i3 - May/June 2020 - 25

"Intuitive communications with
humans" is a core factor in entertainment and leisure cobots as
well as the companionship and
assistive cobots that consumers
will bring home in the next five
years, according to analysis by
Insight Partners. A separate study
by Research N Reports puts the
social cobot growth curve at 14%
annually through 2026. Although
the predicts are relatively modest, the overall outlook points
upwards. It reflects global activity
as companies look for opportunities for social, entertainment and
companion devices.
One obvious factor are the various approaches being created.
The Carnegie Mellon University
"symbiotic human-robot" project
has focused on human modeling, including intelligence that
enables the cobot to know, for
example, when a human may be
thirsty or when they want to hear
information about a specific task.
CTA's 2019 study on consumer
perceptions of robotics found
that over half of respondents
envision devices to help with
household chores such as
cleaning, laundry and painting.
"Most consumers see robots as
autonomous computers, but

38% believe that robots must be
able to tangibly impact the world
around them," CTA found, suggesting that physical interaction
may not be an essential factor
in human collaboration. Yet the
popularity of "leisure and recreational" devices (91% awareness
level; 66% positive perceptions
in the CTA study) suggests a
sizeable potential market for collaborative technology that may
include drones and other devices
that provide entertainment and
productivity functions.
Some sectors of the social
cobot market may be slow to
develop, as consumers ponder
their value. Robots that interact
with people are finding fans for
therapeutic use by those with
autism and other conditions,
companions for seniors as well as
customer service in retail stores,
hotels and hospitals.
Pepper, SoftBank's humanshaped robot, developed
as a companion that
can perceive and
act upon human
emotions, tells
jokes, dances
and responds to
human moods.
In the five years

end of this decade, according to ABI Research.
Other analysts at The Technology Partnership
envision complex developments of "humanmulti-robot collaborative teams" in which
specialty cobots are used to tackle specific
segments for complicated tasks: different
robots would work with each other, performing various functions to do better
jobs collaboratively.
Veloso of Carnegie Mellon and J.P. Morgan
envisions a next generation of cobots that will
figure out for themselves when they need
assistance and request help from human
partners. Some analysts expect that as
cobots develop social skills, they
will become more popular as companions and more widely used
than industrial robots.
C TA . t e c h / i 3

i3_0520_22-25_Feature_Cobots.indd 25

since its debut, it has found applications in retail and restaurant
venues and as an educational
device to teach students how to
code by creating applications for
its Pepper humanoid.
Omron Automation showed
its Forpheus emotion-reading
robot at CES 2020. The cobot can
interpret body language and then
generate messages of advice
and encouragement. Omron says
Fopheus can also play ping pong
and predict an opponent's next
shot by tracking movements,
a skill that Omron can adapt to
companion care.
Pillo Health launched its Pillo
"Pria!" pharmaceutical dispensing companion cobot working
with Black & Decker. The device
"wakes up" when it's time for a
dose of medication, alerting a
patient to take the pill(s) that are
being dispensed. Through digital
connections, professional and
family caregivers can
monitor the patient's
health remotely for
AV1 is a telepresence robot,
developed by
No Isolation, a
Norwegian start-

Top: Pria by Pillo Health. Bottom: Omron
Automation's Forpheus robot plays ping
pong at CES 2020.

up focused on reducing children's
isolation. The small robot acts as a
child's eyes, ears and voice in the
classroom. For a student with a
long term-illness who cannot attend school, AV1 in the classroom
can raise its hand and convey the
remote child's questions.
Although some companion
and toy cobots have come and
gone (Jibo, Lynx), new products
continue to enter the market.

RIA's Burnstein expects that "tech
"technologies such as machine vision and
AI will speed adoption" of cobots,
although he expects the industrial
sector will grow more quickly. "The
future involves people and robots
working together, not robots
replacing people," says Burnstein.
"We'll see robots doing more
tasks people don't really want to
do, allowing people to do higher
value work that is safer, higher
paying and more satisfying."
adop"We are early in the global adop
tion of robotics," he adds, predicting
that "we'll see useful consumer robots
doing more than just vacuuming or cut
cutting our lawns in the near future. 


5/7/20 3:41 PM


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