December 19, 2017      

This past year has been a busy one here at Robotics Business Review, full of major automation developments and a slew of events that filled up our calendars! Looking back, we’ve pulled together the top 10 articles of 2017 to see what content about robots, artificial intelligence, and unmanned systems caught the attention of our readers this year.

The Top 10 Articles of 2017:

10. Pick and Place Robot Ready as RightHand Robotics Raises $8M

While there were larger transactions that happened this year, including several involving better-known companies, the supply chain industry’s interest in pick-and-place robots was certainly a major driver in this article landing in the top 10 articles of 2017.

Pick and Place Robot Ready as RightHand Raises $8M

Excitement is building about the potential of pick-and-place systems, not only for warehouse applications, but also for its ability to restock store shelves automatically.

Investors are certainly confident in the potential of the technology, as evidenced by this investment into RightHand Robotics.

As an ever more autonomous future looms over the logistics and supply chain industry, this will be an area to watch in the coming year.

9. InVia Robotics Releases Goods-to-Person System for Warehouse Automation

Warehouse automation continues to be a popular topic among our readers. In this case, we looked at InVia Robotics’ new dynamic automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS).

This system is noteworthy because of its quick setup period and the fact that it is delivered in a robots-as-a-service (RaaS) business model. This reduces upfront costs and helps smaller warehouse operators to implement automation without needing to hire personnel for design and upkeep.

Given the cost pressures and time-sensitive nature of the current economy at large, it seems likely that RaaS will become the norm for robotics companies across multiple vertical markets.

8. Japanese Military Drones, Robotics Develop in Response to U.S.-China Pivot

The U.S. has sold three Global Hawks to add to the Japanese military drone capability.

East Asia has been the source of countless political and economic headlines this past year. For the robotics industry, this proves to be no different. The region has seen a rise in tensions, as China continues to establish itself as a global power.

In addition, North Korea’s continued development of nuclear weapons has the rest of the world paying close attention to the region.

As a result, Japan has begun a historic re-militarization, and unsurprisingly, it has turned its attention toward military robotics and drones. Japan is looking to establish itself as a developer of drones capable of both surveillance and combat roles, as well as robotic exoskeletons that can aid the human element of its military.

Whether or not these seemingly lofty goals get achieved on time, military robotics in Japan will be another reason to keep an eye on this critical region.

7. Food Industry Use of Robotics to Grow Sharply

The use of robots in food food handling has historically been a tough challenge, given the delicate nature of food products. The low temperatures and high humidity inside food-handling facilities also puts a strain on a robot’s ability to operate.

RBR's top 10 articles of 2017 included coverage of robotics in the food industry.

Recently, however, companies are beginning to develop robots specifically designed to work in these environments, and the results have been encouraging.

Massachusetts-based Soft Robotics has created soft grippers that can pick up different sized items without damaging them, without the need to be re-programmed for each one.

Meanwhile, Staubli has designed a series of robots that can operate in humid conditions with no risk to the electronic components.

6. Europe Tries to Get Ahead on Robot Rules and Taxes

International robotics were a major topic of interest for our readers this past year, and this article’s in-depth look at the proposed regulation of autonomous machines proved popular enough to make it into the top 10 articles of 2017.

The regulations proposed this year by the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs were wide-ranging, from the creation of new European robotics agency to the definition of the words “smart” and “safe” as they relate to robotics, and a number of other issues related to autonomous systems. The proposition as a whole is significant, and shows that Europe is already looking to a more robotic future.

5. The Future of Automation Under the Trump Administration: Jobs, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

The Trump Administration and Robotics: Initial Analysis

As Inauguration Day came and went and a new administration took charge of the U.S., our readers were already looking to how this change in the government might affect the robotics industry.

Currently, this industry is thriving, not only in traditional manufacturing uses like automotive manufacturing, but also in startups that are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. Collectively, these startups are major employers, and they will continue to demand skilled employees for years to come.

After almost a year in the White House, how will President Trump’s policies affect the robotics industry in 2018?

4. Cobot Market Boom Lifts Universal Robots’ Fortunes in 2016

Universal Robots has been one of the most consistently successful makers of collaborative robots in the past few years. It has again proved that the continued hype around cobots does in fact have a solid foundation. The Danish company is helping to lead the country’s leadership in the robotics industry, but it is hardly content to rest on its current achievements.

With continuous investment into R&D and an ecosystem of training and end effectors, Universal Robots is working to make its robots perform better, while remaining easy to set up and operate. Cobot providers remain companies to watch in the coming year.

3. Top 5 Robotics and AI Trends for Businesses to Look for at CES 2017

The annual International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is always a major event for the robotics and AI industries, particularly because of the consumer robots that are promised to enter homes in the near future. This past year was no different.

We highlighted social robots and mobile autonomy as two main trends before the show, as well as interesting startups and concerns about cybersecurity.

CES 2018 is just around the corner, and we will once again be bringing you everything you need to know about AI and robotics at the show.

2. ‘Any-Tasks’ Robotics Incrementally Made Possible by Actuating Innovation from Genesis Robotics

This article took a look at the new LiveDrive Actuators from Vancouver, British Columbia-based Genesis Robotics. These new actuators are a breakthrough in robotics and intelligent operational systems (RIOS) applications for a number of reasons. They have an incredibly high torque-to-weight ratio, coupled with reduced programming needs and a lower cost.

Although components often get overlooked in favor of the finished robots that they power, our tech-savvy audience is interested in quality parts, and are constantly on the lookout for the latest technology as it hits the market.

1. The 2017 RBR50 List Names Robotics Industry Leaders, Innovators

Our rundown of the top 10 articles of 2017 concludes with our yearly look at the most innovative and influential companies in the industry. Our annual RBR50 list grabbed plenty of reader attention in the past 12 months.

Nominate Your Company for the 2017 RBR50!

With 10 countries represented, and applications ranging from industrial automation and materials handling to service robots, the list is both comprehensive in its coverage and prestigious in its membership.

Some of the larger companies on the list are already household names, but many more earned their spot by quietly creating innovative robots, components, and AI software.

With the new year fast approaching, be sure to keep an eye out for the new 2018 edition of the RBR50 list!

Honorable mentions

These articles didn’t quite make it into the top 10 articles of 2017, but we couldn’t help but give them an honorable mention. First off was our coverage of LiveWorx 2017, where Robo Business Media ran the event’s first-ever robotics and automation track. Second was our coverage of our main event, RoboBusiness 2017, including an in-depth look at how Disney is using robotics to entertain visitors at its parks.