Since early human civilization, there has been a fascination with the idea of the robot. In the modern world, robots are everywhere, whether we are aware of them or not.
The industry continues to grow as related technologies mature. Here, we take a deep dive into the robot industry in the US, exploring how robots are currently used and what the market may look like in the future.
Application Areas of Robots
Humans have been obsessed with the idea of ‘artificial beings’ for millennia. The ancient Greeks believed that the god Hephaestus had built himself assistants out of gold. Leonardo DaVinci had drawn up designs for a ‘robotic knight’, having studied the human body to understand the mechanics of muscles and joints. It was not until the early 1950s, however, that the earliest robots are considered to have been created. George C. Devol is often considered to be the “father of robotics” due to his creation of the first patented reprogrammable manipulator, known as the “Unimate”.
While he failed to make success with his robot in the 1950s, his invention helped spur innovation in the field, and in 1966, Shakey the robot was invented at Stanford. Shakey was the world’s first intelligent and autonomous robot that formulated its own decisions on how to behave following general instructions.
Today, robots have been developed for use in a wide range of industries in the US. Robots are all around us, even though many of us are unaware of how integrated they are into daily life.
The food we eat, more often than not, exists thanks to the help of robots. Modern human civilization is often attributed to our shift from hunter-gatherer societies to farming. In today’s society, this sector which is fundamental to human existence, relies heavily on robots. Agricultural robots take care of receptive tasks such as seeding, harvesting, and weed control. As sensor technology and the Internet of Things mature, robots' capabilities in agriculture are growing.
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Manufacturing also benefits from using robots to take over repetitive and monotonous tasks. Tasks such as assembly, picking and packing, welding, transporting items, inventory, and more, can be conducted by robots. This frees up human workers to do tasks that are more mentally taxing and require creative thinking. It also increases worker safety by automating risky tasks and improves productivity as robots can work around the clock without needing rest.
It may surprise many people to know that robots have drastically changed the face of healthcare. Robots are often used in operations, improving the precision that the surgeon can achieve. They are also used in prosthetics and various therapeutic applications. The da Vinci robot is perhaps the most famous example of the use of robots in healthcare. This system allows for robot-assisted minimally invasive surgery. It allows surgeons to carry out highly precise, complex operations through minimal incisions. Many rival robotic systems have emerged since the da Vinci system entered the market.
Robots also have many applications in space exploration, where they are often used to perform dangerous tasks that would put astronauts at too much risk, such as performing repairs to spacecraft from outside while in deep space. The Mars Rover is a famous example of an autonomous robot; its job is to travel to Mars and take photos that are transmitted back to scientists on Earth.
The US military has also made great use of robots. They are used as drones for surveillance purposes; there is also DOGO, the tactical combat robot that can spy on enemy activities, and MAARS (Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System), which keeps soldiers at a safe distance while executing security missions, among other robotic systems.
Hot Topics in Robots
Robots have recently infiltrated the food preparation sector. Today, there are AI-enhanced robots designed to cook food. Moley Robotics has designed the world's first fully robotic kitchen that can automate almost every part of the cooking process. It is possible that these AI chefs will become more commonplace in kitchens of the future, in restaurants and at home.
Perhaps the most talked about application of robots at the moment is their use in healthcare. When the da Vinci’s patents expired in 2019, it caused a boom in the development of affordable and reliable robot-assisted surgery systems. It marked a new phase for robotic-assisted surgery. In the years that have followed, key new surgical robots have received market approval worldwide and will likely impact the US market. The Versius surgical robot, for example, which has already been approved in Europe, Australia, India and the Middle East, has made waves - particularly in its use in research in the UK conducted by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London.
Current Global and US Market of Robots
The global robotics market was valued at $50.96 billion in 2022. It is projected to grow rapidly, at a CAGR of 22.8% between 2022 and 2030, to reach a valuation of $214.6 billion by the end of the decade. Increasing demand for automation across industries will act as a key driver. Asia-Pacific currently dominates the global market, holding 46% of the revenue share. Europe is second, with around 26%, followed by North America, with around 20%.
In the US alone, the robots market is expected to reach a value of $7.26bn in 2023. Most of this revenue will be attributed to the service robotics segment projected to have a market volume of $6.63 billion in 2023. From 2023 to 2027, the US robotics market is expected to grow at a slower rate than the global market, at a CAGR of 5.62%.
Key industry players in the US market include Boston Dynamics, iROBOT Corporation, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Abb Ltd., Kuka Ag, and Mitsubishi Electric Corporation.
Future Directions of Robots
There are several key driving factors that will shape the future of the robot market in the US over the coming decade. First, there is growing demand for service robots, such as those that can take over or assist with cleaning and sanitation jobs. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the value of using robots in sanitation roles was highlighted. Hospitals began using robots to perform cleaning duties to prevent human staff from being exposed to the coronavirus. Over the next decade, it is expected that the adoption of such robots will continue in healthcare and spread across other industries.
Another key driver relates to the boom in the electric car market. Car manufacturers are under increasing demand to produce new electric vehicles fast, this has translated to an increased demand for industrial robots to speed up this process.
The robot industry in the US will continue to grow and evolve. We can continue to expect new applications to emerge in a wide range of industries. In particular, change will be driven by the demands of healthcare and the automotive industry.
References and Further Reading
A new era of robotic-assisted surgery [Online]. Nature. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/d42473-021-00164-w
Daniela Hernandex (2013). Tech Time Warp of the Week: Shakey the Robot, 1966 [Online]. Wired. Available at: https://www.wired.com/2013/09/tech-time-warp-shakey-robot/
Jude Chukwudozie (2022). AI Robot Chefs: The Future of Cooking? [Online]. IoT For All. Available at: https://www.iotforall.com/ai-robots-chefs
Guy’s and St Thomas’ first to use TORS approach for surgery [Online]. Digital Health. Available at: https://www.digitalhealth.net/2023/03/guys-and-st-thomas-first-to-use-tors-approach-for-surgery/
Robotics Market Research Report [Online]. Market Research Future
Robotics - United States [Online]. Statista. Available at: https://www.statista.com/outlook/tmo/robotics/united-states
Zaria Gorvett (2016). Leonardo da Vinci's lessons in design genius [Online]. BBC. Available at: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20160727-leon