Join us on a product walk-through with Robotis, a global robot solutions provider and one of the leading manufacturers of robotic hardware. ROBOTIS is the exclusive producer of the DYNAMIXEL brand of all-in-one smart servos! Join us for an interview with Aaron Park.
Interview with Elad Inbar of RobotLab and Aaron Park from Robotis
Hello everyone my name is Elad Inbar, welcome back to our Channel. I'm the CEO for RobotLab and today I'm here with Aaron Park the head of Robotis. Thank you Aaron for joining us, welcome
Aaron: Thank you for inviting me over today.
Elad: Yeah. Sure. So, we're working with robotics for I would say over a decade now, and you have a lot of really exciting really engaging products. I wonder, I mean we all know about your product, but I wonder a little bit more about the back story where what is, came from, why it started, why focusing on education; if you can share a little bit about that it would be great.
Aaron: Sure. I think that's a good question so from my understanding or from what I heard since I wasn't joining from the initial stage. The company was founded in 1999 by Bill and Mr. Ha. Both are the former champion of the RoboCup. They are both engineers and working as a team and even got the championships to be one of those smoker competitions.
After that experience they really wanted to make a robot that can do many, many things of course and as I look around any robot company they have seen or heard us mainly focus on the industrial robot setting. They thought maybe they can start a company they can make a good components for the any robot builders.
So 1999, I think that's how the company was founded. With the question what is a robot and as you see on my screen, robot is to get a robot test. And from then on they start to focus on a core technology around the servo motor, a known brand known as a dynamic source, and that became the core technology or the base and the foundation of our company.
After 20 years, right now on of course from my understanding all the top hundred engineering schools here in the U.S and of course it's worldwide community, they all love to use our a diner bristles. As we begin or continue to care for the stem education we thought creating a systemic pipeline would be a good valuable thing as a company, and they start to think how can we bring the same technology that our industrial users or the engineers use into the K to 12 education.
So, there has to be many many different product line but with a core I mean with a feel of bringing those technology into k-12 education. They have built from play series someone known these days as a simple motorized, movement to dream more systematic with a curriculum and the workbooks and more modest mini 3D printable integration available to stem, a premium and these days engineer kit and you know we like to be a we call it a hardware platform provider. But these days tomorrow it's a robotic solution provider we like to make not only hardware but both software available to the student as well as to our partners. I don't know maybe I can be more information, but I just want to take too much time of answering this question so I'll just stop here for now.
Elad: No, it's great and so I understand I mean like many other robotics company it started from like University you know like you know professors and students you know working together competing and seeing the excitement seeing you know what can be done with that? That's very great you know a grass root you know base to be to grow from so many you know robotics companies have the same the same story. I believe correct me if I'm wrong this is also the reason why you chose to focus on the education market and not like industrial or other markets.
Aaron: Sure. In a sense although we have a great ambitions kearney really had to find for the business operations of our condition. And of course industrial sector was established by the big players already. And so looking for the business operation because as you know it's not easy for robot company to maintain as a profit-making company,.
Aaron: So, for that reason we've been trying to find whatever the market niche and I think starting from late - that's when our headquarter is base current in Korea. And at the same time the government or the Ministry of Education in Korea start emphasizing more this robotic STEM Education.
And so, I think that's when that triggered us to grab that opportunity where that's our market niche is, something that we can compete against like it's big toy players more a big industry market players. We thought education market was something we can getting into, but of course at the time we didn't realize that that was the kind of a very strategic because we tap into the educational market, once again that gave us a opportunity to cover that pipeline, because the students who use our technology once they graduate, they continue to use our technology especially the lining cells.
In fact, from last 20 years of our business of operation, I don't think we expend, what some dogs bark at me was it because it has been always word-of-mouth people recognized or I like to use, yeah I think that's the answer to your question in there.
Elad: Yeah absolutely so you have a very wide range of products typically companies are like focus on one or two products but you have great you know from the play serious for you know kindergarten level, elementary level, over to you know by Lloyd range of product, over to the platforms, move into college level, we have the you the OP we have the big robot then, manipulators and even the Turtlebot now. So I mean where do you see the most like exciting product? Or you know where the you know the market or teacher the educator the students come back and say we want more of that?
Aaron: You know so I agree with you in a good way saying people say to me oh yeah robotics has a nice product point for every age level. But at the same time as you mentioned because we are covering so many age groups or age level and with many different product line, wasn't easy for us to focus on.
In fact, I cannot discuss too much information but this time. All the current or existing product line we define it as robotics edutainment education and entertainment 1.0 and we are planning to release. We collect robot edutainment 2.0 for the robotics. And starting from September or even early October we are thinking to focus more on the AI as well as a coding aspect.
