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    Surgery digitized: Telesurgery becoming a reality

    There’s been a lot of talk around the topic of telesurgery and how far we are from this being a feasible reality. CEO of Asensus Surgical Anthony Fernando says this future is possible through 5G but this infrastructure has to be available everywhere. Moreover, the fundamentals of robotic-assisted surgical practices need to be widespread before we can progress further. 

    Companies like Asensus have taken steps to digitize the interface between the surgeon and patient through “performance-guided surgery”—the convergence of surgical technology and augmented intelligence. Augmented intelligence enables a robotic-assisted platform to perceive (computer vision), learn (machine learning), and assist (clinical intelligence) in surgery—providing a true digital surgical assistant for the first time. So what does that mean for telesurgery, which is beginning to emerge as a realistic concept? I connected with Anthony Fernando, CEO and President, Asensus Surgical, to find out.GN: What have been the primary hurdles (technological, regulatory, and from a market readiness standpoint) to practical telesurgery?Anthony Fernando: Before we delve into practical telesurgery, let’s first take a look at the current surgical landscape to provide context on the evolution of surgery and how we can achieve telesurgery. Currently, approximately, 40% of surgeries are being done open (invasive), 50% of surgeries being done laparoscopically (less invasive, but harder for the surgeon), and 3-5 % are being done robotically (which yields an unquantified improvement over laparoscopy). So, of the three types of surgery, laparoscopy is most common, with many trained surgeons and strong patient outcomes.By augmenting laparoscopy with some of the benefits of robotics, effectively called Digital Laparoscopy, surgeons and patients can experience the robotic benefits while continuing to leverage their laparoscopic skills.In order to enable telesurgery, the interface between the surgeon and the patient needs to be digitized and the Asensus Surgical’s Senhance system has digitized the interface between the surgeon console and the patient side robotic manipulators with an ethernet style communication interface. In addition, the Senhance system’s Intelligent Surgical UnitTM (ISUTM), is the world’s first and only augmented intelligence and machine vision capable surgical system approved by the FDA for use in robotic-assisted surgery.

    So practical telesurgery can be achieved through current Senhance technology, and 5G will allow that, given high bandwidth and low latency, but you need true 5G. It’s not everywhere, in fact it is only in a fraction of US cities. Once 5G infrastructure is widespread, the conversation about telesurgery will be more realistic and we will have to overcome the regulatory barriers in addition as well.  Moreover, the fundamentals of robotic-assisted surgical practices need to be widespread before we can progress further. GN: Practically, what will telesurgery look like in its early stages with respect to types of procedures, necessary personnel and infrastructure, etc.? What would the benefits be of widespread telesurgery?Anthony Fernando: Surgery today is inconsistent. Surgeons of all skill levels, experience, and training perform similar procedures, but have vastly different outcomes. The Journal of Patient Safety estimates that there are over 400,000 U.S. deaths that occur yearly due to avoidable complications arising from medical errors. This accounts for roughly one-sixth of all deaths in the U.S. each year. Technology-assistance surgery vastly reduces avoidable complications by mitigating surgical variability.With a broader, more robust 5G network, widespread telesurgery has the potential to unlock advanced surgeon training, enhanced surgical collaboration, increased efficiency, and the ability to provide healthcare to remote and underserved areas.As I see it, initially telesurgery will occur inside of a hospital where one surgeon sitting in one room performing 2 or 3 surgeries in different operating rooms in parallel while the support staff in each room assisting the surgeon. This could then be at a hospital system level and could expand to a city, state and finally intercontinentally. In a similar fashion a second surgeon or trainee could join remotely and assist as well.GN: How will 5G support or enable the rollout of telesurgery technologies?Anthony Fernando: True 5G technology is necessary for widespread adoption of telesurgery. It’s the high bandwidth of 5G, low latency and attainment of a fast enough internet connection that will permit telepresence in real time and allow the surgeons to effectively work on the patient as if they were in the same room. Large-scale adoption of this could revolutionize healthcare and surgical treatments around the globe – especially in small hospitals and developing areas that don’t have as much access to top notch healthcare.  Coupled with 5G, robotics provide invaluable assistance, allowing procedures to be performed less invasively, reducing complications and delivery times. GN: Robots are being utilized more and more for a growing variety of surgical techniques. Can you explain how the current applications, including your company’s technology, are paving the way for practical telesurgery?Anthony Fernando: Next-level technology completely changes the idea of what’s possible. As technology enhances and changes the world we live in, we’re able to make inroads in a new era of surgery reimagined. Moving beyond inefficiency, unpredictability and outdated technology in the operating room is a new surgical standard.The digital interface between the surgeon and patient is the key to unlocking telesurgery.Asensus is successfully digitizing surgery and building machine learning algorithms and AI that can enable the future of surgery. For instance, the ISU unlocks the power of computer learning to recognize anatomy, leverages image analytics for the first 3D virtual measurement capability in surgery, and harnesses the power of a virtual assistant to facilitate certain procedures in tandem with the surgeon.The ISU also enables computer vision capabilities for the first time in surgery to make for a smarter surgical decision process. This means this technology records an image and applies intelligent algorithms to enhance the surgeon’s ability to meaningfully use information from the surgical field in real-time.Asensus also offers a telemonitoring platform called Senhance Connect that brings surgical peers together, a feature that became increasingly important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Senhance Connect allows surgical peers from around the world to remotely observe a surgical case being conducted on Asensus’ Senhance Surgical System via cameras and communicate with an expert surgeon about the most advantageous practices. For example, a surgeon can benefit from the expertise of a colleague who specializes in a certain operation.GN: Augmenting human capabilities is an important function of surgical robotics. Do you expect human surgeons to be phased out for some types of procedures in the future? What kind of timescale are we talking about?Anthony Fernando: If you think about good surgery, it’s an art. So digital robotics only enhances and elevates a surgeon’s abilities, but by no means replaces the surgeon. But technology should not just be for the elite. Robotics, AI and machine learning are also bridging any lapse in technical skill and creating an “equal playing field” of surgical expertise across hospital facilities. By providing wider access to expert surgeons via telesurgery, these hospitals can leverage AI-acquired surgeon data to improve ongoing training, providing greater consistency, safety and satisfaction of patients. Our goal is to create a digital twin of a surgeon who can always work alongside a surgeon with the intent of taking the best knowledge and best practices from everywhere and enabling it to be leveraged anywhere. More

