5 Takeaways From Robo Madness 2018 at iRobot

A who’s who of robotics and artificial intelligence experts gathered at iRobot’s headquarters in Bedford, MA, last week. The occasion was Xconomy’s fourth annual Robo Madness conference, and you can check out photos from the event here.

Here are five things we learned from the discussions:

1. Watch your interns and office cleaners—they’ll go on to great things. Joe Jones, co-inventor of the Roomba (now CTO of Franklin Robotics), used to be in charge of vacuuming the iRobot office, circa 1994. Clara Vu and Max Makeev, former iRobot interns and employees, now help lead the startups Veo Robotics and Owl Labs, respectively. (They all came together for an iRobot alumni panel.)

2. The logistics robot market has really opened up. In the six years since Kiva Systems’ acquisition by Amazon, warehouse automation companies are developing cheaper and more efficient systems, getting more interest from customers and investors, and trying to solve labor shortage problems (yes, there’s the jobs issue). It’s all part of an overarching trend of robotics becoming more productized and tailored to specific customers and use cases. (In logistics, we had on hand Mary Ellen Sparrow from NextShift Robotics, Jerome Dubois from 6 River Systems, Lael Odhner from RightHand Robotics, Bruce Welty from Locus Robotics, and Dan Patt from Vecna Robotics.)

3. Smart-home technology that works automatically to sense when you’re coming home and adjust things like doors, lighting, and other systems is coming within five years. (Prediction from iRobot CEO Colin Angle, pictured above.)

4. The first fully autonomous car will be available to consumers around 2030. The first commercial robo-taxi service won’t be run by Uber. (Predictions from Ryan Chin of Optimus Ride and Shakeel Avadhany of ClearMotion.)

5. The huge amount of money and resources going into self-driving vehicles will lead to many other things besides self-driving vehicles: cheaper and better sensors, more effective A.I. software, and new robotics use cases that we’re not even thinking of yet. (Startup and investment thoughts from Rudina Seseri of Glasswing Ventures, Bilal Zuberi of Lux Capital, Vivjan Myrto of Hyperplane Venture Capital, and Dan Patt from Vecna Robotics.)

Of course, there were a lot of other lessons shared as well. But you had to be there to get the full impact. Thanks again to our speakers, attendees, and hosts—you made the day special for all.

Xconomy’s Jeff Engel contributed to this report.

Photo of Colin Angle by Jeanne Paradiso.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Editor in chief. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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