The Robot I Want

Posted on October 11, 2021. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I had a conversation last week with a very accomplished entrepreneur who was interested in making robotics a more accessible design space for hackers, tinkerers, and startups. Core to his vision was the idea of a generalized and composable hardware/software setup that the curious could develop against. The conversation quickly went to “what can robots do?” and beyond industrial applications, my mind went to what can they do for me? I focussed there because I think people like to build stuff that solves their own problems, and outside of a roomba, I don’t really see robots touching mine or developers’ personal life in a way that might inspire many to build/program new ones on weekends.

This conversation got me thinking about where a truly generalized robot (robotic arm) might fit into people’s homes, and my first thought was a step function improvement to telepresence. I think when people think robots, they think of some machine autonomously doing something like washing the dishes or cooking for them, but I go elsewhere. I’m obsessed with telepresence and achieving the highest fidelity telepresence possible. The question of how to we “be together” when we are not physically together is some of my favorite design space. The progression of telephony to video communication was a giant leap in telepresence, and the emergence of new hardware edges like Facebook’s Portal and Zoom Rooms have progressed things even further. Facebook Portal, for example, enhances my parents ability to consume not just me, but my physical environment. They can feel and absorb the room I’m in, the way it’s changing, new people entering and exiting, without me doing a thing. That’s so much more context that contributes to us “being together.”

So back to robotics…what if my parents couldn’t just consume my physical environment? What if they could interact with it? They are already “having breakfast” with my 2 year old while he eats and everyone is on video with their respective portals. But what if they could actually feed him? That would free up a set of grown up hands and deepen the togetherness during mealtime. If I can think of one place I’d want to put a robot arm in my home, it would be directly adjacent/grafted to my Portal. I like the idea of introducing a physical dimension to remote communication. What if my parents could read Ody a book and turn the pages with said arm? There’s so much to do there to close the gap between “real life” and “telelife” and interestingly, the use case is general enough, that developers could design lots of applications against it. Further…contemplating a human on the other end of a robot interface solves a lot of the challenges associated with complete autonomy…

I shared this idea with said entrepreneur because I couldn’t hold it in, and his response was “hell no you don’t want to do that.” Apparently robot arms are very dangerous, and well suited for a warehouse, and not yet well suited for a 2 year old’s breakfast table…but that seems addressable. Anyway, if anybody wants to graft a robot arm to my Facebook portal, or if your building hardware/software that integrates video based telepresence with physical world manipulation…I’d love to hear from you:

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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