The robots are coming… but when? (Ep 497)

A new platform promises to make building a robot as easy as crafting a smartphone app.

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If there’s one thing humanity needs right now, it’s robots. Our oceans need cleaning up, our roads need maintenance, and many restaurants and farms can’t find enough staff. We technologists better get building the benevolent robot custodians that are ultimately going to make our lives better by filling potholes and picking up our trash.

You’ve likely been hearing this same robotics keynote at conferences, promising useful automata that will walk among us, for the last 20 years or so. So how come we don’t see them anywhere in our everyday lives?

Today’s podcast episode explores why the barrier to entry for developers in the robotics industry is so steep. Our guest, Eliot Horowitz, CEO & founder at Viam and former founder and CTO at MongoDB, shares his vision for a future in which it’s just as easy for developers to create robots as it is to craft a smartphone app.

Episode notes:

Despite our long held fantasy about the future of robotics, the technology is still far from mainstream.That’s because the amount of effort needed to get hardware to do useful things at scale is…well…hard.

When Eliot started Viam, his goal was to address this challenge by creating software that supports a range of hardware builds out of the box.As the company explains - “we’re addressing these issues by building a novel robotics platform that relies on standardized building blocks rather than custom code to create, configure and control robots intuitively and quickly. We’re empowering engineers – aspiring and experienced – across industries to solve complicated automation problems with our innovative software tools.” Viam announced the release of its public beta earlier this week.

While Eliot elaborates on his vision for Viam, Ben reflects on his time covering drones for The Verge and working on robotics at DJI.

Inquisitive badge winner, Neeta, gets props for asking well-received questions on 30 separate days.

Follow Ben and Eliot on Twitter.


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