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Are robotics startups gaining traction? Affirmative

James A. Martin | March 19, 2015
Robots are following the VC dollars. And while many funding rounds are aimed at the usual industrial automation, money is also flowing to startups developing more human-friendly robots. In 2014, VCs invested $341.3 million in robotics startups, up 36 percent from 2013.

On the low end, inexpensive sensors, memory storage and ubiquitous wireless connectivity, along with ever-increasing processing power, are enabling robots to navigate hotel corridors and other public spaces and perform a wider variety of tasks.

At the high-end, machines are gaining more human skills, such as the ability to learn. For example, DeepMind Technologies (which Google acquired for a reported $500 million last year, after a huge robotics buying spree in 2013) has developed artificial intelligence that can figure out how to play video games with little training. And researchers in Maryland and Australia have developed robots that can learn to do things, like cook, just as humans do: from YouTube videos.

It's anyone's guess where all this will lead. For the short-term, expect more money to fund robotics startups. Longer term? There's already an organization, the Future of Life Institute, designed to "mitigate existential risks facing humanity," (such as a possible robot uprising). Among the institute's donors: Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, to the tune of $10 million.

 

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