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    ROBOT HOBBYIST TRENDS 2008

    Have you ever wondered the male to female ratio for robot builders is? Or perhaps the typical age, or typical spending power of a robot builder? Have you ever wondered which countries dominate, and which languages? Would you like to know market value, or market growth?

    For those who are robotics hobbyists, those who cater/sell to robotics hobbyists, and those just interested in the state of hobbyist robotics will find this report incredibly useful.

    So what makes my statistics reasonably valid? Well, I began my fairly popular robotics website around mid-2005, and currently get about 420K pageviews a month. My 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.

    ps - If you have statistics you'd be willing to share, email me or post it.

    Executive Summary
    I've found several interesting results. First, the number of robotics related Google searches has been dropping year on year. In the last four years it has dropped an average of ~40%!

    The age demographics were also surprising, as most hobbyists are under the age of 20 and over the age of 40. 85% are estimated male. In terms of Google searches, the dominating language was English. However although the major of traffic is from the US, the majority of Google searches was not. Instead, Google searches were dominated by India, Indonesia, and Thailand. Given its population and past known history, India was not a surprise. However Indonesia and Thailand were definitely surprising.

    Forum Statistics
    Forum statistics aren't the most reliable as they require the user to optionally fill in information about themselves. I find most users reluctant to fill in information, especially for gender or age. There is also the issue of spam bots applying for accounts that could skew results. I find that an estimated 20% of all attempted registrations on my robot forum are actually spam bots, but my defenses manage to defeat them. Other robotics forums have either resorted to admin level membership permission, closing their forum, or implementing very difficult to solve captchas. But that still doesn't guarantee any forum from being spam member free, meaning even a member count could be incredibly off on other forums.

    That being said, the only statistic I found accurate enough to report from my forum is the male to female ratio of 16.4 to 1, or 94% male. But again, I have little confidence in this value and subjectively estimate it closer to 85% male.

    YouTube Insight
    YouTube tracks demographics. As my robotics related YouTube account has approximately 600K views and counting, that makes my statistics collection fairly accurate.

    Regionally, the majority of viewers are from the US, Canada, and the UK.

    In terms of gender, most YouTube users enter both their age and gender. In fact, YouTube bans a user from changing their age after signing up for an account. As such, I have high confidence in this data. This data however does not account for viewers who do not have YouTube accounts. It also does not represent actual robot builders, just people who like to watch videos about building robots.

    As you can see the gender trends aren't too far from my forum statistics. Previous projections estimated women to comprise 5% to 10% for robotics builders, so this is supportive data for women in engineering.

    gender trends for robot hobbyists
    gender trends for robot hobbyists

    Age trends however were a bit unexpected. It appears the average robot hobbyist is either under 20 years old, or over 40 years old.

    age trends for robot hobbyists
    age trends for robot hobbyists

    I have several theories behind this data. For those over 40 years old, many now have the money and free time to pursue their hobbies. This makes sense. As for the under 20's, they were born while the internet had already become popular. Many of them probably haven't discovered girls yet, aren't tied up with university studies, have disposable income because they live with their parents, and aren't too concerned about their career. As I'm in my late 20's, it appears that I'm in a minority. As for above 65 year olds, it appears robotics is not a common hobby among those who retire!

    update: I've been informed that a very similar bimodel age trend is common with RC airplane hobbyists.



    Google Analytics
    I started using Google Analytics in February 2006 to track users visiting my website. All results are averaged over that entire time period. The information Analytics gives is most useful for webdevelopers, and the results definitely weren't as I predicted.

    sources of traffic
    sources of traffic over last 6 months of 2008

    For browsers, the two dominating were 53% for IE and 38% for Firefox.

    Analytics claims that only 4% of my users use dialup modems, with about 34% using 'unknown', while the rest used high speed internet (T1, ADSL, cable, etc).

    For operating systems:
    90% used Windows, 4% used Linux, and 4.5% used Macintosh

    As for language, the overwhelming number of users were English speakers, followed in much smaller numbers by Spanish, German, and French speakers. This is a bit biased as my site is meant for English speakers.

    Majority of visitors to my site are from the US, India, UK, Canada, and Australia. This does not mean that these countries are the most dominating in robotics traffic. For example, robot builders from some countries tend to isolate themselves from the English hobbyist community (such as Japan and Thailand). Hobbyists from these countries participate only in forums for their language, and only buy robot parts from their country. As evidence to this, look at Japan. Japan has a huge fascination with robotics, has dozens of biped robotics competitions, has a large wealthy population, but yet produces only 7% the traffic as India does to my site.

