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INTRODUCTIONSTUDY GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
The goal of this study was to present a comprehensive view of the global robotics industry from the research laboratory to the replacement parts business. To that end the study had three objectives:
The first was to analyze key developments in robotics that have occurred since BCC Research last examined this rapidly changing market in the last quarter of 2010.The second was to develop 2013 to 2018 product demand forecasts based on recent developments that alter the industry's technological and economic landscape in
Europe, and other developed nations.The third was to present for each of those regions a comprehensive set of tables that forecast current U.S. dollar value demand for four categories of robot products; six types of robots; 16 robot-using industries; and 26 end-user applications for robots.
In addition to its technology analysis and forecasts, this study includes a chapter containing background and contact information for key industry participants, and a patent analysis accompanied by a list of patent numbers and titles of the more than 700 robot patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office since the previous BCC Research analysis.
REASONS FOR DOING THE STUDY
In late 2010, BCC Research examined the robotics industry, and in
April 2011 published a study in which it noted that technological and military needs had created a climate for the accelerated acceptance of robots far afield from the factory floor, their origin and current economic base. Those industry-sustaining innovations continued through 2012. BCC also observed a shift in the nature of improvements.
There have been two clear signals that a fundamental change in the industry has begun. The first of those signals is the rapidly accelerating pace of innovation. During 2012, the number of U.S. patent filings that referenced robots in their abstracts rose sharply, to an average of nine per week, twice the number of that during the industry's first 30 years. The second signal is contained in the nature of the ideas protected by those patents. A large number of the more than 700 inventions patented since BCC published its last study individually describe methods for improving a robot's ability to recognize and interact with its surroundings. In other words, these are the inventions that will give robots "situational awareness," a dynamic "sense of place" that allows truly autonomous operation. Situational awareness is the single most critical quality required by a robot before it can safely work alongside humans not as a tool, but as a partner. In the broader sense, a robot's acquisition of situational awareness also marks the transition moment for the industry, when robotics steps beyond being a sustaining technology and enters the realm of disruptive technologies, with the promise and uncertainty that such an advance implies.