Optimus not ready for prime time?

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So yes, kick another issue of the newsletter, talking a bit about our upcoming robotics event. Honestly, this panel is special, although. I thought about it even before I knew if we would be returning to an in-person event this year. Daniela Rus and Matthew Johnson-Roberson have appeared on the TC stages and in this newsletter over the years.

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Both are leading robotics experts at their respective world-class universities (MIT and CMU respectively) who have deep insights into the subject. And there really is a lot to tell here, from the latest groundbreaking research that their respective institutions are currently working on, to the role that universities can and should play in helping alumni grow startups. This will be good.

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I also started with this topic because I’m postponing the inevitable here a bit. But yes, we need to talk about Elon – but no, not this thing. The Tesla Bot or Optimus, or whatever we’re going to call it this week, isn’t something I’ve written much about in these pages because I honestly didn’t have many good reasons for doing so other than the standard excuse of that all the world’s richest man tells the news.

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I had a little talk with Rebecca on this subject when she wrote about Musk’s latest statement that the humanoid robot will come never a year. What really struck me was his comment: “I was surprised that people didn’t realize the scope of the Optimus robot program. The importance of Optimus will become apparent in the coming years. Those who are astute or listen carefully will understand that Optimus will ultimately be worth more than the car business, more than FSD.”

The thing is, I don’t think anyone who pays attention to such things has any doubts about how huge robotics will be in the coming decades. We are already seeing this real impact, especially since the pandemic has dramatically accelerated adoption. I think people need something more tangible than a person dancing in a spandex morphsuit as a proof of concept. Anyone who keeps track of space also understands how difficult it all is.

Several years ago I was asked to speak at a press conference. When the conversation ended, a hand went up in the front row. One woman really wanted to ask me a question about robots, that is, she wanted to tell me her idea for a robot. It’s like the Roomba, she explained, except it’s a drone that can fly from surface to surface, cleaning every part of your home. Great, I said, when someone designs it, I’ll gladly buy it.

The thing is, the reason Roomba doesn’t do this isn’t because no one else had the idea before. This is because the number of points of failure for such a product will make your head spin. With all the money and resources iRobot has put into its robot vacuum over the years, it still gets stuck, sucks up something it shouldn’t, or otherwise breaks. Meanwhile, it took Boston Dynamics about 25 years to create Atlas.

Image credits: Tesla

Add to all this the fact that a high-end Roomba currently costs around $900, and you can begin to understand why roboticists are at least skeptical of the promise of a robot that will not only help build cars, but also fold yours. laundry and grocery shopping. Boston Dynamics’ Spot Robot is currently $74,500, which I understand is small change for Musk, but I just canceled my Netflix subscription because I didn’t want to pay $15 a month to watch. bright 2.

There are other questions as well. First, is a humanoid really the best form factor for such a robot? Don’t get me wrong, this works great for us, but I’ve lost track of the roboticists I spoke to who started developing a system that mimics human traits, only to find reasons why much more efficient robot designs existed. the problems they were working on. Anyway, that’s one of the reasons why I didn’t write much about it – I planned to write two paragraphs on this topic, and here we are.

In the meantime, I don’t think I’ll be writing much on the subject until we get something more specific than Daft Punk cosplay. I’m very excited to see more about this robot at some point – and luckily Musk and Tesla never missed a deadline (unfortunately, there’s no way to verify this information, so you’ll just have to take my word for it). ). But more importantly, I’m willing to wait until I actually do that before dedicating more column space to this topic. Luckily, there’s been a lot of other exciting news this week that doesn’t require me to write another tweet.

Image credits: vicarious

There’s a good chance you missed that first one, since he was late on Friday. Alphabet-owned Intrinsic has announced the acquisition of Vicarious, a well-funded robot software company backed by Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Samsung. Details are scarce at this point, although the company says CEO Scott Phoenix is ​​joining Intrinsic as chief marketing officer, while CTO Dilip George will actually join DeepMind’s research team. From the looks of it, the deal was partly a hire to grow two Alphabet teams.

“For more than a decade, Vicarious has been pushing the boundaries of intelligent robotics and AI across industries with forward-thinking clients, building a multidisciplinary team and a unique culture,” Intrinsic CEO Wendy Tan-White said in a post. “We believe that joining our efforts will help us address industry challenges faster and accelerate our shared mission.”

More information about the deal is expected in the coming months.

In the meantime, the biggest news from a purely financial standpoint is that Huge Series B Agility worth $150M. This follows the announcement that the Oregon-based startup is part of the Amazon Industrial Innovation Foundation, which is included in the round. DCVC and Playground Global have spearheaded a fundraiser that sees the company working to scale its Digit robot to more warehouse jobs.

warehouse of maneuverable robotics

Image credits: Screenshot/Agility Robotics

“Agility is set to make a strong impact by designing and delivering robots that are built to co-exist seamlessly in our lives,” Playgound’s Bruce Leak said in a press release. “From the earliest days of Agility, we believed that their unique technical approach was one of a kind and able to fulfill the promise of practical everyday robots.”

Amazon’s Agility has been joined by Israeli robotics firm BionicHIVE, which makes an extremely smart warehouse robot that rides up a shelf. San Francisco-based Mantis Robotics also made the list. The company creates robotic arms designed for close human-robot interaction.

Image credits: Zipedi

We also broke some news about Zipedi, a warehouse robot designed to help stores compete with Amazon with last-mile delivery. The startup has raised $12.5 million in Series A led by Transpose Platform. This adds to the $6.9 million seed fund announced last year.

“A good example would be Uber, if there was a company that would help taxi drivers,” company founder Luis Vera tells TechCrunch. “Ordinary stores are not going anywhere. There will be a lot of customers in the store, so I think the best way to approach this is to digitize the store and do all these things that will make your customers happy. Whether it’s last mile delivery or in-store shopping, when you have a digital twin, you can do a lot of things. ”

Image credits: Miso Robotics

And another week, another Deal with Miso Robotics Restaurant. This time it’s the king of late-night burgers and tacos, Jack in the box. They will be testing Flippy and Sippy at one of their San Diego offices.

Image credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

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