Crowdfunding robots

Do you like getting robots in the mail?

I’m a sucker for cool crowdfunded robots like some of these ones. But this can also be serious research for your startup. Crowdfunding is a great way to extend your prototyping time, build a community or get your preorders for the first manufacturing run.

However, successful campaigns require a lot of energy, a clear story and you have to leverage all the contact networks you can. Getting picked up by the media is unlikely. Approx 50% of crowdfunding campaigns don’t reach their goals.

Do the research and see that for every Bartendro there’s a Foldimate (or 4). The average fund on crowdfund sites is <$20,000 not $1m. Here’s a current selection from Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. Also, one of these projects is simultaneously on both sites. Guess which! And in case the widgets get stripped out of the post here are the links.

Linkbot | Hex Humanoid | Da Vinci Ornithopter | RiPPle | RK-1 | BrickPi | Foldimate | VINEC1 | Robot Adam Z1SmartMow |


AWE2013: Hardware for an augmented world

Day One of AWE2013, the Augmented World Expo, finished with Sphero, the robot ball, taking out the first ‘Auggie Award’ for hardware. Sphero, by Orbotix, won the Auggie for their augmented reality game “Sharkey the Beaver”. They’ve also just released a new AR game with zombies “The Rolling Dead”. Using Sphero as a fireball-shooting warrior, you shoot fireballs at zombies spawning out of the ground. You can play anywhere, so the world becomes your video game. And if you don’t have a Sphero – see the end of article for a special offer.

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AWE2013: What is the augmented world?

Augmented reality and virtual reality have been overhyped and underdelivering for years but there are many indications that things are changing. It’s not just that Google Glass has been on the streets for a year now. Well, a select few have had Google Glass for a year already and the cut down consumer version is predicted for 2013/2014. There are also about 10 other versions on display here. I’m at the Augmented World Expo in Santa Clara with 1000+ AR professionals from 30+ countries, seeing 100+ demos and hearing 110 speakers discuss what is happening for augmented humans in the augmented world.

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Maker Faire overview

It’s impossible to see everything at Maker Faire but I tried. I was exhibiting with my hackerspace Robot Garden and had the pleasure of being both a participant and a spectator. This was the 8th annual Maker Faire and it’s grown from 18,000 attendees to over 165,000, and that’s not counting hundreds of participants ranging from hobbyists and performers to startups to research groups, hackerspaces and supporting companies like Autodesk and TechShop. And yes, there were robots. Read More

Grishin’s First Investment – Double Robotics

It was announced today that Grishin Robotics  was investing $250,000 investment into Y Combinator startup Double Robotics. Double Robotics have already sold out their first order of affordable telepresence robots and look poised to meet the increased demand in high tech low cost consumer robotics with this investment (see previous post “Double Robotics – Crossing the Chasm?“).

Double Robotics, a recent graduate from Y Combinator (, builds telepresence robots, characterized by ground-breaking price ($2,499, can be pre-ordered now for $1,999), great design, light weight and high level of simplicity — it works right “out of box” and uses iPad as a platform.

Double Robotics already has $1.2 million (600 units) in pre-orders (in one month since the launch), from 44 countries around the world. Customers include 24 universities, as well as 17 Fortune 500 companies. Since the first production run of Double has already sold out, the investment from Grishin Robotics will be spent primarily on scaling manufacturing, as well as hiring and further product development. New pre-orders will be delivered in early 2013. Engineers interested in career in Double Robotics can get in touch with the company by the e-mail [Press Release NEW YORK, NY–(Marketwire – Sep 21, 2012)]

Double Robotics have just moved into their own premises in Mountain View, and it’s encouraging to see that Silicon Valley startup culture is producing such good returns for robotics, both for robotics professionals and for the hopes of robot companies looking for investors. The time is ripe for consumer oriented robots that are more than toys. Sophisticated robotics have become affordable – largely by leveraging smartphone and tablet technology and internet connectivity. This aligns with Dmitry Grishin’s background as cofounder of mail.Ru, the giant Russian mail and media service. It will be interesting to see if Grishin stays in the comfort zone of communication robotics in the future, or steps out into the world of more task oriented robotics.

“Investment in Double Robotics perfectly fits our strategy,” said Dmitry Grishin, founder of Grishin Robotics. “It is a consumer-oriented product with potential to fit a broad range of applications and has already generated strong consumer demand. It’s also important that the price of the product makes it accessible to the wide audience. In addition, the team has creative approach to design and is keen to build user-friendly products — both are very important focus areas for next-generation personal robotics companies. Double Robotics is well positioned to leverage the unique potential of the prominent telepresence robotics market. We have a great belief in Double Robotics team and its product.”

“We are thrilled to have Grishin Robotics and Dmitry Grishin, in particular, as our largest investor to date,” said David Cann, Co-founder of Double Robotics. “We read about the new investment firm and Dmitry’s experience in the field of robotics in June 2012 when the fund was announced. The timing was perfect, as we were just beginning the Y Combinator program with our prototype robot. After our public launch in August, we met with Grishin Robotics and were immediately impressed with their mission and deep knowledge of the robotics industry’s past mistakes and potential future. We look forward to working with Grishin Robotics in the years to come as we build our business.” [Press Release NEW YORK, NY–(Marketwire – Sep 21, 2012)]

Cardboard Robots Are Coming


Ken Ihara’s creation “The Cardboard Robot” has just been funded on Kickstarter. The Cardboard Robot is a giant industrial sized robot arm with a reach just shy of 6 feet. Attach the smart phone camera attachment, and you have a robotic camera crane. The computer-controlled cardboard robot plugs into your computer via the USB port and is fully programmable. In software, you can define set points and then have the robot arm run through the programmed path. You can save your programmed paths as CSV files, which you can edit in Excel.  Motor speed is independently adjustable. As PC World put it, one advantage is it’s industrial size but can’t kill you. The other great advantage is cost.

CNET– “Thanks to its corrugated construction, the Cardboard Robot lets you command your own industrial-size claw or film crane for a fraction of the cost of a metal arm.”

There have been other cardboard robots, even robot arms but this one is the first to combine functionality with affordability. Ihara reached his relatively modest Kickstarter goal of $10,000 with days to spare. Also for every $3,000 that is raised by the Kickstarter funding campaign, Ihara will send one complete kit to a high school in the USA.

Cardboard is economical in and of itself, but its light weight as a material creates a reduction in costs across the board, as motors don’t need to be as large or powerful, etc. Robotics is perhaps a better use for cardboard because of the flow on effect, rather than the infamous cardboard bicycle which might only cost $9 to make but will retail for approx $90. You can buy a metal bike from Walmart for the same price. (Gioria Kariv from Israel is pictured here from recent press but another variant was also created in 2008 by UK student Phil Bridge)

Kariv credits a cardboard canoe for giving him inspiration. I am similarly inspired by the Origami Kayak. Oru is made out of corrugated polypropolene rather than pure cardboard , but has similar features. It’s strong, light, flexible and cheap. Both materials allow for different design and manufacturing techniques which haven’t been fully explored yet.

If you haven’t seen Anton Willis demonstrating his kayak at TechShop or at meetups, then you can read David Lang’s piece on Oru for Make Magazine. Anton Willis used TechShop to create prototypes for a product that is now ready for sale. He’s also inspired by the many other untapped projects for polypropolene and cardboard.

The potential in new ways to construct robots is as exciting for robotics as the other recent changes like rapid prototyping, bespoke manufacturing and 3d printing.