We are one year old this month, and have been working on SaviOne since October. This is an extremely busy time for Savioke, but I don’t want to let this moment pass without acknowledging at least a few of the many people who have helped us get to this point.
First and foremost, I have learned something from every one of the hundreds of people who worked at Willow Garage. Indeed, it was a deep robotics education for me, made possible by Scott Hassan who founded that company. Willow Garage brought the Savioke founding team together, and was a place where we could get a broad view of the robotics landscape.
The Willow Garage family included Creativa 77, a company in Argentina led by Julian Cerruti. They have been working closely with us as an extended part of our team, contributing directly in areas such as navigation logic, user interface, software architecture as well as leading services engagement with our customers in the area of Android-based autonomous navigation for ground and aerial vehicles.
The Robot Operating System (ROS), created by Willow Garage and a number of universities, notably Stanford, and contributed to by a worldwide community that I won’t attempt to enumerate here, is the basis for our work. ROS maintenance and evolution is now led by the Open Source Robotics Foundation (OSRF), and Brian Gerkey and the great team there continue to be extremely responsive to needs of the community, including us.
ROS, and more generally the fact that we can now build commercial robots, is made possible by the thousands of researchers who have been working on fundamental problems for decades. It would be impossible to describe this body of work in a short blog, but let me give a concrete example. At the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Robotics Institute, hundreds of mobile robots from self-driving cars to indoor robots like ours have been developed over the past 30 years. Manuela Veloso’s CoBots group has had mobile robots running around the CMU campus since 2009, an effort that gives us confidence that indoor navigation around people over long periods of time is indeed possible. Her work builds on prior work at CMU and around the world. Organizations like the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, Silicon Valley Robotics, and RoboBusiness have kept the fire alive for this budding industry for a long time now.
On the hardware side, we are the beneficiaries of technical progress on a wide number of fronts. 3D printers, especially low-cost versions made widely available by the “Maker” community, have enabled us to build and refine great-looking prototypes at an unprecedented rate (we particularly like MakerGear and GigaBot!). We benefit from 50 years of exponentially decreasing processor costs, low-cost sensors from the game industry, readily available electric motors and gearboxes, batteries, etc.
Operationally, we have been able to move very quickly thanks to Amazon Prime, and more generally the ability to purchase components or have them made, and have them delivered within a day or two. And we’ve found trusted partners that help us move fast, particularly Function Engineering for mechanical systems and OLogic for electrical systems. Ruth Mohanram at Many Happy Returns does an amazing job for us (and many other startups) on HR and Finance.
We benefit from being part of a very supportive community of people who have been informal or formal advisors, making suggestions and introductions that are invaluable, people like Mark Frisse, Mark Yim, Adam Schroeder, Henry Evans, Dan Steere, Steve Croft, Stefan Nusser, Shiz Kobara, and many others. We’re fortunate to be in Silicon Valley, where the investment culture is such that there is a large group of people who are willing to listen to new ideas, offer advice, and fund them if they seem promising. Manu Kumar, an investor and friend, pointed out that if you want contacts in the hotel industry you literally just have to go to hotels and ask for the manager. All of our investors have been willing to give us feedback on strategy questions, and Google Ventures in particular has an extensive support network of designers, marketers, and other experts available to help their portfolio companies.
Finally, thanks to the folks at Starwood for believing we could make this robot work, and helping us to find ways to delight their guests and empower their people, and for Lance McCurdy and Jeff Zogg at the Aloft Cupertino for “getting it” right away and supporting the SaviOne/Botlr pilot.