And one of the complain or some feedback from the customer was well what is forex maybe good but it's too hard or to take too much time of building because it's all construction based. Some people recognize us as the true or hardcore engineering product. But once again, we have a desire to make art part of more available and easy to use so we are planning to release something almost like preassembled, so very less on time of the assembling but give a more opportunity for the student to focus on the coding, as well as, some AI a learning experience such as object recognition to be even B's in processing.
That's kind of planning on our part we're being shifting the gear from edutainment 1.0 2.0 edutainment 2.0 and not that many people may heard about this but our headquarter just became a public company last October.
Elad: Oh, I never knew.
Aaron: So, with the success IPO, what we are also working on is on the delivery robot application. I'm sure you have seen many type of delivery robot going around in the market.
Elad: Today I watched a video; Spirit of Korea.
Aaron: Yeah that's right yeah and the reason is we had a special sandbox clearance for we got a permission by the US city of Seoul to test out this robot in the pedestrian road for the next three years. It's not commercialize yet but we definitely like to focus as a solution provider in the service robot sector as well. That's one thing that's coming out.
Elad: That's great! That's great. I mean it's very interesting to compare notes because you know we see the same shift happening in the market as well, from what is called edutainment robot which is more, you know, make the robot dance a little bit, and you know maybe program will be to you know more hardcore AI hardcore coding. That's where the value is right I mean first guess if you want to teach them good skill that they can go to college, you go to work or apply for any decent paying job in the future. It's way more than just "I made the robot dance, here's my resume". It needs more AI, more coding, more the algorithmic background.
So, this is why we created the AI lab with AI stations and you know one of them is around engineering building your robots. We have a great for engineering so that's definitely like a tectonic shift that we see in the market now. So, can you talk a little bit more about the AI aspect of robot is what's coming up, what can we expect from from Robotis product?
Aaron: Sure. So AI even the word itself is pretty broad term range and and of course people may have higher expectation when it comes to the products. But as we consider and as we experience in even our development there is definitely many things we can offer to the students for the AI experience. As we design our product we start to focus more on the level of the current classroom structure or the student. Until now in a sense we've been building or releasing our product at the eye level of the engineer's, but now we like to really make it more practical and even in a realistic sense or how really meaningful and useful when the students really use this product for the AAI learning.
In a sense we are still so not considering, but on a hard work capability we did our best to have more the division processing aspect as the emphasis because there are many cool or fun or interactive topics that they can get their hands on. But in terms of the curriculums or the Switzer's that we provide with the part of it in a sense still considering what is the best way that's why I like to be mentioned to you a lot or even to you to your team member or even to your customers if there's anything that we can do better to support. I'd like to hear it from your team.
In fact, with the AI focused or / with this edutainment 2.0 coming up, what we are planning is a company is we like to present a platform whether it's a website domain where many students or community members can exchange their ideas. So more like an open-source community, but at the same time be able to freely share their learnings or resources or even some basic code as an examples. We have so many things coming up maybe in the coming Q3 or Q4, but we really like to make not just a product at this time but make solution as web content as well as the learning experience can be enhanced more as a community base. Maybe you can stay tuned and hopefully we can share some more information in the coming days.
Elad: Yeah, definitely, definitely and I encourage our viewers here if you have any feedback, I know Aaron for many years and they're always listen, so that's definitely. So, talking a little bit about code you know the online learning as an educator what type of products or it's called coding languages, I can expect from different age groups what do you support right now?
Aaron: So we at Robotis has been providing our own software a suite like art plus tasks, arts plus motion, many different Robotis, our own customized compiler in a sense. Our initial product or the view was, how can we make this real programming language easier to the students. So, we're trying to make something between based on the real text-based commanding and the GUI and that's how R+Task where I post motion came out.
We recognize that that's still not that easy for the users at this time and currently from our understanding main or the mainstream of the students where the teachers are more familiar the Scratch or Blockly and these days even the maker code so recently we tried our best to make those spreads Blockly or even make a compatible your bottom line. All this upcoming product are still in consideration but now we start to focus on the Python, and because python means in a sense is a base for any AI software related so even engineer kit that we just released starting from 2.
We are providing some Python related content so of course we do have our own dynamics or SDK which is a C++ faced with many different operating system background, but we of course we try to be a so-called non agnostic on controller or the software itself, but still for the educational especially k-12 education our answer will be the Python will be the main focus at this time. And of course, as you go on to the more advanced level gloss Robot IS operating system environment will be the main focus of our part, bottom line.
Elad: Yeah, and I agree, I mean Python is the the fact of the robotics and AI language right now. Every robot out there supports Python, it doesn't matter from the cheapest one to be fifty thousand dollar for one. So that's definitely the right approach. I know you have a lot of really exciting competitions I'm going out there. Can you talk a little bit about that? How, you know, if I'm an educator, I just got your kid, how can I participate? What does it mean or the competitions are being held?
