Technology & Science
New Frontier of Sino-US competition for Technological Supremacy: Robotics Research
In 2022, China surpassed the United States in terms of the number of first authors and institutions for the first time, signaling its rise in the field.

October 24, 2023

Amidst great fanfare, Tesla recently introduced its cutting-edge humanoid robot, Optimus, to the world. Almost at the same time, Xiaomi, in a bold and strategic move, has stepped onto the same stage with its own creation, “CyberOne.” This clash of technological titans ignites a fierce competition between the two companies, embodying the larger battle for supremacy between China and the United States in the exhilarating realm of robotics.

Optimus

CyberOne

Robotics has become a highly contested arena for countries worldwide, attracting significant attention and research. The competition between China and the United States in robotics is intense, and both countries have achieved notable research advancements.

So, what does the competition between China and the United States look like in the field of robotics?

According to the “2023 AMiner Robotics Journal Insights Report” by the AMiner Data team, which analyzed journal statistics, research trends over the past 20 years, Sino-US competition, and research focuses within the discipline, the United States has been at the forefront of robotics research. Over the past two decades, the United States has had 2,035 first authors and 308 institutions publishing papers in SCIE’s Zone 1 journals, solidifying its dominance. Meanwhile, China has emerged as a rapidly developing force, with 803 first authors and 180 institutions, securing the second position. Europe, Canada, Japan, and other regions also contribute significantly to the field.

Global distribution of first authors in Robotics. IMAGE: AMiner Data

Global distribution of institutions in Robotics. IMAGE: AMiner Data

In recent years, China’s robotics research has experienced substantial growth, with a 545% increase in the number of first authors and a 256% increase in the number of institutions between 2015 and 2022. In 2022, China surpassed the United States in terms of the number of first authors and institutions for the first time, signaling its rise in the field. Prominent Chinese universities such as Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Tsinghua University, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, and Harbin Institute of Technology have achieved significant accomplishments in robotics research.

The latest research focuses in the field of robotics reflect the integration of emerging technologies and the pursuit of greater intelligence and autonomy for robotic systems. High-frequency keywords from 2022 to the first half of 2023 include robot hardware and software, deep learning, machine learning, path planning, and collision avoidance. The development of artificial intelligence technologies like deep learning and reinforcement learning has seen significant growth. This signifies the active exploration of cutting-edge technologies in robotics.

Keyword analysis showed that from 2022 to mid-2023, China’s main research focus areas concentrated on deep learning, reinforcement learning, digital twins, cloud manufacturing, soft grippers, and technologies with variable stiffness. In contrast, the United States focuses on safety collision avoidance, robot perception systems, multi-robot systems, and path planning. These differences indicate variations in research areas between the two countries within the field of robotics. Nonetheless, both China and the United States possess leading institutions and scholars, and their competition and collaboration drive the continuous development of the discipline.

Over the past 20 years, the field of robotics has experienced rapid growth and gained increasing attention. The Robotics discipline in SCIE’s Zone 1 journals has expanded from 2 to 7 journals, with the number of published papers nearly sextupling. In 2003, only 128 papers were published in the field of robotics. However, with the establishment of “IEEE Transactions on Robotics” the following year, the number of papers significantly increased by 89.1%. This marked the beginning of the discipline’s gradual growth. In the subsequent two decades, the number of robotics-related journals grew from 3 to 7, and the overall publication of papers showed an upward trend. By 2022, the number of published papers had reached nearly six times the amount in 2003, demonstrating the vigorous development of robotics research. The establishment of specialized journals, such as the “Annual Review of Control Robotics and Autonomous Systems,” has provided researchers with more opportunities for specialized and diversified research in this field.

VIEWS BY

Linwen
Editor-in-Chief, The China Academy
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