In the third quarter of 2018, Robotics Business Review tracked nearly 250 fundings, mergers, and acquisitions. However, that volume of activity and optimistic robotics expectations could be hiding early signs of global economic slowdowns, even as commercial uses of robotics, artificial intelligence, and autonomous systems proliferate.
While some industry observers expected U.S. tax breaks and continuing technological advances to benefit the robotics industry, the number of large transactions shrank in the past quarter, writes Jim Nash in this RBR Insider report.
In keeping with Gartner Inc.’s so-called hype cycles, certain parts of the global automation ecosystem are doing better than others, he notes. AI in particular is facing inflated robotics expectations, Nash says, and funding for self-driving cars and related technologies slowed in Q3, partly in reaction to an Uber accident this past spring.
Robotics expectations and global performance
At the same time, interest in applications such as food preparation, healthcare and medical, and construction is strong. One example is SoftBank’s negotiations for a $750 million investment in Zume Inc., which is developing robots for making and delivering pizzas.
Improving manipulation, more mobile platforms, and the sheer demand from shops that have yet to automate are also helping robotics expectations and the industry. While not necessarily AI, better programming and collaborative robots, or cobots, are encouraging small and midsize enterprises to adopt robots.
For instance, Southie Autonomy, which won the Pitchfire startup competition at RoboBusiness 2018, is working on a system to make it easier to teach robots how to handle materials.
In addition, this report reviews the debate over reshoring of production thanks to robotics expectations, the challenge for foreign companies trying to enter the Chinese market, and the list of recent transactions.
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