Asia Pacific robot market poised for big leap
Expo 2020 Dubai on Oct 1, 2021. (Photo: China Council for the Promotion of International Trade)
By Celine Chen
SINGAPORE, NNA - At the Dubai opening of the first world expo to be held since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ubtech's adorable panda robot and humanoid service robots were turning heads and entertaining visitors at the China pavilion.
Opened on October 1, Expo Dubai has the participation of exhibitors from 192 countries and is expected to attract 25 million visitors till March next year.
For China, it is an opportunity to showcase advances in its rise in intelligent manufacturing and technological innovation on the world stage.
Created exclusively in the image of China's iconic national animal for the grand event, the friendly Ubtech panda robot serves as a peace mascot.
Demonstrating Ubtech's humanoid service technologies, the 'panda' impresses visitors with its tai chi movements, Chinese calligraphy skills and knowledge on China smart cities, while its cousin, the Walker X robot gives updates on China's space millions and achievements.
Beyond these impressive antics and intelligence, Shenzhen-based Ubtech has been employing its robotics and innovations in artificial intelligence to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus and assist in the recovery of industrial production.
Earlier this year, the Chinese company deployed its ultra-violet disinfection robots called Adibot to various locations in the world, such as business centers in the Netherlands, pandemic hospitals in Japan, and a quarantine hotel in China.
Reflecting the growing importance of artificial intelligence (AI) in modern times, Ubtech has been supporting AI education in over 40 countries across six continents, said the company. It has provided AI-driven and robot-assisted education programs to more than 3,000 schools in China.
Indeed, Asian countries like China, Japan and Singapore have been increasingly accelerating the development and use of new robotic solutions to automate routine tasks and tackle labor shortage.
In fact, Singapore, South Korea and Japan have been the top three countries in the world having the highest density of robot workers in recent years.
The presence of major robotics players, such as Kawada Robotics, Hyundai Robotics, Honda Robotics, Epson, Kawasaki, and Mitsubishi, is driving the market expansion of robots in the Asia Pacific region, said Global Market Insights Inc.
The Asia-Pacific continues to dominate the global industrial robot market, with revenues estimated to reach $25.08 billion by 2024, said Frost & Sullivan, adding that China, Japan and South Korea will drive growth.
The business consultancy firm said the global market will top revenues of $38.3 billion in 2024 after attaining $22.2 billion in 2020 at a compound growth rate of 12.2 percent.
"The Asia Pacific robot market is poised to witness a significant gain owing to the rising labor costs and incentive to automate its manufacturing sector," said Global Market Insights, which expects the global robot market to cross $12 billion by 2030 according to its more conservative estimates.
"The increasing deployment of delivery robots and guide security robots for delivering food & beverages and guiding people in airports and museums is supporting the market demand," said the research company in a press release on October 4.
Security robots are being deployed in hotels, colleges, airports, and railway stations for patrolling and surveillance. These robots are equipped with cameras and sensors to record suspicious activities and ensure security of people.
To reduce crime, the real-estate sector is also deploying security robots in communities, it added.
On how the pandemic has increased the demand for 'Ultraviolet C' (UVC) disinfection and delivery robots, Grand Market Insights said, "The UVC disinfection robots played a pivotal role in overcoming the shortages of labor supply, traditional surface disinfectants, and minimizing the effect of COVID-19 virus. Consumers are preferring contactless robot deliveries to minimize human contact."
Grand Market Insights also noted global robot players are going for acquisitions and new robot launches to gain a competitive edge over rivals.
In September, China's Pudu Robotics, launched its first-generation delivery FlashBot. Fitted with advanced IoT technology solutions, the robot can take the elevator to make deliveries to hotel rooms and building offices on all floors when controlled by an app.
Meanwhile, the increasing demand for safety across the various end-user industries and the growing need for automation in industries such as food processing and e-commerce are driving the development of soft robotics such as exoskeletons.
Growing investments and funding in research and development in various countries are fueling the growth of the emerging market.
Valued at over $1 billion in 2020, the segment is expected to reach $6.3 billion by 2026, growing at a phenomenal compound annual growth rate of 35.17 percent from 2021, said Research And Markets, which noted that China's "Made in China 2025" growth strategy has included advanced robots among 10 core industries.
The research firm said, "Exoskeletons are an emerging developing technology that has the potential to protect and save warehouse and manufacturing workers from shoulders, back pain, and neck pain and injuries related to heavy and repetitive lifting. Various researchers are developing soft, wearable robots that mimic muscle movements."
Last year, General Motors designed a battery-powered exoskeleton glove developed by a Swedish firm, Bioservo. The 'Iron Hand' glove has sensors and motors in each finger, which automatically responds to a level of force that the glove wearer applies to the hand when lifting or gripping something.
Decreasing cost of sensors and the popularity of existing robots are clear signs indicating that the robotics field is undergoing significant transformation and development, said Market And Research.
"Despite the growing need for these robots, only a handful of soft robots are in the market, and the fabrication of soft robots is not fully conventional yet. The scenario is, however, expected to change over the years, considering the aggressive research activities," it said.
Looking forward to an exciting new world, Japan's Honda Motor Co. will develop an avatar robot with the ability to expand the range of human hand functions virtually without the constraints of time and place.
Equipped with a multi-fingered hand and Honda's AI-supported remote control, the robot will be put into practical use in the 2030s.
In a press statement in September, Honda said, "The greatest merit of an avatar robot, which can act as a second self of the user, is that the user can perform tasks and experience things without being there in person, including the realistic sense of handling objects remotely."
The world's top 10 most automated nations are: Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Hong Kong , Taiwan, USA, Belgium which ties with Luxemburg, according to World Robotics statistics issued by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) in January this year.
By far, the country with the highest robot density is still Singapore with 918 units per 10,000 employees in 2019, said IFR. The electronics industry, especially semiconductors and computer peripherals, is the primary user of industrial robots.
South Korea comes in second with 868 units per 10,000 employees in 2019. Korea is a market leader in LCD and memory chip manufacturing with leading companies such as Samsung and LG besides being a major production site for motor vehicles and the manufacturing of batteries for electric cars.
Japan, which has 364 robots per 10,000 employees, ranks third. It is the world´s predominant robot manufacturing country where even robots assemble robots, said IFR.