World Robot Population: 4.5 million and Counting

Ever wonder how big is the world's robot population? Well, exactly how many robots are around is hard to know, but hereâ''s an educated guess: 4.5 million.

If all those bots were to congregate and form a nation, its population would be larger than Costa Rica's but smaller than Croatia's, whatever that means. RoboNation would be No. 116 in the country population rank, with 0.0096 percent of the world population, if you're wondering.

This robot population estimate is based on data released last week by the International Federation of Robotics in its 2007 World Robotics survey. For those into robots, itâ''s a marvelous source of statistics, forecasts, case studies, and more.



Source: IFR Statistical Department

The study divides robots in two categories: industrial robots and service robots. The first category includes welding systems, assembly manipulators, silicon wafer handlersâ''you know, that kind of heavy, expensive, several-degrees-of-freedom stuff. The second category includes professional service robots (bomb-disposal bots, surgical systems, milking robots) and household service robots (vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, all sorts of robotics toys and kits, and that Sony robot dog).

According to the study, there were 951,000 industrial robots in operation all over the world in 2006. As for service robots, it estimates that almost 40,000 professional units and about 3,500,000 household units were sold up to 2006. So 951,000 + 40,000 + 3,500,000 = 4,491,000. Round that to 4.5 million.

And now to the forecasts. By 2010, according to the study, the number of industrial robots should increase to 1.173 million and the number of service robots to 7.2 million. That puts the world robot population at 8.3 million, which is bigger than Austria's (again, whatever that means).

Note that the study counts industrial robot and service robots differently. The 951,000 estimate is for the â''worldwide operational stock of industrial robots,â'' and thatâ''s the robots actually toiling around these days. On the other hand, the 40,000 and 3,500,000 estimates are for service robots sold up to 2006, which means it includes robots no longer in use like that 2002 first-generation Roomba you destroyed trying to transform into a personal servant.

In the next post weâ''ll include other highlights from the World Robotics study, including statistics by industry and region of the world.

PS: We thank Gudrun Litzenberger, director of the IFR Statistical Department, for helping us sort things out.



IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, drones, automation, artificial intelligence, and more.
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