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Bridging the Autonomy Gap - Part 1

Florian Pestoni

Robots are everywhere. They can be found in hospitals and hotels. In farms and construction sites. Brick and mortar retailers and e-commerce distribution centers. In the air, in the sea, on the ground and even underground, as we saw recently in the DARPA challenge.

But what is a robot? There have been plenty of philosophical discussions on this, and probably no shortage of flame wars. We like this definition from IEEE:

A robot is an autonomous machine capable of sensing its environment,
carrying out computations to make decisions, and performing actions
in the real world.

So right there in the definition is the A-word: autonomy. Since nomos is Greek for “law”, something autonomous makes its own laws. Pretty cool, right?

However, autonomy is relative. We’re not just talking about being constrained by the laws of physics, but by the limits of AI, sensing technology, computing power, servos, etc. In essence, the guts and brains of robots can only go so far with current technology.

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One giant leap for robotkind

Florian Pestoni

50 years ago this month, the first human set foot on the moon (unless you choose to believe it never happened.) At InOrbit, we work on scaling autonomous solutions, not spaceships, but this milestone got us thinking about what the next 50 years may have in store for us, and the impact of automation.

As I’ve shared here before, we do 3-4 big product pushes per year and give them a codename based on some of the greatest inventors and scientists. It seems appropriate that for our next one, which will be starting soon, we would pick Margaret Hamilton.

While the picture of Neil Armstrong’s first footprint on the moon has been repeated over and over, it’s not as often that we hear about all the people who made that possible. Hamilton led the software development efforts for Apollo 11; she was the first person to use the term “software engineering”. She was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 2016. If you’d like to learn more about Margaret Hamilton, there’s a great profile on Makers.com.

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Biggest gaps in robot operations

Florian Pestoni

Over the last year, we have been talking with robotics companies and operators in Silicon Valley and around the world. We have learned a few things about the challenges of operating robots at scale. This has mostly confirmed that, compared to the great advances in software and hardware components that are helping robots enter every industry, robot operations and infrastructure are still immature.

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Robotics vs. IoT

Florian Pestoni

Another day, another Demo Day. Last week we had the privilege of being among a select group of startups to show the latest and greatest in the IoT world, ranging from photonics to wireless power transmission, at the latest Plug and Play Demo Day for Internet of Things. This was a big event, with many corporate partners and investors in attendance.

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A vision decades in the making

Florian Pestoni

In the last couple of years, it seems that robots have jumped from science fiction to reality and are on their way to becoming commonplace. This process continues to accelerate, driven by macro-economic trends such as labor shortage and advancements in technology.

But as I like to say, it usually takes years of preparation to become an overnight sensation. In the case of robotics, it has taken decades of contributions from people around the world, from scientists to entrepreneurs and investors.

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A big week at InOrbit

Florian Pestoni

Few things are more devastating for a startup than to be working on the wrong problem. That’s why we spent time early on, before we had even formed our company or written the first line of code, to make sure we were working on a real problem that has a significant impact for a large number of people. We met with dozens of people across the robotics landscape to learn, asked lots of open-ended questions and listened carefully, honing our pattern-recognition.

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So you want to be a roboteer?

Florian Pestoni

It seems that every week there’s news about a new amazing application of robotics, from e-commerce, to growing food or building houses. While for many people this may seem to be something for the distant future, it is happening now and will continue to scale rapidly over the next couple of years.

This rapid acceleration results from a convergence of factors, including advances in sensors, deep learning and computer vision algorithms, chipsets that can handle AI tasks and software standards such as the Robot Operating System (ROS).

We’ve seen this before

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Women Innovators

Florian Pestoni

At InOrbit we are driven to advance the positive impacts of robotics in the world. Our vision is that humans, robots and AI working together can drive radical improvements in productivity and solve some of humanity’s biggest challenges. We believe that we can be a catalyst to innovation and allow robotics companies to focus on their special sauce.

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InOrbit in Logistics

Florian Pestoni

InOrbit has been selected by the largest companies in Logistics and Supply Chain as one of the leading technologies to help drive automation at scale. From an initial set of 500 startups, 22 have been chosen by participating enterprises to be part of the Supply Chain Innovation program at Plug and Play.

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RoboBusiness recap

Florian Pestoni

The annual convention of leaders in robotics took place September 25-27 in Santa Clara, CA. RoboBusiness is the prime conference on the business of robotics, with world-class speakers and top exhibitors from around the world.

At InOrbit we chose RoboBusiness for our commercial launch. The interest far exceeded our expectations: the traffic at our booth was virtually non-stop, often with multiple conversations going on with members of our team at once.

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