Just discovered this company. I work as a volunteer with Anki Drive.
The potential of the two nodes, this and AnkiDrive seems fantastic.
The SDK for 'drive is on the AnkiDrive site. Check it out and let me know how compatible you think the programming could be. I'd love to get a self driving mini robot worked out so that simple voice commands can stop, turn it and other maneuvers more like a combat car should be!
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the answer to both is in what happened. And the answer is nothing. If they had something, they would have continued to be funded. If consumers cared about the products, they would have continued to be funded. If there was enough profit on revenue, they would have continued to be funded. If there was a forecast model demonstrating a return on $200m investment, they would have been funded.
The company had no vision, outside of fake AI in children’s toys. There isn’t much difference between Anki and Wowee, except woweee diversified by making a ton of cheap high profit toys amongst the odd high tech toy.
The bankruptcy of Jibo, baxtor, jibo, Anki, etc... are amazing validation for the direction I set this company forth a number of years ago. By providing a software platform for companies to build robots. Companies like Anki and Baxter were casualties due to a few reasons - mostly being that their development required full-stack. So a tiny little robot toy sold at Best Buy required a HUGE team of developers and engineers to make, even though it was super basic and didn’t actually do much more than a toy.
Jibo suffered the same fate. Having a HUGE team build something that could never have returned on investment. It cost too much to build.
Other more mature industries have already experienced this stage of their evolution. For example the computing industry... remember Commodore? Tandy? Coleco? Atari? Sinclair? Timex?
how about compaq? Packard bell? Gateway?
i can go on...
its the dark side of industry economics.
Anki and the other bankruptcy's validate initiatives like ours - at a price of bankruptcy.
While you can tell that we’ve been onto something for a long while... and it’s been an interesting observation from your perspective, there’s a lot of reasoning behind my initiatives. However, timing is the absolutely most important property
they raised a lot of capital on hype - which is dangerous if you aren’t able to follow through. Specifically hype is like catnip to investors and they forget about vision and start writing checks like lemmings. The demonstration of a successful entrepreneur is taking money when it’s needed, not when it’s available.
The trouble with taking money when it’s available is exactly what happened to Anki and the others. They didn’t have a vision, and if they did, it was poorly timed. For Anki, I’d guess their vision required a reality check. A successful $200m funded TOY company would need to operate like wowee instead of Apple. Woweee balances their profit across super cheap toys to higher end toys. Think of all those little dollar store style toys that wowee makes. They’re cheap to make and cheap to sell with huge profit margins. That’s how they are able to subsidize their higher end toys.
Anki got big headed when Apple used them for a month and put them on stage. Apple quickly uses and drops companies to benefit themselves. Anki thought it meant they were special, but they were merely the toy company that fit apple’s PR need at the time.
From that, Anki made some revenue and investors got hard-ons for the hype without modeling their finances.
What did people think was gonna happen with Anki? A toy company return a few billion revenue with a r/c bulldozer?
I’m sad for the staff and sympathetic that they’re out of work. But Im happy to have seen Anki bankrupt because it validates our initiative. They’re merely a casualty of industry economics that’s taught at high school level.
This wouldn’t have happened to Anki if more robot companies weren’t lead by big-headed engineers that want to own the entire tech in their product. The question arises, why care about the tech when you should care about sales? If you make a floor cleaning robot, who cares what tech it uses... care about how many you sell!
Tesla is an example of this discussion. See, they’re attempting to disrupt a market with a fuel/energy source that doesn’t exist yet. If Tesla makes it through this crisis, they have a real good chance of disrupting the market. But to make it through means convincing counties to change their electrical production, have oil companies invest more in electricity production AND subsidize manufacturing cost with a distribution of product suppliers. Having suppliers vs making the product/parts yourself creates competition. And competition is what balances pricing. Making the entire tech and product yourself creates a ton of risk that you’re responsible for as well, rather than distributing the risk across multiple suppliers.
Anki took too much risk. They invented
the tech, which is useless outside of a toy. They owned the supply chain. At the end, they even owned the sales channel being direct to consumer.
