Ten per cent of American households will own a housekeeping robot by 2020, with global unit shipments reaching 48 million in 2020, up from 15.7 million this year, according to a new study by Juniper Research.

Urbanisation and a reduction in available time for household chores were cited as key drivers behind the growth. This was reflected at CES 2017 where nearly half of the robotics marketplace was dedicated to this class of consumer robot.

In addition, a swathe of large-scale vendors, including Dyson, Samsung and LG have unveiled housekeeping robots, demonstrating a viable commercial proposition.

The new research, Consumer Robotics: Investment, Disruptors & Future Prospects 2017-2021, predicted that consumer appetite for social robots will be more limited and not gain traction until 2021.

So called ‘companion’ robots, such as Jibo, Kuri and Pepper, are currently unable to differentiate themselves in any meaningful way over smart home assistant devices such as Amazon’s Echo.

Many such robots are currently sold at more than five times the price of Amazon’s device. To justify the units’ high costs, the research anticipated that investment into emotional response and recognition software would serve to positively impact the value proposition.

“Presently, social robots are little more than expensive smart home speakers – they may look impressive but their performance is limited,” said research author Steffen Sorrell.

“Visual and aural understanding, service integration and emotional intelligence will form the key pillars that drive consumer interest in social robotics.”

The research said that ageing populations, particularly in some parts of Asia and North America, would mean that development and commercialisation of healthcare robots would become paramount.

Nonetheless, it predicted that the market would be significantly more challenging in Western nations. This is due to dramatic regional differences in public perception of robots.

The whitepaper, Consumer Robotics ~ From Housekeeper to Friend, is available to download from the Juniper Research website together with further details of the new research and interactive dataset.

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