& Fall Network Event


Silicon Valley Robotics celebrated becoming a 501(c)6 organization last night with full house network event and the launch of the new website. While the Silicon Valley Robotics group has been meeting regularly since 2010, this more formal ‘business league’ structure will allow for better representation. The new website, directory and mail list will help promote and grow robotics in the Northern California region.

Director of Robotics at SRI International and Acting President of Silicon Valley Robotics, Rich Mahoney welcomed everyone to the event and announced that SVR will be starting a membership drive ahead of 2013. We welcome founding members and sponsors, like Bosch, Adept, SRI International and Willow Garage. Last night’s event was hosted by robotics cinematography company, Bot&Dolly, at their studio and workshop on Mississippi St, San Francisco. More than 65 people attended the evening, which featured speakers from Bot&Dolly, Meka & Redwood Robotics, Bossa Nova Robotics, Otherlab, BeatBots and some short films from the Robot Film Festival.

The Bot&Dolly Kuka camera and projection arms and Iris Motion Control System opened the evening with an intricate performance. (Powerpoint looks totally last century after you’ve watch a synchronized moving presentation!) Jeff Linnell, founder of Bot&Dolly, talked about their growth as a function of developing the  right user interface for a market segment. Bot&Dolly continue to simplify and stretch robotic control systems to work with film makers, artists, musicians (and anyone else who wants to be able to easily make big robots do things).

Jeff Linnell (center) with Puck, Gilda, and Rosie (robot arms)
photo Gabriela Hasbun (from Wired Magazine – Mathew Honan April 19, 2010)

Aaron Edsinger, founder of Meka and Redwood Robotics, described his quest for the next generation of robot arms, afffordable, adaptable and safe for working in close quarters with humans. Redwood Robotics is a spin off from Meka, SRI International and Willow Garage, which launched earlier this year and aims to bring personal robotics a step closer by making arms cheaper. The democratizing of technology was a common theme in the evening’s presentations.

Martin Hitch, CEO of Bossa Nova Robotics, gave us a teaser for their forthcoming home robot. Still in stealth, the robot will actually be unveiled at RoboBusiness in October. Aiming at the nascent household robot market, Martin credits Bossa Nova’s experience as a toy company with their ability to convert a $50,000 research platform into a $200 consumer robot.

Pete Lynn and Kevin Simon, of Otherlab showed some videos of their inflatable robots. While still in the research and development stage, the robots made a massive impression! Where inflatable robots may lack fine motor control, they more than make up for it in power to weight ratio and safety around people or animals. There is also a significant material cost saving for robots or prostheses incorporating inflation.

Marek Michalowski, founder of BeatBots, concluded the event with a description of several projects from MyKeepon, Spazzi for Make Magazine, Zingy for EDF Energy, to the New Artist (art by robots for robots) and the annual Robot Film Festival curated by Marek and Heather Knight of Marilyn Monrobot.

To join us for the next network event (Nov/Dec tbc), please subscribe to our mail list. Or contact Andra Keay, Acting Managing Director of SVR. @svrobo


Silicon Valley has 2 of the top 5 engineering universities in the world.

California has 3 in the global top 5 (with 7 in top 50) ! As the US has a total of 22 universities in the engineering top 50, then California is responsible for about 1/3rd of the USA’s dominance in the field. At least according to the statistics compiled by The Times Higher Education and Thomson Reuters, “World University Rankings 2011-2012”, which I would expect to be globally balanced.

Hardware is hot in Silicon Valley

Sign of the new era: Apple earned more profits than Microsoft in 2011 for the first time since 1990 (Photograph by Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images)

Excerpt from an excellent article “In Silicon Valley, Hardware Is Hot Again” by  and  on July 05, 2012 in BloombergBusinessWeek.

For decades, the accepted wisdom of the Valley was that the best way to get rich was to build software. By hooking the world on Windows and Office—and outsourcing the low-margin business of building, selling, and servicing computing hardware—Microsoft created an extraordinarily profitable business and became the world’s most valuable technology company. Oracle followed the same playbook in the world of data centers, as did Google in Web search. IBM (IBM) prospered after selling its PC business to China’s Lenovo in 2004, enabling it to focus on corporate applications and consulting gigs. The model for hardware manufacturers became Dell (DELL), which innovated mainly by figuring out how to sell commodity gear more cheaply than the other guy.

