It’s been a wonderful year in the life of this humble website. Not only have we consistently produced the best newsletter in the known universe, probably, but our website has been receiving a lot of visitors and attention.
Our stories have received incoming links from prestigious newspapers with more than a century of history behind them, as well as massively popular new websites with fantastic futures ahead of them.
We would like to mention them, but that might suggest that they endorse this indulgent self-aggrandisement on our part. We would accept this is something of a “thank you” to all the people who have contributed to this website and our readers, but it’s not often we talk about ourselves in positive ways – we’re actually always looking for ways to improve the website and our content across all our channels.
That means seeing what our visitors are reading, and trying to give them more of what they want, and less of what they’re not interested in. We don’t have systems which see any individual reader’s journey – we just have the numbers of which stories get “most read” through Google Analytics and other sources.
But we’re not all about numbers. Sometimes there are stories which we know are important but only receive a few visitors. We would not ignore important stories, no matter how few visitors they get. That’s the way we’ve been programmed.
Anyway, on with the show – the “Most Read” 20 stories on our website in 2016. And here’s to a fantastically successful 2017 to all our readers.
Let’s get ready to ramble…
1. Top industrial robot companies in the world and how many robots they have around the world
This story is likely to remain on this website as long as this website remains on the worldwide web.
It’s so popular we’d probably receive complaints if we tried to archive it away or something, but we’re not going to.
Instead, we will keep updating it.
2. Robot density: Top 10 countries with most industrial robots for every 10,000 people employed in manufacturing
Another data story – everyone appreciates good data, although Robotics and Automation News can’t claim credit for this one.
Although we created the map illustration, the data is from the International Federation of Robotics, which is probably the most cited source in the robotics industry.
3. Raspberry Pi could help farmers manage crops better and more cheaply than current systems, say scientists
This story was probably the first to catch us by surprise – who knew so many farmers read our website?
Whatever the reason, this story “went viral” or something and we gained so many new readers because of it that we considered renaming the website Robotic Farmers’ Weekly or something.
Not really, but it’s a good idea.
4. New flavour of Robot Operating System launched
We knew this one would get a lot of readers because there’s so much interest in the Robot Operating System, which may well be the future of robotics, the Microsoft Windows of the robotics world.
And it didn’t disappoint. Readers flocked to the story like online mobs of starlings, swooping in and then going away again to the links on the page to find out more from the original sources, Robohub.org, one of our favourite websites, and Erle Robotics, the maker of the new OS.
5. Kuka to build global deep learning AI network for industrial robots
We’ve cooked up many a great story about Kuka for this website. We like their style. Their videos are particularly good – with the dramatic classical music and the epic cinematography.
We feel we share with the creative people at Kuka a sense of awe about robotics which perhaps can be difficult to communicate, or maybe it’s something people don’t want to communicate to avoid being labelled a robotics geek or something.
And, of course, it helped that this story was about artificial intelligence – a subject of great interest at the moment.
6. Industrial robots can now do their work uninterrupted thanks to the cloud and offline programming
Sometimes, it’s easier than you might think to identify with robots. Nobody enjoys being interrupted all the time, and this story was about ways to reduce the number of times production is interrupted.
We were pleased to get quotes from General Motors and Albert Nubiola, CEO of RoboDK, who has been providing us with his expert insight into this world of moving machines with minds of their own.
7. Sewbots prepare to take millions of jobs off humans in clothes manufacturing sector
The first of two wildly popular stories about sewbots, or robotic sewing machines – although there is a company called Sewbot, which is also mentioned in the story.
Based on very detailed and thorough reports by the International Labour Organisation, and others, this story looked at the possibility of millions of human textiles workers in developing countries losing their jobs to robots.
It’s not likely to happen any time soon, you would think. But that’s not necessarily the case.
8. Infineon chip solves Rubik’s Cube in about one half of one second
It’s quite strange that a toy as simple as a Rubik’s Cube has held the fascination of millions of people young and old for at least two or three generations now.
Even now it is probably still the toy that would make it onto most people’s top 10 favourites, and for many millions of “cubers” simply nothing compares to it.
But this is about an Infineon-chip-based robot which can solve a Rubik’s Cube in about half a second, setting a new world record.
9. Startup claims launch of ‘world’s first robot to sew complete garment’
Another surprisingly popular story, but given the popularity of the other story about robotic sewing machines maybe we should’ve expected the interest.
Like the other story, this one prompted some debate. Talk about this one centred on whether it was a good solution to the complex problem of sewing.
To this day, humans are far more capable of sewing than robots, and that’s unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. But that won’t stop the roboticists trying.
