Robotics

What is the hype cycle for robotics?

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We’ve all seen or heard of Hype Cycle. It is a visual depiction of the life cycle stages that a technology goes through from initial development to commercial maturity. This is a useful way to track what technologies are compatible with your organization’s needs. There are five stages of the Hype Cycle, which take us through the initial trigger of excitement, leading to a peak of heightened expectations followed by disappointment. It’s only when a product moves on to more tangible market uses, sometimes called the ‘Slope of Enlightenment’, that we start to achieve full commercial viability.

Working with a large number of robotics startups, I see this stage as a transition to revenue generation in more than a pilot use case. This is the point where a startup no longer needs to maintain every customer deployment but can generate reference use cases and start scaling reliably. I think it’s a useful model but Gartner’s classification doesn’t do robotics justice.

For example, a recent Gartner chart places Intelligent Robots at the peak of the hype cycle. Robotics is a very fast moving field today. The majority of new robotics companies are less than 5-10 years old. From an end-user perspective, it’s very difficult to tell when a company is moving out of the hype cycle and into commercial maturity because there isn’t a lot of deployment or a lot of marketing initially, especially compared to the media coverage of the company. at the peak of the hype cycle.

So here’s where I think robotics tech fits the Gartner Hype Cycle the best:

Innovation trigger

  • Voice interface for robotic practical applications
  • The basic model applied to robotics


The pinnacle of soaring hopes

  • The Big Language Model – although it tends to evolve very quickly
  • Humanoids

Disappointment trough

  • Four legs
  • Cobot
  • Fully self-driving cars and trucks
  • Powered clothing/Exoskeletons


The slope of enlightenment

  • Telesurgery
  • Cloud fleet management
  • Drones for essential deliveries to remote locations
  • Drones for civilian surveillance
  • Waste recycling
  • Warehouse robotics (pick and place)
  • hospital logistics
  • Educational robots
  • Meal preparation
  • Rehabilitation
  • AMR in other industries


Productivity plateau

  • Robot vacuum cleaners (domestic and commercial)
  • Surgical Robots
  • Warehouse robotics (especially AMR)
  • Factory automation (robot arm)

  • 3d printing
  • ROS
  • Simulation

AI, in the form of Big Language Model ie. ChatGPT, GPT3, and Bard were at the height of the hype, as were the humanoid robots, and perhaps the peak of the hype was the idea of ​​RoboGPT, or using LLM to interpret human to robot commands. In the past year four or five new humanoid robot companies have quietly emerged from Figure, Teslabot, Aeolus, Giant AI, Agility, Halodi, and so far only Halodi has commercial deployments doing internal security augmentation for ADT.

Cobots are still in Disappointment, even though Universal Robots sells 50,000+ weapons. People buy robotic arms from companies like Universal primarily for affordability, ease of setup, no need for safety guard hardware, and industrial precision capabilities. The full promise of collaborative robots is having a hard time landing with end users. We don’t really use collaborative robots that often do handovers to humans. Maybe we need more dual-armed cobots with better human-robot interaction before we really explore the possibilities.

Interestingly, Trough of Disillusionment generates a lot of but usually negative media coverage. Self-driving cars and trucks are definitely at the bottom of the trough. Whereas powered suits or exoskeleton, or quadrupeds are a bit more difficult to place.

AMR, or Autonomous Mobile Robots, are a much more successful form of self-driving cargo than self-driving cars or trucks traveling on public roads. AMR is primarily used in warehouses, hospitals, factories, farms, retail facilities, airports and even on sidewalks. Behind every successful robot deployment, there may be a cloud fleet management provider or teleoperations provider, or monitoring service.

Finally, the Plateau of Productivity is where the most popular robots in the world are located. Peak popularity is the Roomba and other home robot vacuum cleaners. Prior to its acquisition by Amazon, iRobot had sold more than 40 million Roombas and controlled 20% of the domestic vacuum cleaner market. Now commercial cleaning fleets are also transitioning to autonomy.

And of course Productivity (not Hype) is also where hardworking industrial robotic arms live with their increasing deployment around the world. The International Federation of Robotics, IFR, reports that more than half a million new industrial robotic arms were deployed in 2021, up 31% from 2020. This figure has been steadily increasing since I started tracking robotics in 2010.


What’s your robotics hype cycle like? What technologies would you like me to add to this chart? Contact andra@svrobo.org


Andra Keay is Managing Director of Silicon Valley Robotics, founder of Women in Robotics and a mentor, investor and advisor to startups, accelerators and think tanks, with a strong interest in commercializing socially positive robotics and AI.

Andra Keay is Managing Director of Silicon Valley Robotics, founder of Women in Robotics and a mentor, investor and advisor to startups, accelerators and think tanks, with a strong interest in commercializing socially positive robotics and AI.

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