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    DHL makes massive robot order to keep pace with e-commerce

    The robotics sector continues to see positive growth due to the rising demands of e-commerce during the pandemic. The latest anecdotal proof? DHL Supply Chain, a contract logistics provider, is planning to take on up to 2,000 new warehouse robots by 2022.The robots will be provided by Locus Robotics, with whom DHL Supply Chain has been piloting an ongoing collaboration. The autonomous picking robots rely on machine vision to strategically identify items to be picked and placed on a line. The robots calculate an optimal trajectory and grasping strategy and learn over time. These sorts of robots are becoming more and more common in hybrid human-robot logistics warehouses, which are the engine of e-commerce’s increasingly fast delivery promises.”It is particularly important for us to be able to consistently optimize our supply chains — assisted picking robots are very effective in this respect,” says Markus Voss, Global CIO & COO DHL Supply Chain. “So far, more than 500 assisted picking robots are already in industrial use in our warehouses in the USA, Europe, and the UK. By the end of 2021, another 500 robots are to be added in a total of more than 20 locations. The collaborative picking technology has clearly proven its effectiveness and reliability in modern warehousing. More locations have already been identified with concrete implementation roadmaps for the remaining robots, which we will deploy in 2022. However, the overall potential for assisted picking robots in our DHL warehouses is much bigger, so we are confident that we will meet the targets we have set ourselves together with Locus Robotics.”Earlier this year Locus announced $150 million in Series E funding, bringing its overall valuation to $1 billion. Locus is using the funding to accelerate product innovation and global expansion as warehouses continue to face ongoing labor shortages, exploding e-comm volumes, and ever-greater demand for speed and reliability in their technology deployments. A Locus spokesman told me the company expects that over a million warehouse robots will be installed over the next four years, while the number of warehouses using them will grow ten‐fold.The current generation of picking robots can be swiftly integrated into existing warehouses, drastically reducing the time it has traditionally taken to onboard industrial robots in arenas like manufacturing.”Our expanded partnership with DHL reflects the increasing demand for warehouse digitalization worldwide to meet today’s exploding fulfillment challenges,” said Rick Faulk, CEO, Locus Robotics. “Locus is proud to be a valued technology resource that is helping DHL realize their strategic vision of digital transformation.”For DHL’s part, the move is likely a matter of adaptation as a matter of survival. The pandemic has only accelerated e-commerce’s swift rise and growing customer demands. In addition to robots, DHL Supply Chain has incorporated software and cockpit solutions to give the company real-time information on the status of the global service logistics network of their customers. In a familiar cycle, demand is driving need for ever-greater efficiency, and we’re currently witnessing an arms race for who can adopt the correct technology cocktail fastest. More

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    AI transcription company becomes unicorn

    A transcription and captioning company is the latest to join the unicorn club. Verbit, which has developed an AI-centered speech-to-text process that’s highly accurate, has closed a Series D worth $157 million on a valuation in excess of $1 billion.

