December 31, 2015      

It would be an understatement to say that the past year was a big one for robotics across industries and in the public consciousness. Drone regulation, fears of AI threatening jobs and lives, and splashy self-driving car research got headlines, but what were Robotics Business Review‘s most popular stories of 2015?

Our business readers were a bit more levelheaded than the mainstream news media might suggest, with interest in increasing investments, international coverage, and seeing what robotics innovators really think.

Without further ado, here are our top 10 robotics articles of 2015:

10. Universal Does It Again with the UR3 Tabletop Robot
Odense, Denmark-based Universal Robots may not be the biggest player in industrial automation, but its UR3 robotic arm was designed for the tabletop and is nimble enough for collaborative use. The cobot market remains very competitive.

9. First 10 Startups Join Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator
Qualcomm Inc. supported 10 robotics startups as a way of nurturing the ecosystem around its processors, but the incubator program ended early because of a spending slowdown. What does this mean for San Diego and robotics investments?

DRC-HUBO

Prof. Jun-Ho Oh led the South Korean team that won the final DARPA Robotics Challenge with HUBO.

Well, that didn’t take long to answer. While robotics stocks have been slow to gain popularity, venture capital firms, governments, and other investors have been more than happy to bet on robotics, which is viewed as the key to economic growth.

Note, however, that the funding hasn’t been spread evenly, as drone makers and 3D printing companies have learned.

7. Teradyne CEO on Universal Robots Acquisition, Strategic Vision
Mark Jagiela, CEO of Teradyne Inc., talked with us the day after his company acquired cobot maker Universal Robots. As with many recent robotics mergers and acquisitions, his sights are set on a growing market, getting access to Asia, and desiring a quick increase in technical capabilities.

6. China’s Industrial Robot Boom Amazes Experts
Speaking of Asia, it may now seem obvious in hindsight that China is ready for a boom in industrial automation, but Japanese and U.S. robotics companies have learned that China has plans to grow its own robot makers. Prospective partners and Asian rivals are taking note.

5. Five Things We Learned at RoboBusiness 2015
September’s conference in San Jose, Calif., was a prime opportunity for robotics researchers, investors, makers, and users to network and see the state of the art. I had the good fortune to talk to many people at RBR’s annual event, and I shared my impressions of the trends you need to follow.

4. In Their Own Words: 10 Women Talk About the Future of Robotics
Yes, women are still underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), but these extraordinary people are true innovators in robotics and artificial intelligence regardless of gender. Find out what inspired each of them and learn about their work in this slideshow.

3. Samsung Electronics Launches $100 Million Robotics Lab
As an example of the money going into robotics, Samsung is working hard on developing products that are ready for the emerging Internet of Things (IoT). Are you ready for your warehouses, appliances, drones, and wearables to be connected to one another and the Internet?

2. ‘Smart’ Robot Cultivator to Speedily Eliminate Major Farm Nemesis — Weeds
The cost of removing herbicide-resistant weeds could be as high as $15 billion to $20 billion annually in the U.S.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, are among those working on devices that can distinguish friendly plants from foes, as agriculture is ripe for automation.

1. CES 2015: What Kinds of Robots Will People Actually Buy?
It seems fitting that we finish the year as we started it, looking at the Consumer Electronics Show. Sure, there are a lot of cool toys at this huge convention, but which robots have actually come to market, and did they satisfy user desires?

I hope to meet some of you as I attend CES 2016 in Las Vegas next week!

What did you think were the biggest robotics developments in 2015? What do you think we should cover in 2016? Have a Happy New Year!