September 11, 2015
On Thursday, my morning routine was interrupted. Instead of heading straight to writing, I was rather bound for the Fairmont Grand Del Mar Hotel (a very classy establishment) and was expected to arrive at 9 AM sharp.
What could possibly pull me on a 40 minute drive into North County, San Diego? Well, I had secured an invite to the San Diego tech ecosystem event of the year: the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator Demo Day, powered by Techstars.
You see, deep down in my gut I had a visceral feeling that the event was going to be awesome, and not just because it was powered and hosted by perhaps two of the biggest names in tech. Rather, a lot of my excitement came from the subject matter – everything was all about robots.
It was something I’ve never seen before: an entire demo day focused solely on hardware and robotics. And I knew it would live up to the hype from the minute I opened up the program and read the blurb on the inside cover:
“Qualcomm is bringing the future of cognitive technologies to the present with computer vision, machine learning, always-on sensing, and many more inventions that will ensure tomorrow’s robots are even smarter.”
For the last four months 10 different companies have been working at the Qualcomm corporate campus in San Diego to hone their pitches and polish their robots for the big day. Not to mention Qualcomm set aside an aggregated $1 million in funding and offered business and technical insight on robotics during the program to support them in taking their company to the next level.
Ryan Kuder, Managing Director of the accelerator, led the show, and you could see his chest swell with pride as each company took to the stage to pitch. This was the first Demo Day in the accelerator’s history and it went off without a hitch.
It was also nice to see some familiar faces from Techstars take to the stage at the halfway mark and detail their history in Boulder, Colorado. There was also a noticeable representation from EvoNexus – San Diego’s premier tech incubator – among the ranks of companies as well.
Here are the 10 companies who fearlessly took the stage at the first ever Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator Demo Day and made it epic:
Carbon Robotics – Rosanna Myers, CEO: The team has built KATIA, a Kick Ass Trainable Intelligent Arm, to give anyone the power of industrial robots for their own applications. KATIA works right out of the box and can be easily trained by guiding her through any motion. Their platform makes it easy to extend her abilities and add custom attachments, so now anyone can have a workshop like Tony Stark.
CleverPet – Leo Trottier, CEO: CleverPet combines world-class design with PhD-level expertise in computational neuroscience to solve a frequently ignored, yet costly, problem: the pain dogs and their people feel duruing the hours each day when dogs are alone and anxious. With ultra-smart hardware, we provide an affordable and enriching alternative to $40 a day dog daycare.
CtrlWorks – Sim Kai, CEO: CtrlWorks is a leading cloud robotics startup that has successfully developed and deployed a cloud-based navigation infrastructure and add-on kit that can transform any mobile platform into an intelligent robot. This leads to cheaper, simpler, yet more powerful robots with shared awareness and networked intelligence.
INOVA Drone – Chad Amonn, CEO: INOVA Drone is developing advanced and intuitive UAS solutions for the global commercial market with an emphasis on public safety and security as well as critical infrastructure inspection and preservation. INOVA Drone systems quickly and effectively deliver mission critical data and situation awareness when it is needed most.
museRobotics – Alexandros Nikolakakis, CEO: AI and machine learning is progressing rapidly, aided by the exponential increase of processing power and new sensors. 3D printing allows robot developers to create custom structures and unlock new capabilities. MuseRobotics is providing the last missing part for robotics to explore: the core electro-mechanical system, which is the same across all robot types.
Rational Robotics – Ashley Reddy, CEO: Rational Robotics makes robots to automate tasks in light industrial environments. Their first product is a robot that pains parts automatically for auto body shops. The size of the collision industry is $41 billion and there are over 116,000 auto body shops in the US alone. Auto body repair is extremely laborious: Rational Robotics aims to offset that labor.
Reach Robotics – Silas Adekunle, CEO: Reach Robotics is developing the world’s first intelligent gaming robot, MekaMon, for the multi billion market at the intersection of augmented reality, consumer robotics, and gaming. Train with one-player mode or battle other MekaMons with two-player mode.
Skyfront – Troy Mestler, CEO: Powered by a team of physicists, Skyfront is building drones that fly 10 times longer than battery powered drones. In fact, they’re creating an entirely new type of aircraft. Their flagship product, the Tailwind, is a hybrid-electric multirotor that generates electricity from gasoline in flight. Their technology turns drones from toys into aircraft, making commercial drones a reality.
Skysense – Andrea Puiatti, CEO: Skysense is building the world’s first and only commercial drone deployment infrastructure to help make commercial drone deployment economically scalable. Put simple, they are building the gas station network for drones. The team is already working alongside NASA, JPL, Singapore Aerospace, and several other companies in the process of deploying the Skysense infrastructure.
Solenica – Diva Tommei, CEO: Solenica completely reshapes how people experience the indoors. Their first product, Lucy, brings the beautiful experience of natural sunlight into your indoor environment. Solar powered and installation free, Lucy also reports sunlight intensity data and tells you how much energy you’re saving by switching your lights off during the daytime.
The entire pitch portion of the event was followed by a meet and greet where everybody was invited to check out the actual prototypes in person and see how they actually work. I think that was my favorite part of the entire event actually. At the end of the day everything was tangible, interactive, and incredibly fun to explore face to face. Without a doubt, this was one hell of an event – make sure to get to the next one!
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