    “The transcription market has been ripe for innovation. That’s the initial reason why I founded Verbit. The shift to remote work and accelerated digitization amid the pandemic has been a major catalyst for this $30 billion industry and has further driven Verbit’s already-rapid development,” said Tom Livne, CEO and Founder of Verbit. “Securing this new funding is yet another milestone that brings us closer to becoming a public company, which will further fuel our expansion through strategic acquisitions and investments.” The company’s total funding is now over $250 million, perhaps a surprising vote of confidence for a company that focuses on the surprisingly mundane (and heretofore largely human-powered) task of translating speech to writing.If that sounds simple, it’s not. Spoken language is incredibly difficult for a machine to interpret accurately. The rise of voice recognition technology and the power of machine learning to parse spoken language with help from immense datasets has helped Verbit make important advances. AI-only transcription is still far from perfect, but companies are increasingly relying on AI for a first pass at transcribing audio.As we recently reported, Verbit has been making moves to corner the market through acquisition. Verbit recently acquired VITAC, a company focused on communication accessibility via captioning, which is responsible for captioning hundreds of thousands of programming hours each year, with clients including every broadcast company and most cable networks, as well as Fortune 1000 Corporations, educational institutions, and government agencies.That broad customer base points to the prolific market for transcription and captioning services, which helps explain Verbit’s eye-popping valuation. Verbit has seen 6x year-over-year revenue growth and close to $100 million in annual recurring revenue.”With their hybrid transcription platform bringing together innovative technology and a network of over 30,000 transcribers, Verbit has forged a winning combination of AI and human intelligence,” said Jai Das, president and partner at Sapphire Ventures. “The company has had unparalleled growth akin to some big, well-known companies out there and we’re very impressed by the team’s ability to achieve a unicorn valuation in just four years. We’re looking forward to continuing to be part of this exciting journey with Verbit.” More

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    Price check! Big brands turn to in-store drones to peep products

    If you live in a handful of pilot regions around the country you may already have seen shelf-scanning robots in your local grocery stores. But shelf-scanning drones?That’s one option that will be available to major brands—including Circle K, General Mills, and Johnson & Johnson—in a series of new partnerships with Pensa Systems, which is developing autonomous technologies, including drones, that use computer vision and artificial intelligence for retail in-store data and analytics.Pensa is also celebrating an $11 million in Series A, bringing total funding to $28 million.”We are thrilled to see increased uptake of our approach to detecting stockouts and optimizing the store shelf in the new omni-channel world, and we are excited to leverage our latest funding round to scale our go-to-market efforts to meet rising global demand,” says Pensa president and CEO Richard Schwartz.Autonomous shelf-scanning technologies are meant to increase efficiency by solving for the $1.75 trillion “ghost economy,” defined by out of stocks, inaccurate price execution, and lack of product location optimization industry-wide. Terrestrial robots like Simbe’s flagship Tally robot can be deployed to autonomously roam aisles at grocery stores and other outlets to tackle the problem of poor stock management, which is so pervasive that inventory mishaps account for more lost revenue than theft.Pensa takes a different approach. Unlike its competitors, which utilize ground-based robots, Pensa is using cell phones and aerial drones to move its visual perception platform around store aisles. One advantage of drones is that they’re far less expensive to customize and deploy than it would be to develop an autonomous mobile robot from scratch. Pensa’s drones utilize brace cages around the propellers and look a bit like flying science fair projects.Pensa now works across multiple retail formats like grocery and drugstore channels, and is now expanding to convenience stores such as Circle K. 

    “Major brands and retailers are realizing that Pensa has the best answer to the trillion-dollar problem of in-store visibility, which has only become more acute with the explosion of omnichannel,” said Chris Shonk, managing director of ATX Venture Partners. “Pensa’s patented and frankly groundbreaking AI approach and novel use of automation is generating at-scale primary data and analytics for the first time in this last true black box of our modern economy.”According to a spokesperson, other investors in Pensa include James McCann, former CEO of Ahold USA, Carrefour and Tesco in Europe, via the Food Retail Ventures fund, as well as Commerce Ventures, Revtech Ventures, ZX Ventures, the corporate investment arm of Anheuser-Busch InBev, and other retail sector and technology funds and well-known industry leaders. More

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    Drones with exoskeletons face off in soccer challenge

    Much to the chagrin of aspiring pilots, drones will certainly play a leading role in many forms of aviation in the not-too-distant future. So how do you build a talent pipeline of kids who know how to fly and repair drones?