Aaron: Sure. So from my understanding still Robotis is only very limited to a very certain percentage of the student population here in US. As we provide this hardware, we always thought about the way how can you bring more students be able to participate in this type of robotics competitions? So, we've been working very closely with the organization called Steamcup Education. It's a non profit headquarter based in Korea but now have many alliances in I think 14 other countries.
In fact, we are just starting the Steamcup USA sector and I'm in charge for that competition. Competition I think he's very important because that's kind of a good triggering point or opportunity for students to be or really think creative in a sense in the design aspect but at the same time be able to learn from one another as they face the challenge or participating.
So, we definitely have high emphasis of the competitions and in fact we've been participating on the RoboCup, and many people may have heard about that competition. We know the value and the benefits of students being joining or participating in this event, so recently what we are doing or trying to do here in the US and with corona virus kind of going on, there are some limitations about gathering, these large audience people together.
So what we are initiating is a so-called monthly competitions, I mean online monthly competition, and there are many different ways you can participate. But something simple as simply creating your design or a simple robot out of the box, not according to the examples that we present but were creative ideas if they can showcase and maybe capture the processing of building that robot or designing the robot through the YouTube and as long as you submit that like one minute or two minutes video with your presentation kind of aspect, you can be recognized and even awarded.
Elad: Oh. Nice.
Aaron: We are still some up planning stage, but if you if you're interested it you can go to steamcupusa.org hopefully Elad can make a little caption later on or getting some more information, but for those who might be interested joining in I like to encourage the stink up USA that or is a website for your reference. And of course there are many many different type of competitions from pre-kindergarten college level. So you like to encourage anyone who have used any of our robotics product definitely considered to participate in the coming days.
Elad: Yeah, so I mean it's great products, is great content with competitions that support all of that. I mean, it looks like Robotis is right there in the center, in the heart of Education. And it's great you know working with it with you with your products with your you know tools in education. Would you like to mention a little bit about you know the dynamic sell product line for maybe more on the research side or university side?
Aaron: Sure, so if you have not heard about or use the Dynamixels, you've been missing out. Require itself is the best stable it could be little sum up IEC, but if you're considering all the aspects you will see it's not really expensive. Meaning Dynamixels is not just a DC motor but has an encoder is network communication, everything all together in a compact design. So, not only are able to control the speed position and torque, but able to receive many different feedbacks.
In fact, many IEC company the reason they've been utilizing those servo was able to collect many different data in their applications. And Dynamixels has been widely used to all the difference contractors you can name JPL. We cannot disclose where they're has been used, but few of the applications in the space right now also being powered by Dynamixels. And you can name the IT companies.
Elad: I can verify, we're using it in our products, our robotic arm with that we build our Rover with that I built many other projects base.
Aaron: Dynamixels has not really been known to the hobbyist mainly because the price barriers I assume. So we've been trying to produce represents the lower cost. In fact we've been in actively in conversation with many different controller chip makers. As we claim our Dynamixels as a controller agnostic. We like to make our technology of to any two makers as well so it's an MBDA, Capcom, Intell or sorry if I didn't name your company's name but even Arduino or Raspberry Pi doesn't matter. We like to make those compatible and the great thing about Dynamixels, these days with a 3D printing integration, meaning any practical application you can build using the 3D printer.
Because of the pricing point, I know you might have used the more cheaper version of the hobby servos. But if you're really making something useful or practical and require some more of the advanced functions such as a feedback controlling, I strongly recommend to try out our Excel 320. That's one of the low-cost version. We believe dynamixel so can definitely differentiate some of your application that requires any motions. We truly believe this has been one of the great technology that me feel also happy to provide all the makers engineers and developers.
Elad: Yeah. I have to say your robots are great you know showcase for what the Dynamixels platform can do. Like the meme, the one behind you is actually running on the 320 as well. It's a fully functional small humanoid robot which is a great platform for especially beginners. But don't want to spend thousands of dollars to begin with just to practice with the basics of RobotIS. So yeah there, 320 is a great platform.
Aaron: Sure I just want to say this again, thank you Elad for rearranging this tim.e out I do appreciate you for giving us the opportunity. And once again, RobotIS as a company. We might be somewhat short in providing more easier way of approaching or using, but I just want to encourage you to continue to follow us, anticipate the great technology can become more readily, easily available to all the educators and the parents.
Once again, we are main focus is really to hear your voice, and we cannot may be taken action immediately with some limitation on internal level. But our view is always carrying the market and hearing the customers that need, and that's kind of area we some are in short before, but we are trying to uniting that aspect. So once again, your voice and your feedback is very important, so please do feel free to contact us with any questions or feedback. They will all be greatly appreciated on our part.
Elad: Absolutely! We'll include the links down in the description below and if you have any questions I will be more than happy to have to help you know anyone about any product. Thank You Aaron I really appreciate your time in joining us today you have a great product and you know we are more than excited to see what the Robotis 2.0 will bring with the AI and the coding platforms thank you.
Aaron: Thank you