They thought they were Apple lol
Yup true. I had direct experience with this shortly after we wrapped CES, with a group exactly like that. (B2B)
Timing, a clear path to growth and customer demand = maybe longevity and success.
the advice I can give all of you who want to build products in robotics industry are:
1) use as much outside tech as you can because their costs will lower with competition (and so will yours). So don’t worry about owning the tech, which also makes you a competitor against other tech providers that would easily do the same thing as yours. You already will have enough competition with your product, don’t make your BOM technology also a risk. Use someone else’s tech for your product and focus on selling the cr4p out of it
2) research the absolutely heck out of the early consumer computing industry (1976-1990). Research the history of the automotive industry. And, research telecommunication industry. These three industries demonstrate the same economical pattern at different rates. The rates are correlated with the maturity of technologies they’re built on. Identify your company’s message with a similar alignment of a successful company in those example industries. They are industries which can be used to demonstrate the economic rollercoaster, so you want to ensure your company aligns with one of the successful ones that made it through. Be truthful and don’t lie to yourself about if there isn’t a relatable alignment. Because your truths will find a solution to the problem. AKA constantly course correct
3) Practice and become an expert at delivering your company’s message. Make it so you have nightmare about it haha . Also, ensure every conversation you have leaves the person knowing your business’ message. Because if they’re not the right partner, they might know someone who is and repeating your message will help with that
What are your thought about 3rd party software part of the product. We were bombarded by software guys after CES trying to get us to incorporate their software. As an example eye gaze / tracking software, when openCv is open source and does the same thing?
Products highlighted in the article like Cassie from agility robots, makes me wonder how realistically those robots would enter society as a functional robot serving purpose. Same goes for robot dogs. And yet they are fully funded.
I was approached over and over at CES by investors repeating the same mantra, B2B . Alan and Alena replacing employees, like in check out kiosks where a presence is missing, hotel, airlines. Over and over. We ended up going full circle back to b2b instead of a consumer model.
I get it. The pizza deliver robot, the windows washing robots... all save corporations short and long term. That’s a true robot function. When you think about it, consumer models are usually just fads with passing interest over time. But with the right Product that fad can also be financially sucessful.
Consumers purchase two types of products. Necessities and luxury
necessities are things like food and shelter and clothes
luxury are having a choice of food,
shelter and clothing style. In addition, luxury also has a smaller component of gimmicks, hobbies and nicknacks
place your product in there and you’ll instantly know where’s it fits.
Now companies are a bit more complicated. Because companies purchase things for a lot of different reasons - long as the reasons make or save money. A company doesn’t follow the same rules because they’re providers, not consumers.
so even if a robot didn’t save on jobs, it might have made great marketing with increased revenue. So your product has a strong case for b2b applications... Today
As for 3rd party software. That’s where the platform discussion in that article applies. The software is useless if it’s not easily accessible and distributed to developers in a platform.
Thats where Synthiam comes in. With the things that are happening behind the scenes over here, I highly recommend investing your time building robots with ARC or creating skill control plugins
Still ahead of its time. I look forward to where Synthiam will go.
Just like we created open standards for PC's with a common software platform we need a similar solution for Robotics. An open platform that is backed by a company with enough robotics hardware knowledge, money, clout and experience in standards development, working with IEEE, ISO etc on driving, developing and improving open standards for robotics ( ISO 10218-2 is under development now ) to define a common platform that can be built on.
What we need is a base platform. one that is open and extensible. A platform that is low cost that any company can buy. The platform needs to be upgradable to meet a specific need. This could be add a tray to work as a waiter in a restaurant, add arms to restock shelves in a grocery store. The same robot could exchange parts to now clean and polish the floors at night. I think this was similar to your original idea behind EZ-Robot from a hardware and software perspective but it was aimed at education market and not industrial or consumer personal robots.
By creating this open standard for Software and Hardware everyone could focus on their specific niche market that is relevant to their robot, be it manufacturing, retail, agriculture, restaurants, shipping, personal assistants etc. This will create a rapid expansion in the robotics industry as we are not all starting from scratch like Anki or Jibo or insert your next bankrupt robotics company here.
Another bot :
Kuri (Mayfield Robotics / Bosch’s Startup)
I think consumer/personal robots is a huge challenge due the relationship nature.
You get the product plus a relationship with a specific supplier / brand.
The consumer(final client) don't want a shell/integration/DIY product they want something that works as whole and with a specific vision.
There are a few software companies providing complementary services on top of Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, their success relies too much on the social network provider. If the provider changes/shutdowns the API or adds a similar offer they will be gone or they need to find another idea.
Companies like Jibo, Anki and others spent a lot of money in engineering to have their software with minimal competitor dependencies.
It's much more easy to build a Jibo on top of Alexa or Google, but, you don't own the IP, your data is being used to grow someone else technology, so what will happen when your provider scales up to your space ?
Amazon's Alexa started as a speaker first, then they moved to visual area, and soon will be moving around:
next step in the evolution: merge drone deliver tech with household robots ... so the solution will be a hybrid drone
Amazon Warehouse Robots:
Amazon Robotics, formerly Kiva Systems, Kiva's assets now work only for Amazon's warehouses.
Amazon Alexa Robot code name "Vesta"
The Vesta project is in the hands of Amazon's Lab126:
btw I really hope is not a toy bot with Alexa.