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Robot housekeepers in tenth of residences by 2020

Juniper Research predicts rise in robots for domestic chores

Robot housekeepers in tenth of residences by 2020
Robot companions such as Pepper will need to work to prove their value, says Juniper Research.

More than one in ten US household will have its own housekeeping robot by 2020, according to Juniper Research.

The analyst company predicts that demand for household robots that can carry out domestic tasks will rise due to urbanisation and a lack of personal time to complete chores. At CES 2017, almost half of all the robotics offerings were focused on this class of consumer robot, and major vendors such as Samsung, LG and Dyson have all launched housekeeping robots.

Overall, Juniper expects shipments of consumer robots - including entertainment, domestic task, education, healthcare, social and transport robots - will reach 47.7m units in 2020, up from a predicted 15.7m units this year.

The market for consumer robots, defined as robots for home or non-commercial usage, is currently held back by a lack of AI to improve systems via unsupervised machine learning techniques, as well as by an expectation gap between capabilities and what devices can actually deliver, and a nebulous value proposition. High entry barriers to the sector are also limiting the number of vendors producing devices.

Juniper also noted that the market for home companion robots, promoted by companies such as Bosch and Softbank in devices including Jibo, Kuri and Pepper, will struggle to differentiate themselves from simple smart home assistant devices such as Amazon Echo. Many such robots are currently sold at more than five times the price of Amazon's device. To justify the units' high costs, the research anticipated that investment into emotional response and recognition software would serve to positively impact the value proposition.

"Presently, social robots are little more than expensive smart home speakers - they may look impressive but their performance is limited", noted research author Steffen Sorrell. "Visual and aural understanding, service integration and emotional intelligence will form the key pillars that drive consumer interest in social robotics."

The company said that venture capital funding for robotics in 2016 reached over $700m, with transport and autonomous vehicles ($321m); social robots ($145m) and entertainment devices ($106m) making up the top three categories of investment.

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