The 2007 holiday season marks the rise of personal robots as mainstream consumer items. The latest catalog from US gadget-retailer Sharper Image, for example, is full of robotic products, under the slogan, “Shop for Bots.” A new study by ABI Research forecasts that this market will be worth $15 billion by 2015.
Several types of personal robot are available, says ABI Research principal analyst Philip Solis. Many are single-function “task” robots such as those made by iRobot, whose self-contained Roomba vacuum cleaner is already familiar. “iRobot currently dominates this market and is increasingly targeting areas outside the US and expanding its product line,” says Solis. “Its disciplined approach to keeping products relatively simple and practical has enabled the company to lead the market for task robots.”
The entertainment robotics market saw blips like the low-cost Furby in the late 90s and the expensive AIBO in the early 2000s, and is now dominated by WowWee, but the emerging Ugobe (with its Pleo pet dinosaur robot) stands out for its unique balance of complexity and cost. The educational robotics space consists of Lego's Mindstorms products and lots of Japanese robot kits, such as those from Speecys and i-Sobot.
Over the long term, expectations of what robots should be able to do will rise. The increasing cost of more complex servos and sensors will be balanced by the increasing value consumers place on robots, and a growing willingness by consumers to spend more on robots that can make their lives easier or more fun.
After a period of generally falling ASPs for personal robots, says Solis, ASPs will climb higher and higher towards a point in the future when some people may spend as much on a multi-task humanoid robot as they do on a car, buying fewer, but more expensive, robots. This scenario will occur well in the future, but as we reach 2015, we can expect to see an increasing use of complex manipulators.
ABI Research’s new study, “Personal Robotics,” covers the market for personal, or consumer, robots and major components used by personal robots. It also examines developments in the commercial robotics space and in software development platforms that will become critical to the development of this market.