Bulletin #6 - Its official: investors like hardware now

Bulletin #6 - Its official: investors like hardware now

Welcome to Bulletin#6 by Remix Robotics, where we share a summary of the week's need-to-know robotics and automation news.

In today's email -

  • A new buzzword for your investment pitch
  • People are not keen on taser drones
  • Laughter is the best medicine for robot failures
  • How realistic are movie robots?


Britain's first fully autonomous crop-scanning service - Small Robot Company will be rolling out their crop-scanning service to 50 farms across Britain this autumn. Their service will allow farms to use 77% less herbicide and 15% less fertiliser. Remix is very proud to have supported them early in their development.

Taser-wielding drone gets the axe - Due to concerns around the potential for indiscriminate use by police forces, fierce pushback from the public and the resignation of its ethics board, Axon, has paused work on their drone-mounted taser system (see last week for more on fear of robots)

Robotaxis soon to be deployed in San Francisco - Waymo and Cruise, two leading companies in the autonomous vehicle space, are looking to deploy robotaxis all over San Francisco as soon as permits become available. Say goodbye to awkward small talk on your taxi journeys!

Humour a key instrument in robotics? - A study has been conducted into the use of humour as an effective recovery method for robot failure. The study found that humour results in positive customer experiences when used in low-severity failure scenarios but makes things much much worse in high-stake situations.  

Detroit hosts Automate Tradeshow - After two decades in Chicago, North America's largest automation tradeshow was held at Huntington Place in Detroit where over 550 vendors showcased their innovations to over 20,000 attendees.

The Big Idea

The latest investment buzzword has arrived - American Dynamism

Investment trends are finally turning in favour of hardware companies. As we reviewed in a previous Bulletin, traditional internet and app-based consumer start-ups are reaching a point of diminishing returns. VCs are joining the real world and are slowly realising that it's not just about bits, atoms count too. This is great news for robotics companies and any company bringing tangible value to the physical world.

A16Z, an investment fund has coined this investment thesis -

"American Dynamism - technologists building companies that support the national interests"

To summarise their argument -

  • Progress is stalling in the US and the West generally - we're in economic decline, technology is stagnating and culture is becoming stale
  • This is a multifactorial problem but a primary cause is an ineffective government that has become slow, bureaucratic, myopic, partisan and any number of other derogatory adjectives  
  • This slowdown is impacting our quality of life across the board - inequality, poor education, national security risk, etc.
  • The solution is to apply the growth and tactics of software start-ups to wicked challenges that support the national interest.
  • These include - aerospace, defence, public safety, housing, supply chain, industrials and manufacturing
“it’s the recognition that seemingly insurmountable problems in our society — from national security and public safety to housing and education — demand solutions that aren’t simply incremental changes that perpetuate the status quo”

Companies at the forefront of this trend include  -

  • Hadrian - Automated manufacturing of high-value parts for aerospace. Summaries here and here.
  • Andruil - Autonomous drones for the military. Summary here.
  • Varda Space - manufacturing chips and synthetic organs in space. Summary here.

It's not all rosy - many of these companies are focused on defence which is always controversial. Also, critics highlight that this trend erodes government rather than strengthening it and that outsourcing our public goods to profit-driven corporates may not be the best idea.

Whatever your opinion, if you're the founder of a robotics start-up you could do worse than riding this trend's tailwinds and using "American Dynamism" in your next VC pitch.


How realistic are movie robots?

What do Iron Man, Spider Man, Black Mirror and Terminator have in common?

Check out Former NASA roboticist, Ayanna Howard, as she discusses the varying levels of robotic accuracy and realism from 11 robot movies and TV shows.

GIF of the week

Say no to taser drones!

Jack Pearson