    Google Trends, Search Statistics
    Although Google doesn't reveal the total number of searches made, they do however show that since Google started collecting data in 2004 the number of robotics related searches have either remained constant or dropped.

    For example the term 'robot'. This result remained relatively constant over the years, with only one deviation when the movie I, Robot was released. But we can safely assume that search spike were users looking to find the movie and not necessarily those interested in learning more about robotics.

    Google search trends for robot
    Google search trends for 'robot'

    For this term, the dominating countries were Indonesia, Canada, and Australia, while dominating languages were English, Italian, French, and Thai.

    While 'robot' remained relatively constant, I found most other robotics related terms dropping. For example, 'robotics' has dropped to levels around 25% of what it was four years ago!

    The dropping trend continues with 'microcontroller'. Over the last four years searches have continually dropped, and is currently at 50% of what it was 4 years ago!

    Google search trends for microcontroller
    Google search trends for microcontroller

    Dominating countries for 'microcontroller' were Pakistan, India, and Indonesia, while dominating languages were Indonesian, Thai, English, and Arabic.

    I found similar major downward trends for all microcontroller companies/products, such as Atmel, PIC, Basic Stamp, and FPGA. ARM microcontroller hardly received any searches at all, dominated by India and Iran, and in the Thai, English, and German languages.

    Yet again a similarly decreasing trend was found for 'sensors', with India as the dominating region, and English dominating the language of searches.

    Google search trends for sensors
    Google search trends for sensors

    Searching for 'servo', and yet again the searches are dropping. Dominating regions are Finland, India, Malaysia; dominating languages are Finnish, Thai, and German.

    Google search trends for servo
    Google search trends for servo

    The search for battery, despite the vastly expanding world market, remained level. The US, Australia, and UK were the dominating regions, while English was overwhelmingly the dominating language.

    I also looked at other trends: robot kits is dropping, robot books wasn't even tracked, and even a search only beginners would make, robot parts, seemed to be dropping as well.

    A range of terms involving 'how to make a robot' and 'how to build a robot' seem to be slightly increasing, but Google only tracked most of them for 2 years so the general trends aren't statistically valid.

    Note that for most of the above searches the US was rarely in the list of dominating regions! Considering the US dominates the world in terms of robotics research annually produced, this is very confusing data.

    What does this very disturbing trend mean? Is the robotics field shrinking and becoming ever less popular?! I only have one theory.

    Before 2004 there was not a single useful robotics forum to be found online. There were a few robot forums, but they were only populated by beginners asking questions and no one answering them. My site was one of the first, and not much later a few other helpful robotics forums propped up - but all after 2004. My theory is that users are more likely to search these sites, utilize their tutorials, and ask questions in the forums for all the basics of robotics. Only when the sites fail to answer their difficult questions would they utilize Google. Searching a very abstract term such as 'robot' is pretty useless when you can learn much more by visiting your favorite robotics community. But again, that's only my theory.

    My other theory is that Google Trends is broken and giving highly inaccurate/false data. This would make sense considering that the region data is often statistically highly unlikely.

    As a counter trend, and making more sense, is that the number of robotics related news articles published are increasing each year.

    If you have a theory you'd like to propose, see the forum post link at the bottom to submit your ideas.



    Additional Estimates, Market Value
    Now here come the un-scientific estimates. I wanted to determine the total world daily traffic that is purely robotics related. To do so, I based my estimates on:

    • traffic to and from my website from other sites,
    • total members and posts on other forums,
    • estimated traffic to all major robot part suppliers,
    • and the many hobbyist blog sites

    Summing up total estimated pageviews came to between 200K and 300K worldwide pageviews per day. Now lets assume that the average person will consume an average of 5 robotics related webpages per day. That means the net has an estimated ~50,000 people interested in robotics online per day.

    Since all robot part suppliers are quite about their profits (and for good reason), I'm going to take a stab at the total market size. Lets say each hobbyist will spend about $150 per year on robotics 'stuff', a typical value I see with my site visitors. Now if there are only 50K people interested in spending money on robotics, that results in a hobbyist market value of $7.5 million per year.

    Now lets say there are about ~30 major companies that supply parts to robot builders. That means each will be getting revenues around at least ~$250K per year (not profits)! This estimate however doesn't factor in the hundred or so smaller companies selling parts to hobbyists.

    Keep in mind these values could fluctuate a lot as I'm guessing based on my limited data. I probably underestimated foreign language traffic, too. I am however confident I'm correct within one order of magnitude. As evidence, my business connections to the various robotics parts suppliers have given confirmation they are within this range.

    If you have any comments or suggestions relating to these statistics, feel free to comment here on the Robot Hobbyist 2008 Statistics forum thread.

    Continue on to read the Robot Trends for 2009.



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