If you love the idea of developing automated equipment and machines, then you’re not alone. More and more startups are using their coding and application specialists to develop robots and drones for consumer markets. This isn’t a new industry, but it is one that has suddenly seen an injection of interest from a new generation of computing experts.
Robotics has been around for many decades. Primarily, robots have been used in large machine manufacture like the automotive industry. They are precise, they don’t tire, and they can manage safely with heavy loads. Historically they have been blamed for ‘stealing’ jobs. Now that the focus of attention is back on automated services and machines, this same argument has come to fore.
So how can you make a profit from an industry that is receiving so much bad press from consumers? Is it possible to make automation attractive enough to generate sales? Can you easily move from commercial sectors toward consumer markets as a startup venture anyway?
Moving to consumer markets is easier than you think. In fact, there are more and more ways to fund this kind of venture than ever before, thanks to crowdfunding initiatives. Making the move from a commercial background can help a great deal. If you’ve had experience in the commercial sector, chances are you’ve already developed bespoke or customized equipment from standard components readily available on the market.
If you’ve designed robots before, you can do it again. You simply need to think like a consumer to help you develop the next big idea. What is proving popular in the holiday sales that use all the same components you’re already working with? Typically, manufacturers use items like a 2 phase hybrid stepper motor, servos, drivers, and arms. Each of these items can be used in children’s toy robots, domestic drones, remote-controlled devices like robot vacuums or cars. In fact, the only limit to applications is your imagination.
Robots are always popular with children and young people. But it is the development of robots that are proving most interesting to adults right now. You just have to scan through the TV listings, popular literature, and movies to see there are several running themes.
Humanizing robots are an important topic of discussion. This goes beyond building them to resemble the human form. More and more people are keen to have human conversations with them. This is where your team of coders comes in.
Artificial intelligence is a huge area that could help you generate a profit. The applications are again seemingly endless. From children’s toys that learn and respond, to domestic ‘helpers’ that know how you like to arrange your mantel ornaments. It seems you can turn your business to any number of applications. So how can you get started without throwing years and all of your money at research and development?
Start with what you already know. Consider your future products as stepping stones from where you are now to the imagined future you hope to reach. Here are just a few of the products that are already on the market or just emerging. Each of these are at a pre-saturation point, but as more companies develop their own versions, you will need to move quickly:
Robot vacuum cleaners
There are a number of start-up companies that purchase components and then assemble them for this type of product. The product itself is useful. It solves the problem of time-loss from domestic chores we hate. The essential functions are self-control, good cleaning results, and self-charging. From these basics, you might develop or refine other functions. Reliability is essential when looking to robotics. Automation has to be guaranteed. If the product doesn’t do what is promised, your business reputation could be damaged.
From the humble cleaner, you could adapt your tech to mow the lawn. Not many of these robot lawn mowers exist for several reasons. The first is safety. There will obviously have to be a very sharp blade involved. How can you be certain it won’t cut a pet, child, or cable? The second is weatherproofing. Can you protect the machine from a passing downpour? The third is theft. An automated machine left out can easily be stolen. It might even take a wrong turn and disappear down the street!
Robots are engaging, assuming they are interactive. Coding is an incredibly important skill that children today must learn for the future. Many toy robots on the market offer the opportunity to put basic instructions to the test. Spelling, maths, and other basic educational essentials are also usually offered. These toys need to be robust, and they need to have many programs or games to keep a developing child engaged.
Many of these toys are underused and underdeveloped. Movements are limited and challenged. Everyday domestic items like carpets or furniture become obstacles. Parents are keen for educational toys to be developed, but the price seems too high for something that doesn’t offer much. If you have a good idea for a toy that offers more educational opportunities for a child, you might be able to find a good-sized market. Consider where the robot’s movements might apply.
Today’s drones are equipped with video cameras. These can capture amazing aerial shots most humans can never experience for themselves. This makes them enormously appealing. This new view of the world is novel and fascinating. Best of all, there are now so many drones on the market, the price has come right down. They’re affordable, relatively easy to operate, and fun. So where can your company step in?
The downside of drones is that many operators are breaking the law by using them. There are strict restrictions on their use near buildings and aircraft paths. They can be incredibly distracting and dangerous. And should one of these fall from any height, they can kill. What is the future for these flying robots? Greater policing seems likely. There might also be an opportunity for greater functionality.
Stepping into a consumer market from your commercial routes is possible. It’s important not to jump on the bandwagon though. Find your niche, stick to your strengths and find a gap with a future.