Welcome to Robotics Business Review?s new webcast series for 2014. Our March 27th offering in this year?s online series: Consumer Robotics.
Join me, Tom Green, editor in chief of RBR, together with my special guests, Rob Daley, CEO, and Henry Thorne, CTO, the co-founders of 4moms.
We?re going to take a special look at the consumer robotics marketplace of today and what might be in store for tomorrow.
We?ll ask the owners about the unique way in which 4moms is delivering its robotically-inspired, brand of juvenile products?cribs, carriers and car seats?that are shaking up the $3B juvenile marketplace.
Homecare, healthcare, medical care, yard care, personal care, education ware, hobby ware or just-about-any care or ware, consumer robotics is on the move.
Make no mistake about it, consumer robots are knocking on the doors of millions of homes around the world. They?re knocking and we?re letting them in; and if we are not letting them in, then they?re making a real good case as to why we should.
By the year 2020, some prognosticators are claiming at least one robot will be in every home in America and Europe as well as in a big chunk of Asia. That?s one heck of a lot of consumer robots.
And these new household machine-pets do more than entertain or babysit the kids for us.
You name the household chore?especially the ones we hate to do for ourselves?and a robot is there to assist us: from vacuuming our floors, to cleaning our windows, to keeping our swimming pools clean.
Google has an idea to let them drive our automobiles, maybe even take our kids to school; and if the kids are sick and can?t attend school, there?s a telepresence robot that will attend for them?and it won?t need a lunchbox.
Panasonic has a salon robot that washes hair; 5 Elements has one that goes grocery shopping; there?s even one that?ll help grandma eat.
And now a seeming host of companies are rolling out 3D printers towards our homes?offering us what?s called additive manufacturing. Robots that can replace your front walk or put up a garden wall, even build that summer house you?ve been thinking about?all from designs that we?ll download from the likes of Better Homes and Gardens?or, if we want to, design ourselves.
If we so choose, we won?t even have to own these machines; we can rent them like rug shampooers from Lowe?s or Home Depot. They’ll be our part-time, steel-collar workers that plow our driveways in winter or rake our leaves in the fall?or perform whatever temporary chore we have on our to-do lists.
Smaller 3D printers are ideal for home hobbyists and household repairs, like cranking out a replacement sink faucet that looks and performs as good or better?and cheaper! ? than a Kohler designer faucet costing upwards of $175 bucks!
Already 3D printers are on the job in industry making everything from baby bottles to hand guns; soon they?ll be in our basements and garages making who knows what. Talk about cottage industries: this is it in spades, and it?ll be enormous.
Maybe it?s the beginning of a new Industrial Revolution in reverse direction?going from factories back to homes again. The social implications of that are beyond profound and, to many, downright scary.
?The times they are a chang?n,? sang Bob Dylan; and when it comes to consumer robotics, you bet!
Speaking of time, how long does it take consumer technologies to penetrate households? Ever faster is obvious from this chart:
What about robotics?
Will consumer robotics keep knocking or will it bust in or gain entry in an unexpected way? How long will it take for this next phase of consumer technology to gain penetration?
- How is robotics today entering into the consumer space? What are the key products and which are the important verticals?
- Where?s it all headed? Using 4moms products as well as others as examples, in the next 5 years what kinds of robotics/robotics-enabled products can we expect to see hit the marketplace?
- Advice on how best to market robot devices as consumer products. Address the stigma of the word “robot”. Is it a help or hindrance in marketing to call a product a robot?
There was plenty of discussion at the Consumer Electronics Show about using ?robot? to describe a consumer product. How has 4moms addressed the prevailing mindset in naming and categorizing its products?
About Rob and Henry
Rob Daley, Co-founder and CEO
As CEO, Rob sets the vision for products and oversees the day-to-day operations of the company. He believes corporate culture is one of the greatest determinants of success and spends a lot of his time shaping and reinforcing the culture at 4moms.
Rob?s ultimate goal is to build a great company that cares about more than just financial gains.
He secured a multi-million-dollar strategic investment from Newell Rubbermaid, which owns the 4moms? largest competitor, as well as $20 million in capital from Bain Capital Ventures.
Under his leadership, 4moms has grown to a passionate team of more than 110 people with products distributed in 42 countries around the world.
Prior to co-founding 4moms in 2005, Rob had 14 years of experience working with early stage companies in the venture capital and investment banking industries.
Rob is a graduate of the University of Virginia and received an MBA from Northwestern University ? Kellogg School of Management. He currently lives in Pittsburgh, Penn., with his wife, Jennifer, and two sons, Camden and Hayden.
Henry Thorne, Co-founder and CTO
As a roboticist with more than 33 years of experience, Henry wanted to use his expertise to spearhead an industry where he would directly enhance people?s lives.
With his passion for robotics and co-founder Robert Daley?s vision, 4moms was born. In his role as CTO, Henry leads all product development and testing for the company.
Henry became well known in the robotics industry after inventing Cye in 1999, the first personal robot that could vacuum a house and carry 15 pounds of goods.
He had been a Senior Engineer at General Motors where he programmed bulky robots to weld the frames of models such as the Buick Regal, Pontiac Grand Prix and Chevy Cutlass Supreme.
Prior to co-founding 4moms, Henry founded Aethon, a leading maker of automated robots for hospitals. He is a longstanding and current board member at USA Ultimate.
Henry is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, where he received the Carnegie Science Entrepreneur Award and continues to have an active relationship with the university and its students.
He currently lives in Pittsburgh, Penn., with his wife Karen. Henry met Karen playing Ultimate Frisbee in college, and 30 years later, the family shares nine national and world titles.