‘David and Goliath’ was the most exciting story in robotics this year. 2013 has seen huge companies showing an interest in robotics, starting with Apple launching Anki live on stage at their global developer forum in June; followed by strategics like Flextronics and Samsung opening seed funds and accelerators; law firms and banks announcing robotics departments; and just about everybody including Amazon announcing drone delivery.
Probably the biggest Goliath of them all is Google’s Andy Rubin acquiring 7 top robotics companies for a secret new complex in Palo Alto, with some more acquisitions still to be revealed. Boston Dynamics coming to Silicon Valley is one of the popular suggestions but neither Boston Dynamics nor Google have responded publicly.
Goliath stories are great for stimulating interest in robotics and investment in robotics companies but if Google is buying them all, where can investors find innovative new robot startups?
Fortunately, there were some David stories in 2013 too. Unbounded Robotics is the best example I know of a small fast moving team doing big things from a short runway. Unbounded are a team of ex Willow Garage engineers who have turned their experience building both PR2 and Turtlebots into the UBR, a new mobile manipulating platform capable of more than a PR2 but at a fraction of the price. Willow Garage transitioned from one big research park into many small startups. Here’s hoping that for every Goliath, there are many more Davids.