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RobotWorld 2017: South Korea aims to take the collaborative robotics market by storm

RobotWorld, South Korea’s premier robotics event, has just closed the doors on its 2017 edition. Innorobo was on hand to bring you all the latest news from this country, the world leader in terms of robot density (i.e. the number of robots per 10,000 workers), a key player in service robotics, and among the global front-runners in Consumer Electronics.

It has now been more than 10 years since South Korea began building momentum in the robotics sphere, bolstered by an ambitious governmental plan. The main focus was on service robotics, and in particular on education in order to ensure medium to long-term leadership in international robotics.  Competitive analysis showed that one neighboring country, Japan, already held a dominant position in the so-called “traditional” industrial robotics market, a mature market that it was difficult to break into with the aim of becoming the leader. China had not yet embarked on its proactive robotics development drive (e.g. Made in China 2025, the Belt & Road Initiative and the 13th Five-Year Plan). South Korea thus decided to invest its energies in becoming the leader on the emerging service robotics market.

Several impressive crown jewels emerged from this strategy. One example is Yujin Robotics, whose robot vacuum cleaner technology was chosen by Miele, and which is currently launching its GoCart robots that deliver meals at hospitals. Another firm, Robotis, is a world leader in educational and hobby robots thanks to its world-renowned Dynamixel programmable actuators. Nearly 400 companies, most of which are SMEs, have been founded or have grown significantly thanks to this national initiative, which has benefitted from long-term support.

Yet, service robotics has proven slow in transforming into a true market despite strong growth rates. Time is needed to build a complete value chain. It must be noted that, worldwide, things are taking longer than planned and that, for the time being, service robotics remains an emerging market in many fields of application.

As well, service robotics technologies such as sensors for indoor mobility in human environments, human-robot interfaces, more intuitive programming and others have become a centerpiece of industrial robotics with the creation of a new type of robot, the cobot. Here, South Korea saw an opportunity to become the leader in this new emerging collaborative robotics market.

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