    Kyle Sanders, US Drone Soccer vice president and former US Air Force combat pilot is seeking to do just that by educating students in robotics, coding, and aerospace. Drone Soccer, which according to a spokesperson looks a lot like Quidditch from the Harry Potter books, was introduced in South Korea in 2016 and has moved to the US as an educational and fun sport. So how do you play?”Drone Soccer is an educational sport where students must first learn how to build, program, fly, and repair high-performance drones,” Sanders tells me. “The competition itself is an exciting full-contact sport, these drones have a protective exoskeleton and are designed for collisions. Equal teams of 3v3 up to 5v5 play inside a netted arena and it is an accessible game for new players, with growth opportunities through college programs and even the World Cup. Our first test events took place in Colorado at the Space Foundation in Colorado Springs and Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum.”The first Drone Soccer tournament in North America will take place in Colorado Springs, CO this July. As a veteran, Kyle has a background in aerospace education and is working with local institutions to create a U.S. Drone Soccer curriculum that provides equipment, training, and lesson plans to the schools adopting the sport.”NASA just landed the first flying drone on another planet with the Mars Ingenuity helicopter,” says Sanders. “Students can see that drones are the future, with new and unexpected applications in every industry. It’s also a way to earn money and launch a career at a young age.”But, cautions Sanders, the path to a future in aviation has never been so obscure.

    “There is a huge talent gap where students are intimidated away from science and technical career fields. Speaking as a former pilot, there are hundreds of aerospace careers besides just operating the controls. Our program introduces them to all of the fast-growing opportunities and skills they could pursue such as 3D modeling, small-scale manufacturing, computer programming, robotics, and flight operations. Wings Over the Rockies has training camps all summer where students are really diving into these topics and opening doors to future careers.”Colorado Springs’ Coronado and Mitchell High Schools will serve as test pilots in Colorado Springs, potentially ushering in a new generation of top guns. To make sure this sport is available to all students, a combination of federal and state funding is used.”Colorado is the site of our first test league, and we’ve worked closely with educators and administrators in Colorado Springs and Denver,” Sanders explains. “Colorado Springs District 11 enrolled the first two high school programs with Coronado High School taking second place at our first student tournament. School districts are eager for a comprehensive drone program that meets their classroom and career preparedness needs. They want to prepare students for this exciting new field. Enrollment is open for the upcoming school year, and we’re adding new schools every week.”Colorado Springs already plays an important role in U.S. aviation as home to the U.S. Air Force Academy, five military installations, and over 250+ aerospace and defense companies in the region.”Aerospace and defense companies are eager to work with local economic development groups like the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC and city and state governments to attract tech talent and train the next generation of leaders in this space. Drone Soccer is a double win to keep kids learning in the summer, or after school, and to encourage these students to learn more about aerospace, coding, and engineering fields.” More

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    Do AI-powered food robots put human jobs at risk?

    Throughout the pandemic, there’s been major interest in contactless, automation-driven consumer experiences in the food industry. Robots like Flippy from Miso Robotics, an autonomous line cook, and Briggo, a robotic barista, are gaining purchase among customers whose attitude toward automation has been rewired amid fears of contamination and an expectation of rapid service.What’s clear is that the robots are coming to the food industry. The food robotics market, estimated at $1.9 billion in 2020, is expected to reach $4.0 billion by 2026. Advances in robotics and AI, coupled with operational cost advantages and major consumer and retailer shifts, are driving the food industry to more rapidly embrace automation. So what does that mean for human workers?I put the question to the CEO of Blendid, a company whose first product is an autonomous juice kiosk that uses robotics, machine vision, artificial intelligence, and fresh ingredients to create customized smoothies. Vipin Jain, who co-founded the California-based business, disagrees with those who claim that robots put human jobs at risk in the food service industry. As a robotics advocate, Jain clearly has a stake in how his company’s robots are perceived. Still, his answers are an insightful peek at how robots are being sold to businesses and consumers and what the future of food service may well look like in the months and years to come.GN: What’s your sales pitch to partners like Walmart and Jamba, who may not have had integrated in-store robotics before?Vipin Jain: Our conversations with partners usually start with the business opportunity — robotic platforms like Blendid offer a new way to serve their customers while strengthening their brand offerings. Blendid brings fresh food options that are healthy, delicious, personalized to a consumer’s unique taste and preferences, and available any time of the day. We unlock the full potential of food service. And Blendid does all this while making it cost effective for consumers and economically very attractive for operators. Our robots are win/win for all! GN: Contactless is obviously having a moment. What are the other benefits to businesses and consumers of a robotic kiosk?Vipin Jain: We think the surge in interest is here to stay. The excitement around robotics in the food service industry goes well beyond the current contactless craze. Robotic food kiosks offer a wide range of benefits to both the operators and their retail guests.  

