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Best of 2020: Robotics Enters the Next Phase

A robotic assembly line ready to assemble stuff

The pandemic has catalyzed new developments in a number of industries this past year. Videoconferencing tools, delivery services and more have evolved as a result. In most instances, trends already favored advancement in these areas. But both the development and adoption of these technologies occurred more rapidly as COVID-19 struck. The use of robotics in 2020 is a prime example of such a technology trend. In fact, advances in robotics this past year alone have been quite remarkable and deserve recognition.

Robotics in 2020 has seen more than their typical use in warehouses and manufacturing lines. A tremendous expansion of robotics has occurred, impacting at least a dozen different sectors as a result. From healthcare, to hospitality, to professional services, innovations in robotics are everywhere. In an effort to look back on the past year and note these accomplishments, the following offers a review. In doing so, it becomes easier to appreciate just how many advances in robotics took place.

“Beyond warehouses, delivery robots—also known as Personal Delivery Devices (PPDs)—were already on the rise pre-pandemic. However, the combination of a need for humans to distance and a worldwide increase in demand for home delivery accelerated the rollout of the robots themselves, as well as the government regulations that give them the freedom to roam.” – Bill Studebaker, President & CIO, ROBO Global

Advances in Robotics in Healthcare

Robotics in 2020 saw a tremendous boost in healthcare as one might expect. The pandemic placed tremendous pressure on healthcare services, and it posed safety risks to all. As a result, robotics has been increasingly used to assist with these pressures. Some robotics systems are now being used in disinfection procedures using ultraviolet light. Others have been utilized to collect specimen samples and analyze test results using AI. And in China, robotic drones monitored body temperature among residents to aid in quarantines.

A robotic arm grabbing an organic arm
Advances in robotics in 2020 include various healthcare applications.

The advances in robotics within healthcare has indeed been profound. Combined with advances in telemedicine, robotics facilitated remote surgical procedures. Others, such as those designed by Flexiv, have been designed to provide health services such as body massages. And researchers at the University of Vermont introduced xenobots made from frog stem cells. These organic robots are being developed to assist with organ transplants as well as drug delivery systems. The pandemic certainly accelerated the development of robotic in 2020 in healthcare settings.

Advances in Robotics in Hospitality

Amidst the pandemic, the service industries were among the hardest hit. Restaurants, tourism services, and the travel sector were greatly impacted. While robotics in 2020 did not have as much of an impact in these areas, advances were still notable. Specifically, grocery deliveries and the use of robotics to restock shelves have expanded over the year. Starship Robotics specifically launched robotic grocery delivery services. Likewise, new innovations such as robotic luggage now offers GPS guidance for luggage carriers. These will have ongoing effects on the hospitality moving forward.

In addition to these advances in robotics, others are more extensive. Samsung and Miso Robotics introduced a ceiling-based robotics system for restaurants this year. In addition to preparing nearly 20 different meals, it also tracks inventory and can coordinate delivery. These types of advances have the potential to greatly improve efficiency and costs in the restaurant sector.

Advances in Robotics in Logistics and Operations

Naturally, robotics in 2020 has seen significant improvements within the area of logistics and operations. This is certainly notable for manufacturing plants and warehouses where robotics plays a significant role. In this regard, companies like Exotec are contributing to a multi-billion-dollar industry expected to grow annually at 8 percent. Their Skypod system uses laser guidance to navigate a 3-dimensional space. Likewise, it is scalable and promotes worker safety. These are key areas where advances in robotics are needed.

Of course, advances in robotics are also being realized for home operations as well. Not only did robotics in 2020 see a boom in home-based robot purchases. It also saw new comprehensive robotics systems being introduced for homes as well. Toyota Research Institute introduced its ceiling-based robotics system designed to help older adults remain independent. While it requires forethought and design prior to home construction, its capacities to assist elderly are noteworthy.

Advances in Robotics in Administration

Administration covers a fairly broad area ranging from governments to corporations. Interestingly, robotics in 2020 have impacted most of these areas. Even before the pandemic, Major League Baseball was exploring the use of robotic umpires. But since COVID-19, administrative robotics have advanced even further. The ability to incorporate AI into robotics has meant many can serve more advanced roles. These roles include oversight duties, accounting, and systems monitoring.

One of the most notable advances in robotics this year involves their use in judicial and legal areas. China has used AI-enhanced robots to judge over 3 million legal disputes already. Likewise, the UK is developing actual robotic judges that discern both objective and subjective cues in determining guilt or innocence. Even California is considering using advances in robotics to determine bail amounts based on algorithmic data. These systems are far from perfect and still being developed. But they highlight just how far robotics in 2020 has come.

“Robotics as a Service (RaaS) Market is growing at a High CAGR during the forecast period 2021-2027. The increasing interest of the individuals in this industry is that the major reason for the expansion of this market.” – Roger Smith, Business Development Manager, A2Z Market research

Robotics as a Service

The broad range of growth for robotics in 2020 is impressive, and much of this has been encouraged by the pandemic. However, these advances in robotics are not without a price tag. Understanding this, many sectors are exploring robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) in an effort to make these offerings more affordable. These developments will further expand access of these robotics innovations to a variety of consumers. Indeed, many unfortunate things occurred in 2020, but advances in robotics were not among them. Robotics in 2020 has definitely been a bright spot this past year.


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