Over fifty years after humanity went to the moon, we still look up at the stars in awe and wonder, seeking out the mysteries of the universe. Back in 2012, the Curiosity Rover from NASA brought the universe a little bit closer to all of us with its momentous touchdown on the Gale crater on Mars.
The landing helped reinvigorate interest in the "Red Planet" all over Earth, and in the years since the Rover's landing, it has provided the scientific community with a memorable catalog of scientific discoveries and insights. In 2020, the news from Curiosity continued - like this "stunning selfie" picture.
Humanlike robots and their interactions with the world are a staple of science fiction; in 2016, "Sophia" the robot from Hanson Robotics, made it science fact. This remarkably lifelike creation - described as "a unique combination of science, engineering, and artistry" on the Hanson website, appeared at the United Nations, earned Saudi citizenship, and stopped by The Tonight Show for an interview.
This stunning achievement showed us that the thoughts of Isaac Asimov remain as prescient as ever.
Drones - and the various ethical and practical questions surrounding them - dominated much of the robotics conversations in the 2000s. Of all the drones produced in the decade, the DJI duo of the Mavic and Phantom remain the standard-bearers for the consumer market. These portable, impeccably designed drones brought these robots' power to a broader audience - for better or for worse.
The "Hub" of the United States is also the consumer robot hub. Boston Dynamics became one of the most innovative companies across any industry with their rollout of "Spot," a versatile, useful, and adorable robot dog that captivated the world when released. "Spot" - along with their other standouts like Atlas and Handle - showed a fascinated public that the world of robotics is closer to everyday life than anyone ever thought.
Originally introduced to the world in 2000, the ASIMO robot from Honda - named after Isaac Asimov and billed as "the world's most advanced humanoid robot" - wowed with its 2011 model. A friendly, approachable, and groundbreaking creation that earned the title of the first robot to walk on two legs, ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility) showed the world just how versatile these humanoid robots could be - recognizing moving objects, responding to human gestures, and much more. The ASIMO ceased production in 2018, but its legacy lives on.
Human-robot interaction took another giant step with the production of Pepper from SoftBank Robotics. Released in 2014, Pepper can recognize faces and basic human emotions; its programming made it perfect for companies, schools, and institutions worldwide to use as assistants and guides.
Today, there are over 2,000 companies worldwide using Pepper. In fact, Pepper robots even showed up to root on a Japanese baseball team amid the pandemic.
"Man's best friend" went to the next level with the new generation of AIBO. An advanced model of the original robot sensation from the late 1990s, the new generation of AIBO could do tricks, recognize faces, and even respond to commands (all without the messy cleanup that real dogs demand).
AIBO displayed to the world - in true Philip K. Dick style - that the realm of robotic animals advanced at least as far as the world of humanoid robotics.
An entire generation grew up thinking of the evil HAL from 2001 when it came to technology in space; NASA's Robonauts (the R2 and R5 models) went a long way to making space tech-friendly again. R2 blasted off in 2011 and helped out with menial tasks aboard the International Space Station; R5 went to another peak for space robotics, giving the robot the ability to walk and perform even more high-tech missions.
These adorable robots from Anki are the gold standard for robotic household "pets" for the family. Cozmo is the one for kids, with a "personality" geared towards fun and development and the soul of a Pixar character; Vector is more of a rolling Alexa- or Siri-style personal assistant device.
Both of them made robotics around the household seem as familiar as a blender, alarm clock, or vacuum cleaner. Also notable with the Anki Cozmo and Vector? The resurrection story of the product, which went from bankruptcy in 2019 to rebirth in 2020.
STEM education is the buzzword for the next generation of young minds, and robots are a key teaching tool for kids everywhere. The best example of an educational robot for these future rock stars? The Lego Mindstorms EV3, an immensely popular - and immensely accessible - robot released in 2013. Who knows what kinds of innovations this incredible robot inspired?
Of course, those aren't the only robots that made waves over the past decade! We saw SAFFIR, the firefighting robot for fighting shipboard fires; Octobot, the first "soft-bodied" robot to exist; and even Japan's gigantic "Gundam" robot. In 2020, we saw the impact of robots as they helped tackle the COVID-19 crisis, doing everything from delivering supplies to assisting in surgical environments. All of these robots - and the many, many more not mentioned here - helped all of us embrace the world of robotics closer than ever before. Who knows what the next decade will bring! What do you think we'll see?
Oh, and one more thing - now that 2020 is over, be sure to check out our 2020 retrospective blog, where we explore all of the big robotics news and trends from the past year!