    From the operator’s perspective, the benefits of deploying autonomous robotic kiosks such as Blendid are all tightly tied to supporting their business. Automated robotic food platforms provide cost-effective and efficient fresh food options, opening the door for 24/7 operation with very minimal downtime to quickly restock fresh ingredients. The ability to offer fresh food in areas where it may not make operational sense otherwise, due to a small footprint or low traffic, opens new revenue streams. In fact, we’ve provided businesses (operators) with a very attractive unit economics – with cash-on-cash return of less than 18 months … almost unheard of in the food service industry!And from the perspective of their guests, the number one benefit that Blendid offers is easier access to healthy and delicious food, at odd hours of the day when there aren’t many food options. We see this at Walmart where more than a third of our sales are in after-hours. Consumers enjoy the safe, contactless ordering and order-ahead capabilities so they can schedule their order in advance and pick it up exactly when they want it. Better yet, that food can be customized to their unique taste and health preferences at affordable prices. Customizing food is normally extremely costly and time consuming with human operators, but easy with robots. Those cost savings are then passed on to consumers.Robots also add a bit of fun, we could even call it retail food entertainment. Consumers (adults and kids alike) LOVE watching our robot make their drink, pour it, and deliver it to them, right in front of their eyes. And when our robot has a little free time, it can even dance to some popular tunes! It builds confidence in food preparation while bringing a little delight in an otherwise busy or stressful day.GN: Clearly one of the things missing here is the human server. But it sounds like you think robots like yours aren’t a threat to humans, who will continue to play an integral role. Can you elaborate?Vipin Jain: The human server element continues to be a challenge for the food industry. Food service operators have been struggling to properly staff their operations for years. This was a major issue before the pandemic and has become worse post-pandemic. People who were doing entry-level food preparation or line cook jobs have moved on to other jobs such as driving for DoorDash or Amazon or working in construction, services or at other tech companies. In many areas, thousands of minimum-wage, food preparation jobs are going unstaffed, which is slowing down the recovery for food operators. This is where robotic food automation can help. Robots can handle the routine work, and humans can lead the interactive and specialized skill work – such as daily restocking and cleaning, interacting with consumers, deploying, monitoring and servicing robots, and building or programming these robots. Some of these jobs require minimal training and can provide better pay and lifestyle.  Adding robots into the mix might also help entice food service workers to jump back into the workforce as it adds a layer of support for some of the more tedious jobs — who wouldn’t want to say they work with robots?!?In addition, big stores like Walmart or franchise operators like Jamba are in a constant battle to recruit, train and retain staff — especially when it comes to food service and food prep roles. The robots add a layer of consistency that can help reduce the costs and headaches often associated with trying to fill (and repeatedly refill) these roles.The shift to embracing robotics in the food service industry is not about robots taking away jobs; it’s about robots filling jobs that can’t be filled and then opening up a range of new jobs for humans. Like with any technology advancement, roles and opportunities will change, but there will always be a need for human workers. We believe human capital is too precious to waste on routine and repetitive tasks.GN: Do you think your customers, as well as consumers, are more primed for consumer-facing robots than they have been in the past? Where are we in the adoption curve and what do you think will happen over the next, say, five years?Vipin Jain: Absolutely. Automated food solutions were growing before the pandemic, but the COVID-19 crisis poured gasoline on the fire. Business continuity became a challenge for many food service and retail companies. Suddenly businesses had to figure out how to offer food safely in a contactless manner and cost effectively.  The pandemic has pushed up the timeline considerably.  Based on the exponentially growing interest Blendid is receiving from prospective operators worldwide, mounting staffing challenges, and robotics cost reductions, I expect food robots to be pervasive within 5 years.  What used to be forward-thinking has become the current-thinking. This is the new “normal” for food service.  More

