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by   -   August 23, 2013

AUVSI returned to D.C. for 2013.

AUVSI returned to D.C. for 2013.

Amidst a climate of fiscal austerity and vibrant debates over the growing importance of unmanned vehicles in foreign policy and homeland security, the 2013 AUVSI Unmanned Systems Conference returned to Washington, D.C., last week after hosting the 2012 event in Las Vegas. The event was not without controversy, however, as activist group Code Pink held a demonstration outside the venue and disrupted a keynote address. The show itself was a tale of two storylines as the exhibit hall demonstrated that applications for defense and law enforcement are still the lifeblood of the unmanned systems industry, while the technical program and panel discussions pointed to a growing interest to move into commercial industries. Here’s what you missed:

by   -   July 8, 2013

Over the last 20 years or so, a sense that science has become conservative or incrementalist has developed, and calls for change in the approaches to public funding of research have been heard from various quarters. Several notions have been suggested of what should be supported instead of “normal science” or “incremental innovation.” Among them we have heard calls for more “high risk-high reward” research, or for more “highly creative” science, or for more “cutting edge” or “frontier” research and, more recently in language adopted by funding agencies, that more “transformational research” is needed.

by   -   June 18, 2013

Food drone delivery ideas are taking off all over the place. But is it a business or just an advertizing stunt? Tacocopter was one of the first although still more of a theory than a practice. Stanford Robotics Club is carrying on the mission and delivering subs to students. Joining the ranks are an African beer drone, a UK pizza delivery copter and an aerial sushi tray. The OppiKoppi beer drone will be parachuting beverages to music festival attendees.

by   -   May 4, 2013

This article outlines the problems of today’s phone and online help systems and offers solutions to conversational systems of tomorrow. The article is about the design of hearts and minds for robots, considers the virtual voice as a legitimate robot, and takes a fast pass at the psychology of robot-human interaction.

by   -   May 2, 2013

Researchers from the Wyss Institute and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard have developed a millimeter-scaled insect robot that can autonomously control its flight. Their findings were published in the prestigious journal Science. The amazing high-speed video below shows the robot taking off, hovering in place and steering left and right on demand. Controlling such small flyers has been impossible so far because of challenges in fabricating tiny actuated systems, and the chaotic movement of small flapping-wing robots. You’ve seen a fly move around your living room, doesn’t seem easy to control right?

by   -   May 1, 2013

IntuitiveIntuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG) is a prime example of how robotics is similar to other IP intensive industries like software, biotech, and entertainment.

In December my colleagues and I produced a valuation of Intuitive Surgical.  Below is a representation of our model of the asset structure of Intuitive Surgical in our forecast.  

by   -   April 19, 2013


New funding sources for robotics seem to be popping up everywhere. Today’s launch of Genesis Angels, the new $100 million VC fund, which is based in Israel but operating globally, is hot on the heels of the EC announcing that the next tranche of robotics investment is likely to be more than €600M ($774M).

by   -   April 15, 2013 days it is hard to read an article about the future of robots that does not include a reference to jobs. As a pure roboticist I object to the constant connection between the two, but as a concerned citizen I think it is a very worthwhile discussion.  Since the year 2000, the US has lost more than 6 million manufacturing jobs — that is more than 1/3 of all direct manufacturing jobs in the US and the fastest drop in a single decade on record.

by   -   April 12, 2013

Do industrial robots really have a positive impact on employment? Of course they do and there are over 50 years of data proving that to be the case.

by   -   April 11, 2013

During my Master studies in computer science, I had the opportunity to spend a year at Carnegie Mellon University in the USA. Most of my classes there were about robotics, I got to participate in Robocup and see QRIO dance. That year abroad is what got me into robotics. My logic at the time was that I would never find a job in robotics, it was too futuristic. My only option was to dive into the world of research and academia.

by   -   March 13, 2013

For the rest of this week, Robohub will have a special focus on the use of robots in warfare. 

