Modern robots are awesome, but they’re also infamous for getting into compromising situations. Sometimes, it’s hilarious and other times, catastrophic. Robots have been seen steering into ponds, getting stuck next to trash cans, rolling into retail store fitting rooms or suddenly catching fire. Some people may think robots just don’t work, but the reality is more nuanced: Robots work great most of the time — until they don’t.
Today I’m happy to announce four new members have joined the InOrbit Board of Advisors, representing outstanding expertise in the field of robotics, cloud technology, supply chain management and venture funding. Our advisors help InOrbit accelerate our vision to help companies scale their robotic fleets through our cloud-based robot operations (RobOps) platform.
The four new advisors represent a wealth of experience across different fields:Martin Hitch, one of the co-founders of BossaNova Robotics, who helped the company pivot from consumer products to service robotics. During his tenure at Bossa Nova, he raised more than $40 million in venture investment.
Patricio Echague, co-founder and CTO at Split.io, is an entrepreneur and engineer passionate about data and high-performance systems. At Split Software, he’s changing the way software companies release features and add value to their customers. He was also part of the engineering founding team at RelateIQ, which was acquired by Salesforce.
Detecting insights from 3.8 million hours of robot monitoring data is elementary
For the last several years, we’ve all heard the quotes about data and information - it’s “the new oil”, it’s “the new science”, and that Big Data “holds all the answers.” Others have famously stated that “every company will eventually be in the data business,” or the real goal is to “turn data into information, and information into insight.”
But one of the best comments about data comes from our favorite fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, who said (via Arthur Conan Doyle), “Never theorize before you have data. Invariably, you end up twisting facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts.”
Robots and Humans are Alike - We All Fail
At InOrbit, our mission is to accelerate the adoption of robotics at scale. After talking to 100+ robotics companies, from startups to companies with billions of dollars in revenue, with all types of autonomous robots, we’ve reached an inescapable conclusion: they will all fail.
We’re not saying the companies will go out of business (although, sadly, many have in recent years). Rather, every robot will experience failures, in some cases multiple times per day or per hour. While a few of these failures may be catastrophic (and occasionally hilarious), like steering into a pond, getting stuck next to a trash can, or suddenly catching on fire, many errors are recoverable. The most frequent failures are what we call autonomy exceptions, where a robot finds itself in a situation that falls just outside its operating parameters.
The term manifesto is usually reserved for political or artistic declarations around the intentions, motives or views of an individual or group, but in recent years the technology world has seen its share of manifestos from various groups.
Explanation of a new technology, term, or the goals of such a group are seen in manifestos such as the GNU Manifesto (1985), The Hacker Manifesto (1986), The Third Manifesto (1995), and The Agile Manifesto (2001), which fundamentally changed how software is built.
It is in that spirit that we founded the Robot Operations Group (ROG - pronounced “rogue”) with a group of robotics leaders and have just released the Robot Operations Manifesto. The ROG’s mission is to further the creation of best practices for robot operations at scale. We felt that, while there are already many places to learn about how to build a robot, when it comes to the challenges that emerge when growing from 50 to 5,000 robots, there just wasn’t a venue for discussion and learning.
Today, InOrbit announced our latest funding news, with $2.6 million in seed round funding to help us on our goal to support 1 million robots that will positively impact the lives of 1 billion people.
We started InOrbit more than 2 years ago to help accelerate the adoption of robotics at scale. At the time, there were no good platforms to manage fleets of robots in the field, and most companies had to cobble together tools that were hard to maintain, and often didn’t work as their fleet grew.
Smarter, autonomous robots, have been developed over the past five years thanks to advances in mobile computing, sensors and AI. Many of these robots are now being deployed to assist in the fight against COVID-19 in an effort to “flatten the curve” of cases or provide human-augmented services for companies providing essential functions.
Over the last two decades, we’ve seen the evolution of hardware virtualization that resulted in the cloud as we know it today. It started with Virtual Machines and then expanded to include Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Software-Defined Storage (SDS).
Software-defined networking is “an approach to networking that uses software-based controllers or application programming interfaces (APIs) to direct traffic on the network and communicate with the underlying hardware infrastructure.” (Source: VMWare) Similarly, software-defined storage separates the management and provisioning of storage from the underlying physical hardware.
As the COVID-19 epidemic continues to wreak havoc in countries around the world, there’s some reason for hope as the number of new cases in China drops to 0. This shows that with concerted effort by individuals, companies and government, it is possible to limit the exponential scale of the virus.
For this post, I want to go beyond the day-to-day commentary on the robotics industry or our own business and take a look at longer term trends shaping society. Needless to say, this is a personal perspective and pure speculation. Making predictions about what’s to come is easy, getting it right is hard, so take this with a grain of salt. My hope is that this will spur some healthy discussions and drive additional innovations.