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    Texas proving grounds to test AI in the real world

    How do you test out how AI will interact with physical systems in a real-world environment? If you’re SparkCognition, an infrastructure-focused artificial intelligence (AI) company, you build a physical laboratory and testbed and let your engineers go wild.The company announced the opening of what it’s calling HyperWerx, an autonomy facility that will help showcase the potential of AI integrated with physical systems and a proving grounds where SparkCognition and partners can throw some high tech spaghetti at the wall.These types of test beds have a long lineage in robotics labs like Willow Garage and with engineering playgrounds like Bell Labs. In a sector that’s often thought of as software-first, this kind of embodied testing is an important step in bringing AI to the real world.”When you work with technology as nebulous as software, it can be challenging to visualize exactly how AI and physical systems will work together. Beyond that, it is simply not possible to develop new physical applications without the experimentation, testing and safety validation process,” says Amir Husain, Founder and CEO of SparkCognition. “With that in mind, we conceived HyperWerx – a place where we can truly explore the interplay between AI software and the physical systems, which I believe will be a core driver in shaping the future of society.”The new facility sits on 50 acres in the greater Austin area. One of the key areas of focus will be robotics and aerial vehicles designed for infrastructure inspection and other tasks, including commercial and defense applications. HyperWerx will allow SparkCognition to deploy and test complex sensor payloads. It will also be a useful testbed for the company’s SkyGrid platform, a joint venture with Boeing designed to be the world’s first aviation operating system built on AI and blockchain. The company has big plans for AI technology for applications like defense via SparkCognition Government Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary devoted to government and national defense.”As technology progresses exponentially, our physical world is increasingly intersecting with the digital world – and exploring the fusion of hardware and software has never been a greater imperative,” says Steve Nordlund, Vice President and General Manager of Phantom Works at The Boeing Company, and Chairman of the Board of Directors at SparkCognition. “With the launch of HyperWerx, SparkCognition is proving its ongoing commitment to bringing the potential of AI to life, solving real world challenges facing its customers and partners.” More

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    Robot maker acquires conversational AI startup

    Makers of a robot named Moxie, whose 2020 launch was largely drowned out in the early days of the pandemic, are betting conversation will be the key to unlocking market viability. The recent acquisition of a conversational AI company will give Embodied a leg up in pursuit of that goal.The recent acquisition by Embodied of Kami Computing crystalizes the former companies ambition to be a dominant player in human-machine interface technology.”The next big wave in technology will be driven by human-machine interfaces,” said Paolo Pirjanian, founder and CEO of Embodied. “Kami’s technology helps us continue developing category-defining technology to create social emotional robots that have the power to fight the loneliness epidemic and change people’s lives.”An educational robot designed for children may seem an odd entry point for a company dedicated to advancing conversational AI. But Embodied is betting children are the perfect early adopters for conversational AI technology, which isn’t quite ready for prime time but which is coming close—close enough to pass muster with a five-year-old.As an Embodied spokesperson recently pointed out, Amazon Alexa’s challenge is to create 20 minutes of general conversation. Embodied claims it can now maintain on average 25 minutes of engagement with its users repeatedly. It does this via Moxie, a bulbous blue robot that sits on a tabletop and has an emotionally expressive face and movements. The robot is designed to behave like a believable, life-like character the company calls Animates. The robot is meant to provide emotional support, social support, companionship, and coaching.The acquisition of Kami will allow embodied to continue accelerating its work pioneering human-robot interaction. The early stage startup has developed innovative technologies around conversational AI, machine learning, and natural language generation (NLG). It was founded by Tel Aviv based Guy de Beer and London based Dr. David Levy, who together with a team of 12 scientists developed a generative voice-based conversational agent. It’s product is an artificial persona capable of human level open domain conversations, with a natural tone of voice, long-term memory, advanced cognition, and emotions. Embodied plans to integrate the technology into its SocialX platform, which is meant to enable children to engage with Moxie through natural interaction (i.e., facial expressions, conversation, body language, etc.), evoking trust, empathy and motivation as well as deeper engagement to promote developmental skills.

    “We’re thrilled to join Paolo and the Embodied team as they embark on the exciting journey to change the future of robotics through lifelike, believable human-machine interaction. Our conversational technology will have an outstanding impact on interaction with Moxie as well as the development of future projects,” said Guy de Beer, Founder and CEO of Kami Computing.But if children are the target audience for now, it’s a safe bet Embodied has its eyes on a broader market as human-machine interaction becomes a reality in the market. More