Origins of Ubiquity Robotics

Ubiquity robotics really originated as an effort by a series of keen and determined enthusiasts to try to build a better robot than existed right now.

We all loved engineering and wanted to spend our time working on engineering projects rather than business ones, and so emerged, what initially was a completely ad-hoc group of keen technical enthusiasts. Many of us had PhDs in related field many of us had decades of experience in building technical products at some of the most technically competent companies in Silicon valley. Most of us were well in to the bonus rounds of life, with no financial or emotional need to launch a new company or product. What drove us was pure engineering delight.

Robotics is a natural field to satisfy this type of craving as it offers compelling, significant, and challenging cross functional problems. Mechanical, electrical, software and supplychain engineering all interact, often in complex and unpredictable ways. So we all felt drawn to this area.

The group got started when one of us shopped around for a robot platform to work with, he concluded that the platforms that existed seemed either very expensive or just plain incapable. Almost all of the products under $500 were weak in both their structure and their computing power. Some in the higher price points had more compute, but still lacked a significant payloads. Only at obscenely high costs did he start to find platforms that suited our requirements. He knew we could do better, he knew that we could help others who needed something better. He knew that by working together we could get further than if we worked apart.

At this point this one person, set a series of 12 challenges. Some of these challenges were whimsical (get a cookie delivered from the front of a maker-space to somewhere within it), but all were driven by real problems that the field of robotics faces. The ultimate goal was to build a robot that could do all the challenges with a BOM of less than $500 so that it could be sold for less than $1000. Some, who themselves were CEOs of robotics companies in silicon valley, said it was impossible.

Initially only a couple of people were interested in the challenges - which was fine, the goal wasn’t to build an empire, the goal was to have fun building robots. But eventually word got out about the crazy guy in a silicon valley maker-space. Dozens showed up, the group grew and grew without stopping. The group was picked up by the press, and an author who wrote books about the magic of Silicon Valley. People started asking about when they could get the robot, and when they could buy it. The initial goal was do fun engineering rather than deal with business problems, so with some reluctance, that the group was winnowed down to those who had contriubed to the robot design (rather than those who had just used the robot) and those with the best technical talent and we started the job of figuring out how we could build the robot so thousands could have it, not just a few enthusiasts.

Ubiquity robotics was born.