How China grew its global share of robots by 100X

How China grew its global share of robots by 100X

Welcome to the Bulletin by Remix Robotics, where we share a summary of the week's need-to-know robotics and automation news.

In today's email -

  • Robot driver crashes NASCAR
  • Big plans in the UK - a Drone Super Highway and our very own DARPA
  • A robot arm is being sent to Mars
  • Apple's growing robotic IP portfolio
  • One useful tip for jobseekers
  • Four interesting investments

This is our 10th Bulletin - Thanks for reading and if you're finding the content interesting please consider sharing it with someone who will too.


Safety First -  NASCAR has implemented a robot driver to perform high-speed crashes in their next-generation car. “The challenge was getting this extremely complex machine to do a very precise test without a human driver piloting the car”. Luckily a robot was more than happy to drive straight into a wall at 130 mph.

Drone Super Highway - The UK plans to build a 165-mile drone highway connecting Oxford, Cambridge, Rugby and Milton Keynes. A network of sensors will provide a real-time moving map of the airspace and guide drones to their destinations. Expect UK drone delivery to become a reality very soon.

The UK's Moonshot Agency - The newly formed Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA) has announced its first CEO, Ilan Gur and Chairman, Matt Clifford. ARIA is inspired by the US's DARPA and will use its £800 million R&D fund to invest in high-risk, high-reward science and technology. ARIA will have - "a much higher tolerance for failure than is normal, recognising that in research, the freedom to fail is often also the freedom to succeed.”

Attack of the Martian Robots - The European Space Agency has announced that they are sending a robot arm to Mars. The 2.5m arm will retrieve sample tubes from NASA's Perseverance rover and transfer them to a rocket destined for Earth. Due to the 14min delay between Earth and Mars, the system will be highly autonomous. Our resident space expert says the challenge will really start when samples re-enter the Earth's atmosphere at 20 km/s, double the speed of samples from the Moon. It's never been done before and he has a PHD so we'll trust him.

Apple Controls Everything - We've spoken at length about Apple's self-driving vehicle patents and their phone disassembly robots. Now, they're patenting a general controller for autonomous boats, aircrafts, drones, space vehicles, buses, and semi-trailer trucks. This may just be following their normal approach of patenting every single idea they come up with or it could indicate an even greater focus on robotics in the future.

Emotion = “disappointed” - Google's GoEmotion dataset came under criticism when Surge found that 30% of the data points had been mislabelled. So what? The dataset was meant to “understand context and emotion”, which could be used to “detect harmful online behaviour”. Errors here could lead to bias, errors and all manner of unethical behaviour. This blog presents a great case study on how not to build a dataset for AI, and why deep learning approaches are only as good as the data, they're given. Also, the data came from Reddit comments and the mistakes are pretty comical.

Top Tip for Job Seekers - This amazing DIY submarine has been floating around the internet. It's a fun project but students/job seekers should seek inspiration. We can speak from experience - If you're looking for a job in robotics and have something like this in your portfolio, we can guarantee it will go a very long way. That aside, it's a great Deep Dive into how submarines work!

The Big Idea

How China grew its Global Share of Robots by 100X

This week we were introduced to Rian Whitton the writer of a report on China's robotics strategy titled - "China Tests Our Dream of an Automated Future". It's incredibly well-researched and I recommend reading the whole piece at the Bismarck Brief. We'll review some of the key ideas in this week's Big Idea.

"From 2000 to 2020, China's worldwide share of new industrial robot installations grew from 0.4% to 44%.”

This ridiculous 100X growth didn't happen organically. The Chinese government engineered it in a concerted effort to cement themselves as the "World's preeminent manufacturing power for the foreseeable future". More than this, they hoped robotics would solve one of their biggest challenges  - declining growth rates. As China's middle class grows and its population ages, the Ministry of Education predicts a shortfall of 30 million manufacturing workers by 2025.

Jack Pearson