“They all thought they could get someone else to do the hard work,” says Hartmut Esslinger, founder of Frog Design, which helped create the first Apple (AAPL)Macintosh computer. The idea that a 20-month-long design and production process could be handled by assigning a couple of engineers to find a Chinese factory “was just too easy and seductive,” he says. “Now they’re realizing that their hardware partners don’t have the vision to create anything holistic. And meanwhile, Apple is eating their breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”

Xconomy: Future Of Robotics

Wade Roush Xconomy 4/12/12

Faster than anyone expected, it’s going to be May 3—the day we’re gathering an amazing group of roboticists and entrepreneurs for our first forum on The Future of Robotics in Silicon Valley and Beyond.

The event takes place from 1:00 to 5:30 pm at SRI International in Menlo Park, CA, and features representatives from 10 robotics labs and companies inside and outside Silicon Valley. Of course, there will also be plenty of time for networking and meeting the presenters. I’m excited to share the full agenda for the forum, which is now online here.

Our goal for the forum is twofold. We think robotics is going to be one of the foundational technologies spurring economic growth in this century, and that U.S. companies can lead the charge. So first we want to to highlight the amazing work going on at some of the Bay Area’s most interesting robotics companies. But just as important, we want to look at how the innovation process is working on a regional level. Specifically, we’re going to ask why Silicon Valley lags behind other areas, such as Boston and Pittsburgh, when it comes to the number and density of robotics companies, and what can be done to change the balance.

To find out what ingredients go into building a successful regional robotics industry, we’ve invited two very special guests from the Boston area. One is Helen Greiner, the CEO of CyPhy Works and the co-founder of iRobot, the famous maker of military robots such as the Packbot and consumer robots such as the Roomba. In addition to being the guiding spirit behind an informal “robotics cluster” in Massachusetts, Greiner is a key member of the National Robotics Roundtable, which is working with the Obama Administration to bolster U.S. leadership in robotics.

We’ll also hear from Mick Mountz, the founder and CEO of Kiva Systems, which made news recently by becoming Amazon’s latest big acquisition. Mountz will talk about the robots and software Kiva has developed to revolutionize the way warehouses work. (For a fun preview, watch this video of Kiva’s robots doing the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite.) The event will be a bit of a homecoming for Mountz, who was an executive at grocery delivery company Webvan and, before that, a product manager at Apple.

Other highlights to mention:

James Gosling, the creator of the Java programming language, will talk about his latest gig as chief software architect at Liquid Robotics. The company’s unmanned Wave Glider robots are breaking distance records for ocean exploration and giving researchers new ways to get at problems ranging from fisheries management and climate change to tsunami warnings and harbor security.

PR2 from Willow Garage

—Two top executives from Willow Garage, CEO Steve Cousins and director of open source development Brian Gerkey, will be on hand to tell us about the company’s unique strategy for boosting robotics innovation across academia and industry. Willow Garage, with backing from ex-Googler Scott Hassan, has built a modular humanoid robot called PR2 that makes it easier for researchers to test the performance of advanced hardware and software for tasks like grasping objects and navigating real-world environments. At the same time, it’s leading the development of the Robot Operating System, or ROS—a kind of Linux for robotics designed to serve as a foundation for faster innovation in the field.

Rich Mahoney, director of robotics for event host and sponsor SRI International, will talk about SRI’s research and develoment in areas like medical telepresence robots and biomimetics, and about his own efforts to spur collaboration in the region’s emerging robotics industry through Silicon Valley Robotics. And serial entrepreneur Charlie Duncheon will tell us about one of SRI’s most recent spinoff companies, Grabit.

—The next Earthling to set foot on the Moon will probably be a robot. Tiffany Montague, a former Air Force officer who manages space initiatives at Google, will be at the event to update us on the Google Lunar X Prize, a competition designed to spur commercial innovation in robotics by offering $20 million to the first privately funded team that can land a rover on the lunar surface, drive it 500 meters, and bring back high-definition video and imagery before the end of 2015.

—We’re lucky to be joined by John Dulchinos, CEO of Pleasanton, CA-based factory automation company Adept Technology, and Aaron Edsinger, co-founder of Meka Robotics, a San Francisco-based builder of parts for humanoid robots.

—Finally, Seattle transplant Yoky Matsuoka, a MacArthur Fellowship winner and former University of Washington roboticist who recently joined “learning thermostat” maker Nest, will share views from her pioneering academic work on neurorobotics—systems that could enable humans to control robot parts through neural input.

