February 10, 2012      

Liquid Robotics Inc., the company behind the headline-grabbing Wave Glider marine robot, has announced a new advisory board that features such talent as Robert F. Kennedy Jr.; Arthur L. Money, former assistant secretary of defense, U.S. Department of Defense; and Dr. James Gosling, creator of the Java programming language.

Renowned physicist and former NASA astronaut Dr. Edward Lu and former Chairman and CEO of Sun Microsystems Scott McNealy also feature on the eye-popping list of luminaries drawn from the worlds of national security and science. See the full list at http://liquidr.com/files/2011/12/Liquid_Robotics_SAB_12-07-11_Final.pdf

David Bailard, vice president, product marketing and strategic planning at Liquid Robotics, spoke with Robotics Trends to give us the low-down on how the board was put together. He also shared some advice for other robotics companies hoping to attract top talent.

The first people to join the advisory board?ex-Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, U.S. DoD, Marv Langston and above-mentioned Arthur Money?came via an existing connection with Liquid Robotics President and CEO Bill Vass, himself an ex-DoD employee. Vaas also worked at Sun Microsystems, an experience that provided another set of networks for Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Liquid Robotics to draw upon.

Existing contacts aside, one of the most important ways you can attract talent to your company’s advisory board is by having a compelling robotics project and a compelling mission to present to people, says Bailard. ?That’s exactly what happened with us,? he says. ?In one case [that of Java creator James Gosling] we recruited for the board, but the more he learned about the company, the more excited he became, and eventually he asked if he could work with us as an employee.?

Perhaps the best and most direct way to attract top talent to a robotics company is to be clear about the huge potential for robotic technologies, advises Bailard. ?Robotic technologies are tools that can change an entire industry, an entire way of doing things. This is a very exciting concept and one that I think is very fun to talk about and work on. It all starts with the excitement of the technology and the fact that it’s taking hold in so many different applications and becoming mainstream,? says Bailard. ?Other robotics companies could clearly engage with industry executives like this.?

Bailard also advises robotics companies to try attracting a blend of talent, rather than focus on one particular specialty: ?We tried to be very careful about where we recruited members, because we want a wide range of people [who] bring different perspectives to the group. That’s part of what makes the interaction most interesting for the members, and is also most useful to the company.?

As Liquid Robotics readies itself to enter a number of different industry vertical markets over the coming years, the advisory board provides a wealth of experience, knowledge, and new networking opportunities for the rest of the team. ?We needed access to people who understood those different businesses, and could give us advice as to the types of problems that customers need to solve, and where our technology might be most applicable. We’ve been relying on them quite well for market planning advice.

?The board has also been very, very helpful in providing introductions to executives, and companies or in organizations in those vertical markets,? adds Bailard. For example, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an international environmental law expert, provides environmental policy perspectives for the rest of the Liquid Robotics team to draw upon. He (and the rest of the advisory board) receives some compensation for this essential insight: ?It’s not a great deal of money,? says Bailard, ?but we do want to recognize the value that they’re providing to our company.?

The advisory board meets about three times a year. ?It’s not a very heavy commitment for people. We try to make sure that we make the meetings interesting and exciting for the members, both in terms of showing them new technologies, and also exposing them to some of the fun things that we’re doing,? explains Bailard.

The Wave Glider uses wave-energy to propel itself across the ocean, eliminating emissions and refueling missions, and greatly reducing the manpower involved in managing the robot. Designed to cost-effectively collect and transmit data gathered during extended ocean missions (whether over distances of thousands of miles, or while holding station), the Wave Glider can be used for environmental and scientific research. The device can collect data from ocean acidification and fish stocks through to the level of oxygen present in the water.

On November 17, Liquid Robotics launched four Wave Gliders as part of a Pacific-crossing mission called PacX. If the mission succeeds, PacX will create a new record for the longest distance traveled by an unmanned ocean vehicle.

You can follow Wave Glider’s progress here: http://pacxdata.liquidr.com