This is part seven of a ten-part series leading up to the inaugural Australian release of the Digital IQ report.

While many industries such as business analytics or cyber security have increasingly developed powerful and commercially viable technologies, the robotics market is still in a state of flux – and experimentation.

Robotics have obviously transformed the modern manufacturing process, but more recent developments will likely take several years to fully develop. Particularly high-level acquisitions such as the purchase of Nest by Google for $US3 billion

Robotics present a huge potential to change the way we live. Google has already started pushing this space further with self-driving cars, and its employees have been able to prove driverless vehicles are safer than their manual counterparts. In areas such as surgery and homecare services, robotics are able to play a significant part in reducing time and cost for not only enterprise, but everyday consumers.

Even vacuum cleaner company Dyson has said it will start experimenting with advanced robotics for distribution in households.

“You will send up a robot to clean windows. It will know where it is going. It will know how to clean the windows. And it will know when it is finished,” Dyson said.

What’s happening in the industry? 

Employees from Google and Apple have teamed together to create robots which help children learn how to code. The group’s Kickstarter campaign was an enormous success and the group has already generated more than $1.4 million in revenue.

At the same time, experiments in robotics are going beyond the home. Google has acquired a large number of businesses including Redwood Robotics and Boston Dynamics, which has garnered attention for its experiments with a quadruped robot designed for use in the United States military.

In total, the company has purchased eight companies in the pursuit of advanced robotics.   It’s not hard to imagine why.. Robotics is a growth area, there is significant growth in both industrial and consumer segments and it’s an area that leaks or leads into several industries, consumer and corporate applications.

If mobile and social is about understanding which consumers are doing what, robotics is an extension that may allow us to respond and have those needs physically carried out and profiled.

Certainly home robotics, and the internet of things, will require something we don’t have today, that Google is increasingly evident with; an ‘open’ source, accessible operating system to reduce fragmentation, reduce cost and provide choice for plug and play scenarios.

Advanced robotics have been the focus of experiments for several decades, including in Japan where many firms are attempting to get a head start on the market for affordable household robotics.

Clearly there are more benefits for robotics advancement than in  the home. Industries such as agriculture have been investigating the ways robots can help with manual work, much in the same way modern manufacturing processes use robot tools.

Robotics in the start-up scene

A quick scan of startups reveals more than 230 in robotics, in addition to the established corporations extending their product sets.  Agricultural startups such as Blue River Technologies, Agrobot, Autonomous Tractor, Harvest Automation, Wall-Ye, CyPhy Works and Precision, SenseFly and OBotics are gaining traction.

Long-distance surgery has already been made popular with the use of robots, and security businesses have adopted the use of smaller robotic-based tools for surveillance

In the field of health, startups such as Ekso Bionics are appearing in rehabilitation centres, and Giraff Technologies ships a nursing home assistants.  Working with robots such as Vgo Communications, and organisations such as Willow Garage stimulating open source robotics, some of the behavioural aspects of robots become apparent.

For example you may want to count Vgo redundant since the advent of Skype and Facetime, the smallest difference is the remote operators face appearing in the robot as it navigates its way around the water cooler, to your desk, adjusts its height, and virtually asks over your shoulder how you’re doing.

Extend this to a child with auto immune disease who can’t go to school, or a language translator who appears virtually at a hospital bedside to interpret symptoms, and the human like characterics make all the difference.

It will be some years before  smaller tools gaining steam in the householder reaches its total capability, but industries beginning to experiment and dwell on the different types of robotics available for innovation and automation have the ability to grow and adapt faster than ever before.

Stay tuned for the eighth entry in our Digital IQ series, which will delve into the emerging “internet of things” ecosystem.  

Part 1: The new age of analytics
Part 2: Social enterprise and keeping everyone connected
Part 3: The future of ecommerce is the mobile revolution
Part 4: The new age of cyber security
Part 5: On-demand business technology
Part 6: Sensors and the internet of things



Kate Bennett Eriksson

Kate is PwC Australia’s head of innovation and disruption.

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