I hope to see you at SRI on May 3. Act today to get a ticket for the event at the saver rate of $110. Starting Friday you’ll have to pay $145—unless you’re a student, in which case you can can get in for $20, or an employee of a company under three years old with 20 or fewer employees, which means you’re eligible to register at our startup rate of $50.

Wade Roush is Xconomy’s chief correspondent and editor of Xconomy San Francisco. You can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter at

Robot Block Party – pix & stories

Links to stories and photos from the Silicon Valley Robot Block Party @VAIL Stanford April 11 2012.

headlining Stanford Report April 16 2012 – see the full article which includes the video below

featured on CBS, NBC and KTVU:


Contact andrakeay[at] if you have more links/stories/pictures.

Robot Block Party – job fair


Looking for a career in robotics? Come to the Job Fair at the Robot Block Party at the  Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab at Stanford from 1 to 2pm on Wednesday, April 11 2012. The job fair is a new initiative at the popular Robot Block Party in celebration of National Robotics Week. From 1 to 2pm, the Robot Block Party doors are open to students and postgrads who are considering a career in robotics. Robotics is a growth industry with great potential for careers in a range of disciplines, including design, psychology, biological and physical sciences, mechanical, industrial and electrical engineering, AI, mathematics and computer sciences.

See the robots on display and talk to roboticists from some of California’s cutting edge robot companies and research labs. There’ll be representatives from: SRI International, Adept, Bosch, Willow Garage, AUVSI, Silicon Valley Robotics, MLB Drones, Beatbots, Ologic, The Robot App Store, Precise Automation, RoboGames, California Academy of Sciences, and others may include: Neato, Ekso, Tibion, Barobo, Restoration Robotics, KLA Tencore, Honda, Intuitive and NASA. Robotics companies are hiring!

After the job fair, we’ll celebrate robotics with displays ranging from Mars Rovers from The Tech Museum to middle school robot projects. The Robot Block Party is hosted by the Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, pioneers in the field of robot ethics and the law, and organized by SVRobotics, the forum for California’s dynamic robotics cluster. As a part of National Robotics Week, April 7 – 15, 2012, the Robot Block Party celebrates the contributions of Silicon Valley to the development of robotics and aims to spark general interest in science, technology and mathematics.

Finally, the Robot Block Party showcases DIY robotics and fabulous robot art, featuring robots from the Homebrew Robotics Club, various artists/makers/roboticists and school robot projects from FIRST Robot Competitions. For more information, contact Andra Keay 925 344 5925



Robot Block Party – more information


Watch out for robots wandering around Stanford! In celebration of National Robotics Week, Silicon Valley’s Robot Block Party returns to the Volkswagen Automotive Innovation Lab at Stanford Wednesday, April 11 2012, from 1 to 6pm.

There’ll be wonderful robots on display ranging from Mars Rovers from The Tech Museum, to middle school robot projects. Cutting edge robotics companies represented at the Block Party include industry leaders like Adept, Bosch, Willow Garage and researchers from SRI International and the Center for Automotive Research. Smaller startups are also on display, like MLB drones, the Robot App Store and Beatbots, who created the lovable dancing robot toy ‘Keepon’.

The Robot Block Party is hosted by the Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, pioneers in the field of robot ethics and the law, and organized by SVRobotics, the forum for California’s dynamic robotics cluster. As a part of National Robotics Week, from April 7 – 15, 2012, the Robot Block Party celebrates the contributions of Silicon Valley to the development of robotics and aims to spark general interest in science, technology and mathematics. This year, the Block Party opens with a Job Fair from 1 to 2 pm, where university students and graduates who are considering a career in robotics can talk to the leading Bay Area robotics companies. Robotics spans many disciplines, including design, psychology, biological sciences, mechanical, industrial and electrical engineering, AI and computer science.

Finally, the Robot Block Party showcases DIY robotics and fabulous robot art, featuring robots from the Homebrew Robotics Club, various artists/makers/roboticists and school robot projects from FIRST Robot Competitions. For more information, contact Andra Keay 925 344 5925



Other companies or organizations at the Robot Block Party include:
MLB Drones
The Robot App Store
Precise Automation
FIRST Robotics
FIRST Lego League
Robot LaunchPad
Homebrew Robotics Club
California Academy of Sciences
and tentatively many more… if you are not yet involved and wish to be, please contact Andra Keay 925 344 5925