Transforming Robotics Focuses on Human-Centered Solutions Rather Than Humanoid Appearances

It is, after all, a lot easier to generate press for robots that look and move like humans. For a while now, Collaborative Robotics founder Brad Porter has eschewed robots that look like people. As the two-year-old startup’s name implies, Collaborative Robotics (Cobot for short) is interested in the ways in which humans and robots will collaborate, moving forward. When his run with the company ended in summer 2020, he was leading the retail giant’s industrial robotics team. AI will, naturally, be foundational to the company’s promise of “human problem solving,” while the move away from the humanoid form factor is a bid, in part, to reduce the cost of entry for deploying these systems.

Humanoids have certainly taken center stage in the world of robotics. Their human-like appearance and movement make for an easy sell in the media. However, the effectiveness and scalability of such designs has yet to be fully proven. In contrast, Collaborative Robotics, founded by Brad Porter, has taken a different approach – steering away from creating robots that mimic human form. Instead, the company is focusing on developing machines that possess human-like reasoning capabilities.

As suggested by its name, Collaborative Robotics, or “Cobot” for short, is interested in exploring the potential for cooperation and collaboration between humans and robots in the future. While the company has not yet revealed its system, Porter previously shared that it will not be a humanoid or a traditional mobile manipulator mounted onto an autonomous mobile robot (AMR).

However, the Cobot system has already been deployed in select locations. According to Porter, the initial placement of the robots earlier this year, in addition to the recent $100 million Series B investment, are significant milestones in bringing cobots with human-level capabilities into today’s industries. “We envision a virtuous cycle, where increasing numbers of robots in the field lead to improved AI and a more cost-effective supply chain,” Porter explains.

The company’s plans for further implementation of their system have been further bolstered by the recent funding round, which raised a total of $140 million for the Bay Area firm. General Catalyst led the investment, with participation from Bison Ventures, Industry Ventures, and Lux Capital. Teresa Carlson from General Catalyst will also be joining the company in an advisory role.

Cobot also boasts an impressive team, including former employees from Apple, Meta, Google, Microsoft, NASA, and Waymo. Porter himself spent over 13 years at Amazon, leading their industrial robotics team before his departure in 2020.

During his time at Amazon, the company became one of the top drivers and consumers of industrial robotics globally. Today, their iconic AMRs serve as a testament to the efficiency of combining human and robot workers.

While AI will undoubtedly play a crucial role in Cobot’s vision of “human problem solving,” the decision to move away from the traditional humanoid form is also a strategic move to lower the entry cost for deploying these systems. With such a strong foundation and talented team, Collaborative Robotics is well-positioned to revolutionize the future of human-robot collaboration.

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Ava Patel

Ava Patel is a cultural critic and commentator with a focus on literature and the arts. She is known for her thought-provoking essays and reviews, and has a talent for bringing new and diverse voices to the forefront of the cultural conversation.

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