota created a robotics division in 2005 just to grab its share of this lucrative market.

PHASE 3: Phase 3 bots feature advanced interaction capabilities in addition to mobility. In late 2008 a roving robotic product hit the international market to perform live surveillance of our homes and allowing us to control its movements remotely from any web browser.

PHASE 4: Entertainment products for exhibitions and products were introduced in Japan to amuse residents came next.
Robots can now respond to vocal commands or gestures and move independently around a living space, watering plants, letting the cat out, operating kitchen appliances, even making toast (as well as serving it) and feeding pets. Because the elderly will represent the largest market segment in coming years, developers anticipate a huge demand for servant robots.

Global industry : An outlook

By the end of 2006 about 40,000 service robots for professional use were installed worldwide. According to estimates, around 3.5 million personal robots are in use.

According to the study "Personal Robotics 2009: Task, Security & Surveillance/Telepresence, Entertainment and Education Robot, and Robotic Components Markets Through 2015", the global personal robots market will grow from $1.16 billion in 2009 to more than $5 billion in 2015. The majority of such robots in 2009 are entertainment robots, toys and single-task robots, such as vacuum cleaners or floor washers.

Industry in India – Happenings back home

Most of the robotics fans in India are currently busy with robo-soccer tournaments and robot fairs in engineering institutes.

The size of the Indian robotics market is surprisingly large—robots worth about Rs 3,500 crore are estimated to have been sold so far. But almost all are in the industrial space, a market that's now estimated to be about Rs 1,000 crore annually. Auto companies, namely Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors & Volkswagen, which account for 70% of applications in India, use robots primarily for spot and arc welding, material-handling, press-shop and paint-shop jobs. Other sectors like food, defence, healthcare and entertainment are also adopting robots.

Personal robotics, the kind talked about so far in this story, is still nascent. The growing interest in evident from the media coverage Personal robotics is receiving across publications and news channels!

The industry in India is expected to grow by 2-2.5 times of the global average.

The team at Metalmate Robotics Private Limted. is definitely not thrilled to see personal robotics in India lag so far behind industrial bots. Perhaps our aggressive marketing and seamless support provided by the foreign vendors will help correct that!

Robotic Future : Beyond the horizon

Domestic robots are poised to take over the household help market. Don't stop doing your chores or fire your cleaning lady, but be aware that robots are already in the business of helping with the tasks of daily life.

Critics often question the industry asking...How soon will robots become part of our day-to-day lives? According to the International Federation of Robotics, about two million personal robots were in use around the world in 2004, and another seven million will be installed by 2008. In South Korea the Ministry of Information and Com­munication hopes to put a robot in every home there by 2013. The Japanese Robot Association predicts that by 2025, the personal robot industry will be worth more than $50 billion a year worldwide, compared with about $5 billion today.

As with the PC industry in the 1970s, it is impossible to predict exactly what applications will drive this new industry.

Another famous question now is whether personal robots will someday replace our mates, cleaning maids & co? No, they wouldn't ….unless you are on a Hollywood movie set!