Robotics Companies:
the Small, the Big, and the Geeky

There are many different kinds of robotics companies in the world. There are some specialized companies, like FANUC selling industrial robots, or iRobots selling robotics solution for your home and the army. There are also big companies for which robots are just one of many products (like ABB, Samsung and Electrolux). Finally, there are all the research laboratories, from universities and institutes, who are opening new ways to use, control and create robots.

1) Industrial robots: where it all started

The first breakthrough of robotics was to optimize the industry production lines with robots that could endlessly and accurately repeat the same movements. The first industrial robots were used in the 1960s. Now, there are more than 1 million units working around the world, with around 100,000 new robots sold every year. So industrial robotics companies have a lot of work.

With Robotics.Org referencing more than 200 companies and universities related to the industrial robots business, it would be hard to talk about them all. Still, there are some that are bigger than others, or have more impressive robots.

KUKA is one of them. This German company has more than 100 years of history in innovative industrial products. In the 1950s and 60s, it created some of the first industrial robots and have been one of the leader on this field ever since. It recently created the KUKA lightweight robot and the Robocoaster (yes, it's a robotic roller coaster!).

Some Robotics Companies Logos

2) One Company, One Robot

The second type of robotics companies I would like to talk about are the many specialized companies that were created to sell one specific robot. iRobot started like this in the 1990s, delivering research platform for the research. It's only later 10 years later that they started to offer many robotics solution for both the military and your home. Now they have sold more than 6 millions Roomba vacuum cleaner, and thousands of military robots are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan to help the soldiers.

Today, you can find many more robotics companies offering one or a few robots only, and they are growing overall. Aldebaran Robotics, which makes the Nao robot is walking in the steps of iRobot: they deliver a complete platform for research and are now looking for more concrete projects to work on. And they already sold more than 1000 robots around the world.

Others are the Korean Robotis, which makes the Bioloid hobby robot and the Darwin-OP. There is also Friendly Robotics, which has been exclusively making robotic lawn mowers since 1995. And of course there are a lot more of them all around the world.

Click here to learn more about Korean robotics companies.

3) Big Brands and Innovation

Did you think Roomba was the first (/only) robot vacuum cleaner? Well, you were wrong. It's Electrolux that launched the first product on the market, as part of their household products. They were one year in advance.

Other big brands have joined the game, like the Korean giant Samsung that offers its own robot vacuum robot. It is also developing a humanoid maid robot, the Mahru-Z in collaboration with the KAIST (Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology). The Korean government is aiming for "a robot in every home" by 2020, and Samsung clearly wants to be the leader in this field.

But industrial robots also have their own kind of big robotics companies. ABB Robotics is a branch of ABB, which offers a wide range of power tools and solutions for factories around the World. While they are one of the big industrial robots brands, Robotics is only one of their many offers on their product page.

Some Robotics Companies Logos

4) Academy and Research: the Explorers

As you may now, I worked as a Master Student in a research lab (for more details, see the About Me page). Actually, most advanced robots in the world come from research projects, and can do only one specialized thing. For example Kojiro, made by Tokyo University, was created to test a system of "muscles" and can only do a few simple movements.

Some famous robots come from research, like Kismet, the first robot created to simulate emotions and human-like interactions. It was created by Cynthia Breazeal, who is now leading a the Personal Robot Group in MIT. They focus on creating robots that can interact naturally with humans, and build stronger bonds with them. Thanks to this natural interaction, they can be better coaches to help in self study or weight loss programs.

Companies involved in robotics also rely heavily on Research groups and institutes to create new robots. I talked above of Samsung and KAIST, but the same is true in Japan for the HRP humanoid robot series: they are made by Kawada Industries in collaboration with the AIST (the (Japanese) Advanced Institute of Science and Technology).

Click here to learn more about Japanese robots and companies.

There are also many robotics companies that were created by researchers: iRobot was created by Colin Angel with his supervisor Rodney Brooks. In Japan, Cyberdine Inc., the company that creates the HAL exoskeleton, was created by a researcher from Tsukuba University, who keeps the two jobs. And the links between research and companies are usually strong.
More info here on Cyberdine Inc., a Company Designed to Help People.

This description of the robotics companies is just the tip of the iceberg. I don't pretend I can talk about all of them. What I want is to present how different these companies can be and talk about the companies I feel are meaningful or special in some ways. Also, when I meet people from companies, or other researchers, I like to write a page about their work, career, products... So look at these pages for some unique insights about robotics companies.

Click here to go back from Robotics Companies to the Personal Robot Home Page.

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