Ten startup companies from around the world are hoping to revolutionize the robotics industry—with the help of the first Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator, a 16-week mentorship program powered by Techstars who specializes in running mentorship-driven accelerator programs.
Each of these innovative robotics startups is provided with $120,000 in funding from both Qualcomm and Techstars, as well as the use of a workspace within Qualcomm’s San Diego headquarters. Along with the support of a full-time Techstars mentorship team, the companies have access to robot reference designs, Qualcomm mentorship from key executives and robotics leaders, and Techstars’ network of over 3,000 entrepreneurs and investors. On September 10, the startups will have the opportunity to pitch their concepts to robotics leaders, investors, and press.
Hailing from Bristol, U.K., Reach Robotics is creating a new gaming experience with Mecha Monsters: battling robots that are controlled by smartphones or tablets via Bluetooth technology. There are two Mecha Monsters, the more aggressive Brute and the more agile Berserker. Both level up as they to battle each other. The company plans to build business and technical relationships while solidifying a commercial foundation and preparing their Mecha Monsters for manufacturing.
“We have seen that Qualcomm [Technologies, Inc.] has a large pool of engineering talent that can provide a wealth of advice and their business network could be pivotal for us,” said Silas Adekunle, Reach Robotics’ CEO.
Helpful robots for the home don’t necessarily have to come in humanoid form. Roman company Solenica has developed Lucy, an environmentally friendly lightbulb powered by solar cells. Lucy has an embedded mirror, photovoltaic cells, and photo sensors that follow the path of the sun and reflect natural light back into the room. Just install Lucy where she can collect sunlight and point her toward the room you want to illuminate. Users can track their electricity savings and Lucy’s delivered lumens through a mobile application.
With the support of Qualcomm and Techstars, the Solenica team is focused on perfecting its prototypes into a final product before Demo Day. Public relations and a social media campaign will be promoting pre-orders of Lucy before her big debut.
CleverPet is designed to keep dogs active while their owners are at work. The connected robot engages dogs with light, sound, and touch, reducing separation anxiety and motivating them through food. With the CleverPet app, owners can track their pet’s progress, food consumed, and new puzzles introduced. Its design features a weighted base, a dog-proof latch, and a dishwasher-safe food dispenser, which means less stressed owners and happier, stimulated pets.
Under the Qualcomm Accelerator, the CleverPet team is building its software program and engaging in intensive beta testing. Before introducing their product to potential investors, the company is using Qualcomm’s network to create business-focused relationships and improving their product pitch.
Rational Robotics is providing an automated solution to an industry that, for now, does its job manually—car painting. Using 3D vision and advanced path planning, the company is producing robots that will safely and efficiently paint cars on the shop floor. By automating a task that has typically been done manually, Rational Robotics is reducing the amount of labor it takes to paint a car part. Before Demo Day, the Californian team is establishing sales channels for their product, while enhancing their robot.
Personal robots are becoming more kick-ass thanks to Carbon Robotics, a company focused on creating the “Kick Ass Trainable Intelligent Arm,” or KATIA. Geared towards consumers and mid-sized businesses, KATIA is an affordable industrial robot with an open platform that can be accessed using common tools like Python and Arduino. No hardware skills are necessary, the company said; just guide the arm through a motion, and it’ll repeat it without a hitch.
“We’re transforming [robots] into beautiful, intuitive, and intelligent devices that are designed purposefully for people,” said Rosanna Myers, the startup’s CEO. “We’re doing for robotics what the PC did for computers.” While working in the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator, the company is using its latest funding on upgrading their tools and hiring more employees.
Based in Singapore, CtrlWorks is another robotics company that is attempting to make manual labor just a little easier. Its first product, Axon, can attach to almost anything and turn it into an autonomous, moving robot with a low-power onboard CPU, auto navigation, and auto docking and charging. Everyday items like wheelchairs, trolleys, and pallet jacks can operate independently, cutting labor costs for companies. CtrlWorks admits to already having a great workspace in Singapore, but the opportunity to have Qualcomm introduce CtrlWorks to its manufacturers and vendor network is invaluable.
“We hope to build up a strategic partnership with Techstars and Qualcomm, and keep in close touch with the founders of the companies in our batch,” said Kai Sim, CtrlWorks’ CEO. “It’s lonely being a robotics entrepreneur.”
Battery-powered drones are notorious for their limited flight times, a problem that three Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator companies are working to solve. For SkySense, a charging station for drones is the next step toward automating flight missions. The German company has developed SkySense Charging Pads—scalable, gold-plated landing areas that support nearly all existing multicopters and VTOL aircrafts. Droneports are protective structures that can hold drones while they charge and can sync sensor data to the cloud.The startup is currently assembling its first complete system at the Accelerator, and is ready to move forward with its next generation of systems for Demo Day after discussing its product with clients and mentors.
“Working at Qualcomm enabled us to get immediate feedback from top executives, experts, and other first class roboticists, which talent is hard to find and very relevant to our business case,” said CEO Andrea Puiatti.
SkyFront posits that keeping drones in the air can be solved through a hybrid-electric propulsion system. With agriculture, infrastructure inspection, and first response industries in mind, the company’s technology will enable drones to fly for four hours. Drones can then survey thousands of acres without recharging, thoroughly search areas that are inaccessible by traditional helicopters, and autonomously monitor infrastructures.
As one of three drone startups supported by Qualcomm and Techstars, SkyFront is collaborating with its peers and sharing market research. “The networks that both Qualcomm and Techstars have runs very deep,” said Troy Mestler, the company’s CEO. “Advice from a drone expert or a technology licensing attorney is always only an email away.”
San Diego native Inova Drone is concentrating on the public safety industry by developing an intuitive aerial platform that quickly acquires data for search and rescue applications. Its Aerial System Solution will provide first responders with the necessary information needed to determine their environments’ hazards, people who need help, and their safest exit.
Before Sept. 10, the company hopes to have a completed second version of its entire system and a targeted marketing campaign. With its funding, Inova Drone will build five more prototype aerial systems to sell to their early strategic customers for feedback and design optimization. Afterward, full-scale product manufacturing will be in the works. In a year, “I see us working out of our own building here in San Diego with a bigger team,” said Chad Amonn, the startup’s CEO. “I see us having products that are shipping around the world where they will be used to save lives.
Sky Robotics has created its Open Platform for Robotic Applications (OPRA), a development platform with customizable hardware and software to encourage developers to create their own robots. Designed to keep development costs low, OPRA was created to be compatible with popular robotics middleware and to keep development costs low. Before its debut on Demo Day, Sky Robotics is focused on developing and promoting a demonstrable product. The next 16 weeks will be dedicated to integrating OPRA’s subsystems into a complete solution and polishing its software.
“It would be great if we succeed and moreover,” said Sky Robotics’ CEO Alexandros Nikolakakis, “if we could share this success with the people and companies that have trusted and supported us.”