Blame The Jetsons. Blame Futurama. Blame Star Wars. Pop culture has taught us a very narrow definition of the word robot. We picture a rolling machine, with human properties, that assists us with tasks. But robots can be so much more than the metallic companions in sci-fi stories. That’s why, when selecting its first class of participants, the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator powered by Techstars, adopted a broad definition for the term “robot” by taking it down to the simplest terms: They’re innovations that are software-driven, autonomous, and in some way mechanized.
Expanding the range of what is considered a robot is about more than just being inclusive; it’s about taking into account the role advanced artificial-intelligence and machine-learning algorithms play in more and more devices.
Point is, even these small innovations can have a great impact. “One simple idea can spark change,” says Matt Grob, Executive Vice President of Qualcomm Technologies, “So it’s our hope that the Robotics Accelerator program will help foster a new wave of ideas and help companies impact everyday life a meaningful way.”
The timing is nearly perfect, as innovations in artificial intelligence and robotics are increasingly finding homes in our everyday lives. The constantly expanding Internet of Everything—ranging from smart homes and connected cars to telepresence robots—means we are more reliant on automation than we’ve been at any point in history. Uses for these systems are mounting every day, as developer communities continue to spring up and spur creativity and innovation.
What’s more, developers now have ready access to the tools they need. “Modern robots are basically flying and rolling smartphones,” explains Charles Bergan, Vice President of Engineering at Qualcomm. “Smartphone components and technologies make it easy to fashion autonomous fashion autonomous, connected machines.”
As a bonus, projects that are selected for the program will get a boost from the knowledge and experience of mentors, who will help them turn their ideas from concept to reality. “A network of over 3,000 mentors, entrepreneurs, and investors will give startups access to technical expertise and business guidance,” says Houman Haghighi, Staff Manager, Operations at Qualcomm Ventures, “That guidance will help them reach the next level—and, ultimately, make their ideas reality.”
The Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator, powered by Techstars, will select 10 startups for a four-month mentorship-driven development program at the San Diego campus. With the help of engineers and mentors from Qualcomm and Techstars—in addition to $1 million in committed aggregate funding from Qualcomm—these companies will build next-generation smart machines and present them to investors at a Demo Day in September.
As we begin to think more creatively about what robots can do in our everyday lives, we encourage applicants to the Robotics Accelerator to bring us clever new ideas for robots that can change the world. The deadline for entries is March 8, 2015.