Season 3, Post 17: The robots are here

When your author visited Milton Keynes last week, he was disappointed not to see any of the town’s much vaunted delivery robots. However, the mere fact that…

Season 3, Post 17: The robots are here

When your author visited Milton Keynes last week, he was disappointed not to see any of the town’s much vaunted delivery robots. However, the mere fact that they have been operational in Milton Keynes since 2018 speaks to their accepted presence. An increasing number of recent news articles we have seen confirm to us that robots are appearing in more and more scenarios.

Good news for pizza lovers: Domino’s has partnered with Nuro and autonomous robots will now bring your meal direct to your house. The four-wheeled vehicle was first introduced by Nuro (a private business, based in California) in 2020, but only received approval earlier this month from the Department of Transportation for use on public roads. The Domino’s trial will allow customers to track the live locations of their pizza via text alert or online and, on arrival, the food can be retrieved from Nuro’s robots by simply entering a PIN number into a panel on their sides. If pizza from Walmart is more your thing, then the American retailer seems set to be launching autonomous deliveries soon. Maybe you’re bored with eating in and keen to go out, particularly with lockdown restrictions now easing. Well, good news here too: bars that wish to spend $130,000 to differentiate themselves by owning a robotic bartender (which can apparently crack jokes as well as making cocktails) can do so, courtesy of ‘Barney’ from F&P Robotics.

It’s not all about consumption. Robots have been helping to restock supplies, deliver medicines/ samples and move equipment around in hospitals. Moxi robots have performed a vital role during the current pandemic, allowing hospital staff more time for patient care. Robots have also been spotted picking fruit and even building walls in Japan.

Many of the above examples are operating just in trial format, but it seems reasonable to assume that there will be more and more use-cases in which robots will be deployed. Think of it less as a substitution of existing roles performed by humans (although there is no denying that that will be the case in some circumstances) and more as the creation of complementary services. As in the hospital example, the presence of robots allows for keyworkers to be deployed more efficiently. Doctors globally have already performed over 8m procedures with the help of Intuitive Surgical’s robotic systems. Strong quarterly results last week saw Intuitive’s market capitalisation top $100bn for the first time, an impressive achievement for a business only listed in 2000 and was worth ~$60bn a year ago. With innovation apace in multiple industry verticals, we may not have to wait too long before the arrival of the next $100bn robotic business.  

28 April 2021


​​​​​​The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. Heptagon Capital is an investor in Intuitive Surgical. The author of this piece has no personal direct investment in the business. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.

Alex Gunz, Fund Manager

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