Maybe Apple should look into developing robots (iRobot, anyone?)

Instead of, or in addition to, an Apple Car, perhaps Apple should look into robotics. Imagine the iRobot (with apologizes to Issac Asimov). Actually, the name iRobot is already taken, so I guess it would have to be the Apple Robot.

New data from Juniper Research predicts that over 1-in-10 American households will own a consumer robot by the end of the decade, up from under 1-in-25 this year. At this early stage in the market, shipments are expected to be dominated by so-called “task” oriented robots assigned to take over household chores, such as lawn mowing or vacuum cleaning.

Devices such as iRobot’s Roomba and Droplet Robotics’ Sprinkler offer tremendous “fire and forget” type convenience for consumers, and despite obvious design compromises, are likely to usher in a new era of housekeeping, according to Juniper Research. The research group finds that the performance of more complex robots, such as SoftBank’s Pepper, while improving, are heavily limited by present-day technology. Thus, in order to meet consumer expectations, smarter, more contextually aware robots are required.

Achieving a leap forward in AI (artificial intelligence) will demand not only more computing power, but also much greater efficiency if processing is to be offloaded from the cloud. This means that new approaches in chip design, such as IBM’s TrueNorth, are likely to become important in the medium-term.

Additionally, Juniper Research finds that cost and trust are key factors in preventing mass adoption. Component economies of scale have yet to be achieved, while R&D costs are high. Meanwhile, studies indicate that trust between robots and humans is rapidly eroded, even if a robot is able to perform better than a human on average.

“The state of consumer robotics could be compared to the PC in the late 70s, says research author Steffen Sorrell. “Venture capitalist and corporate investment has ramped up tremendously recently – they know that this is the start of a paradigm shift in the way we use and interact with machines.”

For example, he says that an aging global population means that the scope for healthcare robots is “beyond doubt in the long-term.” 

By the way, John Martellaro over at The MacObserver has an interesting op-ed piece called “Why Apple Should be More Interested in Robots.” Check it out.

The images accompanying this article are courtesy of and .