What I learnt from leading a robotics company, or: “Why we should focus on network effect of robots”.

What I learnt from leading a robotics company, or: “Why we should focus on network effect of robots”.

Guy Altagar

11 בספטמבר 2021, 21:00:00

Building robot is hard. Building a robot that is a generic playground for developers is exciting!

“It is the obvious which is so difficult to see most of the time. People say ‘It’s as plain as the nose on your face.’ But how much of the nose on your face can you see, unless someone holds a mirror up to you?” This was written by the great Isaac Asimov in his read “I, Robot” (originally published in 1950).
When we just started Unlimited Robotics — we had one thing in mind. However, we have realized quite quickly the 3 big trends that are currently happening in the robotics industry, and we believe that they shout out that a storm is coming and we should be prepared for it.
When Asimov introduced to the world the new concept of robots in the 50’s — He had in mind an “obvious” truth, that was not clear to many people back then. 70 years later, the automation revolution is here: Tesla releases new autonomic car and announced of its humanoid robot, Boston Dynamics releases its set of amazing videos and we can see drones flying around like they are bees in the field.
When you come to think of it, 3 big trends are now happening in the world in terms of consumption and electronic devices:
People use devices that are autonomous more than ever (and the usage is growing every day).
Most devices perform only one function (i.e vacuum cleaner only cleans the floor. Excluded: mobile phones).
Many jobs are going to disappear and be replaced with robots (don’t worry. This might be good news).
There is no doubt that the autonomous revolution has began: You can see it in factories, logistic warehouses and even on the roads. This trend will soon arrive to our homes and businesses (such hotels, restaurants, hospitals etc.), and become much more realistic and “in our backyard”.
These trends raise the question: If this “revolution” has began, how we, humans, can optimize it to our benefit? After all, it’s scary, right? Many jobs will not be worth saving, people will be replaced by robots in many industries, and all-in-all: are we going to find ourselves useless?
Prof. Yuval Noah Harari referred to this question in an interview to the Wall Street Journal in 2018 and said:
“The automation revolution will make a lot of jobs disappear. This is not necessarily such a bad scenario... Many jobs — maybe even most jobs — that exist today are not worth defending. What we need to protect is the humans. In the current political and economic system, if you want to have your basic needs fulfilled and, for many people, to have meaning and purpose in your life, you need a job… Many jobs are very difficult, very boring, very unfulfilling. People do them because they have to, not because it’s really their dream to be a cashier or to drive a truck. If you can be released from these hours of working, you could perhaps develop your human potential in a much fuller way. In this sense, you are becoming more human.”
So how can we develop our “human potential” in a much fuller way?
The answer: We reinvent robotics programming and optimize it through a network effect.
Robotic Programming and the ways it can help to create new jobs
The problem with the current robotic programming is that not too many software developers can build a hardware / robotic applications.
The main reason is that it is complicated to built. Yes, there are small applications (LED string that can program with dev kits you can purchase online), but these are small and insignificant in terms of impact on people’s lives. If you want to develop a robot that takes the laundry out from the washing machine — it may be challenging. You know what? I believe it should not be. I think that repetitive tasks should be difficult to program.
The other problem with the current robotic programming is that the development process takes a long time. Most common ways to develop hardware applications are focused on C++ development or ROS (Robot Operating System), and these are complicated languages to some people. You know what? I believe it should not be complex. I think that things should be simple.
How can we solve it? We bridge the gap. We connect the missing parts. We use existing tools to help solving traditional problems. We are building a ’bridge’’ between the hardware and software developers to support the latter by using existing and most popular development languages/ tools/ conventions and enable them to develop robotic platforms much faster and easier. This will create more opportunities, more value, new players that will join the group and yes… new jobs.
New type of developers will join the eco-system: The “Hybrid” developer who will be proficient enough in JS or Python, but will also be able to develop hardware autonomous applications without prior knowledge in C++. This will add more skills and intrinsic value to the production of those developers. This will also impact the decision of many people to get into the world of hardware development as they will have the right tools to adjust, work and grow with the current knowledge.
The Network Effect of Robots and its power to help us become more human
In economics, a network effect is the phenomenon by which the value a user derives from a service depends on the number of users of compatible products. Network effects are typically positive, resulting in a given user deriving more value from a product as other users join the same network. The adoption of a product by an additional user can be broken into two effects: an increase in the value to all other users and also the enhancement of other non-users motivation for using the product.
Now that we have the understanding that in a network effect one organ can impact the others (and vice versa) in a way that optimize the entire eco-system — The next step in robotic programming should be connecting the robots in a way that will enable them to learn from each other, while improving our lives as humans.
If we enable electronic devices to collaboratively learn a shared prediction models while keeping all the training data on the device, we will improve constantly and the future of robotic programming will provide us, humans, the potential to live fuller lives, as Prof. Harari defined it.
These were the main reasons why we initiated Unlimited Robotics. We wish to use the advantages embodied in the network effect in order to increase the value we offer developers and consumers. The robot we are developing, Gary, will be a “live” example of how we implement the network effect in a robotic product. If you are interested in how we can improve lives with robotic programming, stay tuned.
If you still want on find more information about different issues related to robotics — you are more than welcome to follow WR:UR Podcast on Spotify or Apple.