3D Robotics

Where drones sit on the Gartner "Hype Cycle"

3689547744?profile=originalGartner has released their annual "hype cycle", which seeks to identify where technologies are in their path to maturity. Gartner thinks that drones (which are a combination of "Autonomous vehicles" and "Mobile robots" above) are 5-10 years to the "Plateau of Productivity", but with the higher "inflated expectations" still to come (followed by the inevitable "trough of disillusionment". Sounds about right to me. 

Fast Company explains the methodology of the Hype Cycle and this year's version:

Gartner, a technology research group that has been producing its hype schematic since 1995, says new technologies tend to follow a trajectory. First there's a Trigger--a breakthrough that "kicks everything off." Then, that technology invariably gets over-exposed, leading to a bubble of expectations. At that point, the whole thing implodes (think of what happened the first time around with "virtual reality"). There's a over-reaction the other way, and everyone says the technology will never make it. And so on. Until, finally, the technology--which was a good idea to start with--takes its place in the "Plateau of Productivity."

Themes this year include "bioacoustic sensing, quantified self, 3-D bioprinting, brain-computer interface, human augmentation, speech-to-speech translation," and so on--which all fall under the category of technology that could help companies produce "more capable workforces."

A second theme involves technologies that are actually replacing humans, like "volumetric and holographic displays, autonomous vehicles, mobile robots and virtual assistants." A third group sees a more equal human-technology relationship, and includes "autonomous vehicles, mobile robots, natural language question and answering, and virtual assistants."

"These three major trends are made possible by three areas that facilitate and support the relationship between human and machine," says Hung LeHong, research vice president at Gartner. "Machines are becoming better at understanding humans and the environment--for example, recognizing the emotion in a person's voice--and humans are becoming better at understanding machines--for example, through the Internet of things."

The Hype Cycle has its holes. Not all technologies get over-hyped, fall into irrelevance, and then make it. Some just make it outright--or don't. And Gartner's theory is highly subjective: we could all place the same technologies in different places along the Hype Cycle. The company is hardly a disinterested observer: it manufactures hype itself, making the Hype Cycle seem quite meta.

But the chart does shed light on something that we often fail to see: technology rises and falls because of our belief in it.

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  • This is an interesting analysis and not without a lot of reality.

    Fun to resurrect it now and see where we are.

    I was always a big fan of Virtual reality, but I rode it up to the top and watched it fall off the cliff 20 years ago, now it is definitely grinding its way back into importance, but the original overhyped and grossly underperforming HMDs and computers were capable of stimulating our imagination for what might be, but totally not capable of delivering themselves.

    Times have changed, technology has definitely caught up and VR is coming back for good this time.

    That said, technology is already abreast of ":drone" development and the trough of disillusionment seems much smaller by comparison with VR.

    Honest to God real uses of drones are expanding now at a very significant rate, News networks alone are adopting them in significant quantities and they are rapidly becoming highly visible and intriguingly more widely accepted by the general public than it originally appeared would be the case.

    The harsh business realities of transitioning from a DIY hobbyist business to a serious one have eaten many companies alive (sorry about that 3DR), just like when personal computers were being born, but DJI at least is already emerging as one very serious company, in may ways the "drone" analog of Apple or Microsoft and they are not going away anytime soon.

    The Mavic is a seriously pro and reliable piece of equipment with sufficient punch to actually be able to do stuff.

    There will still be a lot of misperceptions and missteps with drones, but I honestly think we are already well on our way back up towards "the Plateau of Productivity".

    I've been there for VR, Personal Computers, Drones and the next big one Personal Robotics, of course that last one is God only knows where on this scale.



  • Interesting comment Gary! Being an Aussie this is kind of fascinating - locally we're doing well with our sub 2kg regulations I think, but I'm still trying to plot where drones could be situated today on the hype cycle and as such am fascinated in thoughts about this from the broader drone community  ... from an Australian perspective I would've thought we're perhaps beginning the slow ascent of the 'Slope of Enlightenment' at least? Or am I just an optimist?

  • Moderator

    They are firmly in the trough of disillusionment unless you are in the USA where Part 107 has made it like 2000 in Australia and 2007 in UK.

  • Hi Chris - now that we're in 2017 I would love your thoughts on where you think drones (personal / civilian) are (or should be) situated on the hype cycle today?
  • Developer

    Gary: The problem with VR was that the hype in the 90's was just bad. Very, very bad. And the technology available was nowhere near being able to follow trough on any of it. A lot of money and boyhood dreams was brutally crushed in the aftermath.

    Even today with the new wave of enthusiasm caused by the Oculus Rift, there are still some hard problems left to solve to get the fabled "total immersion".

  • Actually I think the peak of the hype will be 2015-2016 when the FAA reg are announced. Then there's the disillusionment as:

    a. collision avoidance is much harder than thought

    b. trajectory planning is harder than thought

    c. battery life will not drastically change

    d. legal catches up (to define new rules)
    --then the FAA realizes what they just allowed from 2015-2020(?)

  • Moderator

    Or the discovery of inaction 

  • @Acorn, Maybe the Pit of Outrage!

  • I think it will be the "Trough of Dissapointment" when the FAA institues oppressive regulations and overly restrictive fees on drones and their pilots.
  • Not long before quad copters catch up to the onyx rift or whatever it was.

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