What Does Consolidation Mean For Robotics?

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Mergers and acquisitions have recently swept the technology community, and the burgeoning field of robotics is no exception. The big question is whether this activity helps or hurts the still-new field.

’I’d say it’s a case for optimism,’ said iRobot Strategic Technology Director Chris Jones, who pointed to the increased interest in robotics from outside the narrow field of artificial intelligence (AI).

Boston-based Jibo CEO Steve Chambers was more skeptical.

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’On the M&A front, tough to say,’ said Chambers.

Both Jones and Chambers said one of the biggest impacts M&A activity will have on robotics is the geographic location of companies. Chambers and Jones named Boston as the center of the robotics and AI development universe, but that other regions have shown interest in encroaching on that turf. Jones cited the West Coast as a potential threat to taking that business away from Boston, while Chambers’ opinion included a more global focus.

’The interest by Asian companies in robotics and our company just shocked me. So I don’t even know if it’s East Coast/West Coast -- that seems a little limited based on what I’m seeing in terms of interest. Those consumer electronics companies that follow [as opposed to innovating], they view robotics as the next frontier to participate in from a hardware-centric standpoint, not as much from the AI software consumer experience standpoint,’ said Chambers.