10. Audi smart factory ushers in new era of manufacturing
Another of our favourite companies, this story, however, was popular probably because there’s just so much interest in smart factories, industrial internet, internet of things or Industry 4.0 – take your pick.
It all means the same thing – machines being connected to each other so they can co-ordinate their activity to a level where humans need not be involved in the majority – or even any – of their jobs.
Totally smart factories are still some way away, though, according to the experts.
11. Chinese whispers: The most populous nation on Earth wants to replace millions of human workers with industrial robots it plans to manufacture
The longest headline of the year probably, but sometimes it’s necessary.
This story gained our website a lot of new readers in Asia, particularly China, and a couple of new correspondents, who contribute articles from time to time.
It’s possible that the subject of robots taking jobs from humans is the thing people are interested in, but as we are a business-to-business website, we consider that to be a social or political – or socio-political – issue which is probably more suitable for general or mainstream websites rather than ours.
12. Airships: Ready to fly high again after a century of suspicion
Sometimes our writers produce articles on subjects that interest them without really thinking about how it fits in with the editorial policy – that is, they don’t ask the question, “Is this about robotics and automation?”
If they did ask that question, the answer might have been “No” when it came to this story about airships… the writer was just interested in them. We had to work hard to find a robotics and automation angle, but sometimes, nobody cares.
13. Locus Robotics prepares to transform logistics industry with new automation system
Logistics is a big area for us, along with manufacturing. And logistics robots is an increasingly interesting subject, and a growing market.
This story is about Locus Robotics, but it mentions Amazon Robotics, which used to be Kiva Systems – an independent builder of logistics robots which Amazon bought.
Certainly it’s a subject we have revisited many times over the past year and will continue to do so over the year ahead.
14. The size of things to come: An exciting time for medical robotics
One of the best things about the “too much information” world we live in now is that it occasionally brings our website great writers who are experts in their fields, and this was one of the best examples.
None of us in the office could have written this – such is the level of detail and knowledge of the field that we were not at all surprised that it was so well-read by so many people, with many, many people linking to it and referring to it.
Although it’s not our strong-point editorially, medical robotics is a subject of great interest to a large section of our readers and we will endeavour to bring more high-quality articles like this one.
15. Paul von der Bank invents ‘world’s smallest’ robotic arc welding cell using Kuka industrial robot
Readers interested in industrial robots are definitely our core audience, and any story about new and innovative robotic work cells they’re all over it.
This story is about a company which claims to have built the world’s smallest robotic work cell for arc welding, which is one of the most widely used applications for industrial robots.
More stories about robotic work cells coming up in 2017.
16. Logistics robots: The way you move
As mentioned earlier, logistics robots are very much of interest to a lot of people – to the people who build them and to the people who invest in them.
And that’s not even counting the people who are looking to buy them.
Like most sectors in robotics, it’s a very new market, and it’s developing all the time.
This article provides an overview of the sector as it is now.
17. Kuka reports record sales for first quarter of 2016
We rarely publish financial news, but decided to make an exception for Kuka since it was in the process of a takeover and it seemed pertinent.
And we will increase our coverage of this area because a very large segment of our readers work for financial investment and business consultancy firms.
It’s no good us just looking at the robots and saying how clever they are – we’ve got to explain them in an entrepreneurial context.
18. Massachusetts robotics companies employed 4,700 workers and generated $1.6 billion in revenue
Speaking of entrepreneurialism, this is a great story about how the Massachusetts area of the US has produced so many great robotics companies.
The local agency, Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, helpfully collated a lot of interesting data about the innovative companies in the area.
But then, so many of the big names in the robotics world are from Massachusetts that it seems sensible for the agency to analyse the sector locally.
19. Do you want chips with that? How robots are threatening millions of fast food jobs
Another story about robots taking jobs from humans, only this one is about fast food jobs.
Many fast food establishments already run on minimal staff, using a great deal of automation, so it’s debateable whether the companies will go much further.
Certainly the fast food giants we contacted said they have no plans to actually transform their entire global operation into a robot-only joint, but they’re likely to see how things go at some all-robot outlets here and there.
20. Yaskawa Motoman demonstrates new range of robots at IMTS
Glad Yaskawa made it into this list as we like this company – you could say it gave us one of our first breaks.
It’s tough when you’re a new website to get taken seriously as a news source. Now we are on Google News and Apple News, and a whole load of other channels.
We’ve worked very hard for it – we publish all the news which we believe matters to our readers as soon as we can.
But we don’t forget who helped us along the way.
More stories will be added to this list soon… The above list is based on the number of visits each story received.
And Happy Holidays to all our readers, and everyone.