The team at inVia Robotics didn’t start out looking to build a business that would create a new kind of model for selling robotics to the masses, but that may be exactly what they’ve done. After their graduation from the University of Southern California’s robotics program, Lior Alazary, Dan Parks, and Randolph Voorhies, were casting around for ideas that could get traction quickly. “Our goal was to get something up and running that could make economic sense immediately,’ Voorhies, the company’s chief technology officer, said in an interview. The key was to learn from the lessons of what the team had seen as the missteps of past robotics manufacturers. Despite the early success of iRobot , consumer facing or collaborative robots that could operate alongside people had yet to gain traction in wider markets. Willow Garage , the legendary company formed by some of the top names in the robotics industry had shuttered just as Voorhies and his compatriots were graduating, and Boston Dynamics , another of the biggest names in robotics research, was bought by Google around the same time — capping an six-month buying spree that saw the search giant acquire eight robotics companies. “ In the midst of all this we were looking around and we said, ‘God there were a lot of failed robotics companies!’ and we asked ourselves why did that happen?” Voorhies recalled. “A lot of the hardware companies that we’d seen, their plan was: step one build a really cool robot and step three: an app ecosystem will evolve and people will write apps and the robot will sell like crazy. And nobody had realized how to do step 2, which was commercialize the robot.” So the three co-founders looked for ideas they could take to market quickly. The thought was building a robot that could help with mobility and reaching for objects. “We built a six-degree-of-freedom arm with a mobile base,” Voorhies said.
Read More »