4 Oct 2009 roschler   » (Master)

Here's a comment of mine on the current state of the robot industry and how the next great revolution in consumer technology is being held back by the current economy.

Currently nobody wants to create a toy that costs more than about $70 USD now and far better if it's around $30 to $40 (forget the $200 to $400 toy robots of the previous years). Unemployment is still rising and the credit card companies have jacked up rates on good and bad customers alike while closing many accounts just to shore up their debt ratios; two huge market forces which directly and significantly reduce both the discretionary income (cash) and layaway income(credit) a consumer has to buy goods. This leads to a vicious cycle because the vendors whose goods they would buy panic, cut their product lines (like robots this year), and lay off employees (who are after all consumers themselves and now have no salary to buy goods with).

It's so bad that in Japan, despite the fact it has one of the fastest aging populations in the world and desperately needs assisted robotics, those companies bringing those innovations to market can't get people to buy their goods (which admittedly are expensive but would have sold anyways in better times).

On the utility side of consumer robotics you might as well just call that market the Roomba market since there really isn't anything else that dominates. There is the promise of the telepresence and home surveillance market, but iRobot dropped iConnectR like a bad habit, Meccanno released Spykee but never followed up with their announced SDK, leaving WowWee to fight the good fight on with Rovio. At least they are soldiering on by continually upgrading Rovio's firmware and helping customers fix their units when it's a parts failure. The home teleprescence market should be moving ahead a lot faster and stronger than it is. It's up to WowWee to capitalize on it before a new player eats their lunch.

I'm looking forward to 2010. How about you?

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