All kinds of robots are being developed for strategic defence and military action (in space, in the air, underwater and on the ground). At Robohub we’ve had the opportunity to cover a wide range of them, including exoskeletons, transport mules such as Big Dog and DARPA’s LS3, and video reconnaissance systems such as iRobot’s Packbot. But by far the most talked about military robotics technology is the UAV.

by   -   March 6, 2013

This article looks at the arrival of systems such as Siri, Google Now, and Watson and claims that these systems are the search engines of the next decade because they mine intimate data.  Since they integrate search they will replace search, as well as a host of other interface and information retrieval functions.  This offers an outline to both the personal benefits and privacy risks.

by   -   February 21, 2013

Before I start bashing bankers, I’d like to congratulate the ExOne Company on a successful initial public offering (IPO).  I haven’t seen much about ExOne [NASDAQ:XONE] on the robotics sites, but if we’re calling Stratasys [NASDAQ:SSYS] a robotics company, we should call ExOne a robotics company.  It is wonderful to see another company in our industry succeeding and listing their stock in the public markets.  Hopefully, this will encourage more investment of both capital and entrepreneurial energy in our industry.

Last time I checked 26 is a lot more than 18.

Last time I checked 26 is a lot more than 18.

[Image Source:  Google Finance]

By the criteria of the market commentators, the ExOne IPO was a huge success.  You can Google things like “3D printing red hot.”  The IPO was priced at $18, at the top of the range $16-18, it opened around $26 before shooting up over $33.  Almost a week later it is trading roughly at its opening price.

Now this is all fine and dandy as far as it goes, unless you were an ExOne shareholder.  One shareholder sold 300,000 shares in the IPO.  This shareholder transferred a gain of $2.4M to some connections of the underwriters–great if you know the underwriters, not so great if you’ve built the company from nothing.  This shareholder is getting $5.4M, less fees and discounts–call it $5M–from the IPO, so $2.4 is not exactly a rounding error.  Presumably, this shareholder is also more inclined to build companies with the capital than whatever speculators are hovering around the IPO.  Similarly, the company lost out on $40M of capital that could be invested in projects.  Think about that!  The company is worth less than $350M and the IPO mis-pricing cost it $40M of cash.  Cash!  That is cash that could be invested to grow the company and make even more money.

I’m not familiar with the track records of FBRBB&T, and Stephens, the underwriters for the ExOne IPO, but I’d think twice or three times about hiring them if I was making an initial offering.  They seem to have not only underpriced the IPO, but also floated too much of the company–almost 40%.  Underpricing the IPO might be tolerable if the bankers had only floated 5-10% of the company.  To raise additional capital, the company could have done a secondary offering once the stock had a well established market price instead of getting ripped off during the IPO.  However, the large offering certainly did do one good thing for the bankers: it increased the underwriting fee.

It is hard to explain an IPO price that is so far below the fair market value of the company.  There are a lot reasons why bankers and even executives try to justify under pricing an IPO, but giving-up over 10% of the firm’s market value in a single transaction is really hard to justify no matter what.  Some small part of the economic gains from listing publicly could be given to financial intermediaries and incoming investors to get a deal done, but giving up more than 10% of the company is excessive.  These new shareholders have no restrictions on ownership and are quite likely to flip their shares instead of taking an active roll in growing the company, which seems to further erode any claim they might have to extraordinary gains.

If my company ever goes public, I hope I’ll have the good sense to hire Morgan Stanley–because unless an underwriter is involved in litigation for overpricing an IPO, how can you be sure they’re any good?  Heck, they even give discounts.  What’s not to like?

UPDATE:  This post is adapted from the original posted on following the ExOne IPO.  At market close on March 4th, a bit less than a month after the IPO, ExOne shares were priced at $27.26–more than 51% over the IPO price and very close to the opening price.

by   -   February 19, 2013

I’ve read a wide range of reports and single-topic reviews about the presentations and about some of the exhibitors at last November’s RoboBusiness Leadership Summit held in Pittsburgh. I didn’t feel that any of those reports truly captured what I saw and thought. I was there for the whole thing. So what did I see and what do I think? What stuck in my mind?

by   -   January 15, 2013

In my opinion, the International Consumer Electronics Show used robots gratuitously, out of context and without benefit to robotics companies. It’s a category problem more than anything else and is repeated across consumer electronics, media and popular culture.

CNET used robots in the showreel for the “post mobile future of technology” panel, yet didn’t discuss automation or artificial intelligence. CES used robots in their general showreel, playing in all the shuttle buses and PR for CES2013, and yet buried the “robot tech zone” at the back of beyond. It would have been good to see the poster robot, Amp, in production or in person. But also, there were far more robots out of the robot zone than inside it. Robotics has jumped the shark. Consumer robotics is alive and well, but it doesn’t resemble the PR.

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