The robotics industry uniquely spans the generations from DIY hobbyists to serious multinational players and appeals to everyone from the smallest child playing with a robot beetle to the more mature executive exploring robotic logistics in complex supply chains. This was all reflected in an inspirational day at Blue Sky on April 12th when Jabil and Radius Innovation & Development hosted more than one thousand guests for the 8th Annual Silicon Valley Robot Block Party.
The robotics industry is fascinating and seems poised to become very important with many factors creating a tipping point. Enabling technologies such as AI (Artificial Intelligence), sensors and IoT (Internet of Things) are all coming together with an increased interest in automation to create the perfect storm for the robotics industry. It is indeed an exciting time to be involved in robotics and this was reflected in the outstanding attendance at this year’s event and the real buzz that came with it.
Robots span the entire gamut from DIY to complex cobots (collaborative robots) for factory use, and everything in between. This spectrum was on display from the exhibitors, who brought every robot imaginable to the event, much to the excitement of the hundreds of children in attendance, all looking to get their hands on the latest robotic technology. Interaction is what the Robot Block Party is all about and it was wonderful to see the next generation of engineers, innovators and leaders being so inspired by the tools available to them. There is something special about watching a toddler climb out of their stroller to play with a robotic bug and seeing them control that robotic bug intuitively with a smartphone. These will be the people who in the future imagine and innovate things we have not yet even considered.
As well as the wonderful exhibits on show, there was a full schedule of presentations, opening with Chris Anderson of 3D Robotics. Chris, formerly the editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine and a founder of DIY Drones, talked about their work in autonomous vehicle development at the DIY level, explaining how simplicity and a ‘have a go’ approach can work in shaking up an industry. Chris sees robotics in a similar place to drones ten years ago and is excited about where it might go. Chris was immediately followed by Jabil’s VP of Global Automation and 3D Printing, John Dulchinos who proffered his vision of the future of robotics. As John explained, robotics and associated automation have much to offer electronics manufacturing and supply chain, and are rapidly finding their way into places we previously didn’t consider them to be applicable. Robotics, together with IoM (Internet of Manufacturing), AR (Augmented Reality) and AI, offer progress along the road to the kind of manufacturing agility that modern brands and consumers expect from their technology and fulfillment partners.
After further presentations came the chance for some startups to pitch in front of a panel of judges made up of Jabil’s John Dulchinos, Radius Innovation & Development’s Heather Andrus, Vantage Robotics’ Tobin Fisher, and HAX’s Cyril Ebersweiler. The winner was Semio (www.semio.ai), a company that is developing a platform that allows robots and humans to collaborate and communicate on an emotional, as well as logical level; a technology that the judges saw as important and scalable.
The number of inspirational technologies on show was indeed impressive, but what impressed and inspired most was the excitement on the faces of the children as they shared the Blue Sky vision of innovation and technology all at the speed of digital.
Enjoy this video of the day: