Interview with Colin Angle, Robotics Luminary, Chairman, CEO and Founder of iRobot

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Hello and welcome to the today. Podcast I'm your host Kathleen Walsh and I'm your host Schmeltzer. Our guest today is Colin Angle. Who is the chairman CEO and founder of I robot and in Luminary in the field of robotics so high Colin? Thank you so much for joining us today. A great to be here. Welcome Colin and. Thanks for joining us. We'd like to start by having you introduce yourself to our listeners and tell them a little bit about your background and some exciting things that are going on it. I Robot Short so I'm Colin Angle the CEO Chairman and co-founder of I robot. This is actually a robot. Thirty th year. We were founded back in nineteen ninety a startup company with the mission to really deliver on the promise of robots and we'd been I grew up reading robots. We all some movies about robots. I really didn't have any in our lives on a daily basis and I robot was founded to go and change that and over the years we've been involved in everything from missions to Mars to robots. That went into nuclear power plants. Robots that diffused bombed. But we're boost well known for the room. The robot vacuum cleaner as the first real practical robot that people could just generally own excellent. You know and I think that's part of what's popularized robotics and people are very sort of become more intimately familiar with robots today in the Twenty Twenty S. Surprising that I wrote has been around for thirty years. I'm sure for you. It feels like yesterday for a lot of us who have been around a robot. It's certainly feels that way. And you know. Crow bots have been in constant development for many years for the past sixty plus years even beyond that no longer than than six years and there have been a number of notable successes of course. I robot included and they're also have been some you know troubling starts. Nobody's who are built robotics and tried to build robotic firms. Even some of the big luminaries in this field. So what do you see as the current state of the robotics industry as a whole and what do you see as make some companies successful in this industry and perhaps even to another extent here like what do you see? Some of the roadblocks that are facing widespread adoption of robots in our daily lives in the home in the office. And how far away are we from achieving this ultimate goal? I know it's a lot of parts to this question but just crafting the vision for where to go straight there. You go sure so. I mean robotics tool kit so it's a technology which allows you to go and there's different parts toolkit perceive information about the world use artificial intelligence to think about what you've been able to perceive also in the tool. Kit are the use of computers and microcontrollers to drive motors and actuators to allow machine to do physical work. And this is a really cool tool. I mean you can build machines that you could only dream of the challenges of course finding an application of robot technology where you're really solving a problem. People care about and we've been told all throughout our history that there was an expectation that robots were supposed to clean your home and the idea that you could maybe build a robot that couldn't vacuum which is a subset of cleaning the entire home. But it's a very important part and you could come home every day to freshly vacuumed home and particularly if you have pets well you need to vacuum every day or live with pet hair. Neither of them are particularly exciting options. And the Roomba offered practical solution and because we had a lot of experience in building robots that low price point and using smaller microprocessors to understand the environment sufficiently to go backing thoroughly and completely it all made sense and you had a robot which was both affordable and effective and were well up over twenty five million of these robots sold the Dayton about twenty. Five percent of money spent on vacuums is now spent on robot vacuums which has just been an amazing phenomenon to have start with an idea on a piece of paper and have it turned into reality. Yeah that's I mean. One that that stat is really interesting and also. I think that it's made people more comfortable with robots in their house. You know it's just it's just doing one task and doing it well and not really getting in people's way and getting them familiar with robots. So I know that you've recently wrote a piece about autonomy is not intelligence and we really liked tat because we always say at cognreznick that automation is not intelligence. And I think that sometimes people can confuse the two but they're really not the same so can you break down for our listeners. And explain what you meant by that sure so autonomy is usually where working robot start where the idea is. The robot hasn't task you know go out and vacuum four and then go back and recharge yourself but if you can't direct the robot if you can't interact with a robot it's really not that smart. Imagine if you went to your life unable to listen or interact with anyone else and you just sort of maybe add some instinct on how to survive. But I don't think many people would think you're very smart if you couldn't talk with them and take direction and give direction so what we're trying to do is expand the utility of the robot and expand the ability of the robot to fit into people's lives by working at increasing its ability to interact and understand and take direction and demonstrate that cares about the environment and treat. The environment is operating in a very careful fashion and through doing this. You go from device. That can't listen and can only do what it was programmed to do at the beginning to a device. That really can learn about how it's supposed to do. Its job and that's opens up not just the world of better vacuuming but vastly richer world of tasks that robot can suddenly take on. Yeah that's actually a really good point because you know pretty much anything that people think about what humans can do our animals that used to do with it and they were laboring in the field or animals. We like to have as command. Says well you know certainly. That's what we want these mechanized machines that have some element of intelligence. Who Want to do that as well? So I know you see lots of use cases an examples of robots of of all sorts and as matter of fact when you started talking about the history of I robot you talked about robots in places like nuclear power plants in areas of combat and places like that so. What are some of these standard examples that you have seen especially more recently for robots and places that we may not necessarily have expected these robots to being performing really useful tasks others a great example in warehouse automation and so that some of the tasks the robots where the really making a great inroads today? Or maybe not the most glamorous robots like you know robots come and greet you at the door but robots that are enabling and are involving society to actually work and as we get more and more addicted to ordering things online and expecting products to magically come from. Click on the screen to my front door in a matter of days or even hours were increasing the load on warehouses to sales Toronto disorder toothpaste. I need to go find the toothpaste but in a box. Seal the box and mail out or even have it. Delivered automatically and that's an area where the industry is just exploding where there's demand for automation to accurately and swiftly and cheaply perform that type of service and so that's a big thing and an area maybe on the other side of the field of things we may have heard about contests driving vehicles these are robots and. I think there's a lot of attention and excitement around a when are we going to have and see robot cars and robot buses and robot? Taxis enter into our lives and gradually underway. Where there's different areas where maybe today's state of the art is in a known geographic area potentially operating at reduced speeds to ensure safety. You can get autonomous driving vehicles. Move FROM POINT A to B or highways with certain brands of vehicles. You can start to see things like smart cruise control and other assisted features in our cars and over time these robots that carry around and will continue to get more and more sophisticated until the point where you know driving truly becomes a choice and those are two really big areas where we're seeing a lot of activity and then obviously closer. I robot tone in the home where we're seeing vacuuming become tremendously successful commercially. We see potential for mopping and lawn mowing and then as we dial the clock forward getting into assistive purposes to allow elderly people to live independently. Much more safely

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