You can find information on the state of industrial robotics, but no one has before been able to quantitatively determine the size, demographics, or trends of the hobbyist side of robotics. With industry you can sample the major players and then extend those trends for a good estimate. However with hobbyists these traditional litmus test methods will not work. There are tens of thousands of us scattered around the world with no major players, so getting a statistically valid sample becomes a challenge.
As a robotics hobbyist I always search the web to research the project I am working on. If I were looking for a microcontroller, I'd browse the web on information about microcontrollers. If I were confused about a circuit, I'd browse around for schematics. Because robotics hobbyists use the web as support for anything they are working on, I reasoned the simplest way to measure them was to datamine the server logs.
I began my fairly popular robotics website around mid-2005, and currently get about 420K pageviews a month. My robotics YouTube channel has been around just as long, and has over 600K total views of all my videos.
Given these large numbers of visitors, my data collected should accurately represent the demographics of robotics hobbyists across the world.
Not only did I use Google Analytics and YouTube Insight, I also used Google Trends which tracks search rates of specific keywords. What I found definitely surprised me. Here is the executive summary of a robotics hobbyist:
- 17% are female
- most are aged below 20 or over 40
- those who are retired do not build robots
- India, Indonesia, and Thailand dominate robotics related searches, not the US
- 50% of robotics web traffic begins with a Google search
- 90% use Windows, 4% use Linux, 4.5% use Mac
- there are at least 50,000 robotics hobbyists worldwide
- media attention for robotics has increased every year
- Google searches on robotics terms have dropped more than ~40% in four years
That very last result was very surprising for me. It appears that people are simply searching Google less and less year on year about robotics and most robotics related terms. For example here is a graph of Google searches on microcontrollers:
What does this very disturbing trend mean? Is the robotics field shrinking and becoming ever less popular?! I only have one theory . . .
I have provided my processed data and a deeper analysis of my findings on my Robot Hobbyist Trends 2008 report.