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Saudi Arabia ‘leads GCC’ in adoption of robotics

Saudi Arabia's first robot, Sara, is inspected by a visitor at Leap in 2023. This year she was joined by a male counterpart, Mohammad Reuters/Ahmed Yosri
Saudi Arabia's first robot, Sara, is inspected by a visitor at Leap in 2023. This year she was joined by a male counterpart, Mohammad
  • More than 2,300 robotics companies
  • $18m revenue forecast for industrial robotics
  • Prototypes on show at Leap conference

The rising number of robotics companies in Saudi Arabia has helped the kingdom become a regional leader in the adoption and development of the technology, experts have told AGBI

The number of robotics companies registered in the country surged to 2,344 in the second quarter of 2023, up from 1,537 a year earlier, according to the Saudi Ministry of Commerce. 

The industrial robotics market is also expanding, with revenue forecast to reach more than $18 million this year and to rise at an annual rate of 1.5 percent over the next four years, according to research consultancy Statista.

“The kingdom is advanced compared to other GCC countries and has taken significant strides in adopting robotics and space technology,” said Mohammed Aldousari of Proven Robotics, based in Riyadh. 

Some of these developments were on show at the Leap technology conference held in Riyadh from March 4 to 7, where robotics companies showcased potential uses across sectors including healthcare, hospitality, education and energy.

Proven Robotics presented its seven robots that serve different industries.

One of its robots – named Pepper – works as part of the team at a Saudi restaurant, greeting guests, making order recommendations and serving meals.

Another bipedal humanoid robot – named NAO – is deployed in a clinical setting, working with children with autism. It is designed to assist with cognitive and physical education.

“Robots add value and enhance human capability,” Aldousari told AGBI.

“Instead of having one person working for eight hours a day, these robots work quicker, saving people’s time and effort.”

However, he stressed that the adoption of robotics does not necessarily mean job losses but rather the “creation of new opportunities in maintenance and programming roles”.

The kingdom’s first male bilingual humanoid robot, Mohammad, was also launched at Leap by Saudi AI and robotics company QSS Systems.

Mohammad, and his female counterpart Sara, addressed the audience in Arabic, showcasing their ability to provide relevant information. 

“Designed to represent Saudi culture, Sara and Mohammad have gained international recognition, having travelled to Spain, France and Sweden,” said Abdallah Abuselmiya, senior engineer at QSS Systems.

“The way they interact with the Saudi accent and the information they have about local culture is what sets them apart from other humanoid robots,” Abuselmiya told AGBI.

Varied roles for robots

Robotic surgery was successfully performed at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital last year to implant chips in the brain of a patient who suffered from drug-resistant epilepsy.

Last month the kingdom also started using robots to assist Hajj and Umrah pilgrims in Mecca. They provide information on topics including how to perform the rituals and Islamic rulings, directions to different locations within the Grand Mosque and translation services.

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