AN INTERVIEW WITH VLADIMIR BELYY
Humanoid AlphaBot – Created to Replace You at Dirty Work…
The first series of robot will be small – 5-10 pieces. About that much pre-orders got our company. Some “personal assistants” are going to buy rich individuals. Two robots in various modifications (on the legs and a mobile platform) have been ordered by Viktor Vekselberg for “Skolkovo”. Now we are discussing the functional load of the robot – what can we trust them to do: to clean up the floor or serve the buffet table. According to Bely “Skolkovo” needs robots for the image mostly.
After all, who else but a robot, is now the embodiment of the technological revolution?
“There is not so much tangible Innovation that you can meet in Skolkovo – says Mr. Belyy.
– For example, all that relates to the nano, not visible for the human eye. However, the robots themselves still need the promotion, because this market only starts. Attitude to the household robots as to expensive and prestigious toys is quite natural – and young manufacturing companies can use it. No accident the first use of spectacular anthropomorphic robots – is to serve “exhibition part”, emphasizing the technological advancement of the owner. So, the first pieces of large robots from “Android Technique” have been acquired by Russian Railways (for the railway museum) and by “Uralvagonzavod” (for exhibitions). But the situation will not remain so for a long time.
Soon, according to Belyy robots must move beyond a narrow “specialization” – the military and entertainment use. Scope of the robots is boundless. In the near future robots will enter our hoses to make it comfortable. And then it goes on shopping centers, airports, railway stations, schools, hotels and museums. Attempts of our colleagues from other companies to give the robot a maximum similarity with the person Vladimir Belyy finds meaningless. “In terms of appearance the robot should be like an household appliance, though beautiful and glossy. Full simulation of human irrelevant here: people will always reject it on an intuitive level, there is a lot of research about that”. Imitation of intelligence – is quite another matter.
The development of artificial intelligence in “Alpha Smart Systems” even separate area, which has already received several grants, including those from Microsoft. Now Vladimir Belyy is very passionate about the creation of the system of recognition of human emotions. “One day – he says – I needed for the project to hire new staff, but I got sick and could not attend the interview. Then I asked my assistant to talk to the candidates instead of me, and I watched the whole process through the Skype. Evaluating the reaction of competitors to the various questions, I realized that we can the same the computer. “So there was a project Human Reader. Interestingly, the request to use such product after numerous presentations of the project came from areas far from the robotics. Now Belyy is negotiating to collaboration with the corporation Samsung. There interested in the idea of using technology in televisions with the Smart TV and other devices. “Close the time when the TV can be turned on with a wave of hands without the remote, and the program it will select itself, depending on the mood of the owner.”
One of the first orders the company performs for a Russian bank, wishing to automate the process of assessing clients on micro crediting. Customer flow is high, amounts are small, so you can at least partially entrust scoring to the machine. So far the product is far from mass production, individual orders, but very soon Belyy expects massive demand, which is confirmed by requests from the market. “This is not a lie detector, it is rather the detector of truth – he explains. – From its predecessor, it is different, and does not require the presence of an operator who makes his human errors. Vladimir saw another niche, which promises to be challenging. The fact that the various parts of the robot – for example, arms and legs as well as “technical vision” (eyes) – would be useful to people with disabilities.
“With the first batch of robots, we will begin testing this project – expects entrepreneur. – We will work with people with disabilities who receive our free devices, and we will able to do the research. ” Vladimir Belyy is sure that every year the robots will be closer to the end consumer, freeing up the “human factor” for a more intellectual and creative tasks. In his opinion, the physical labor in the near future gets the status of a hobby: the robots will do all the hard dirty work for the people. Mankind must use their resources for something more significant. – If you give people the opportunity to save their lives from routine operations at the expense of powerful robotic tools, things will change for the better. ”
Robotics will evolve according to the scenario of the motor industry – said Vladimir Belyy. One hundred years ago, small workshops were assembling cars in small batches to fulfill individual orders for the fabulous price, until Henry Ford came up with how to turn the car into a commodity of mass consumption, which ultimately changed people’s life. Such changes robotic developers should make in the human life and on the market. Development of consumer robot Alphabot “Alpha Smart System” plans to complete in a few months in order to by the end of the year produce the first small party. Alphabot designed as modular. Components can vary depending on the functional load. Due to its versatility robot will eventually have to compete with todays robots such as vacuum cleaner, mowing lawns, and other specialized machines. Alphabot will have a light, agile, energy-saving, easy for humans design.
Particular bet Vladimir Belyy makes on design, which has developed by himself, being advised by psychologists. “As Alphabot designed to serve human life, there are should be no aggressive features which are so fond of creators of fantastic movies. The robot must fit ergonomically into the interior and have the most friendly look. The fate of the robot in the coming years, Vladimir Belyy sees that way: the mass production of robots will reduce the cost, and in a few years they will settle permanently in the product category “premium class household appliances” … It is possible that over time the competition will force manufacturers to get away from monetization through the sale of customer robots – and they will give away robots for free.
The company expects to produce “easy to change” software with which the user can add to one’s robot new skills on the part of work about the home. It is likely that when the market goes up, then our business will be selling “jobs” for the robots as separate applications that users can purchase and download at the online store as well as the service. Speaking of robotics, Mr. Belyy likes to refer to the well-known book, “Blue Ocean Strategy”, which in 2005 have published Chan Kim and Renee Moborn from international business school. The authors call for all the businesses to rush out of the “red ocean”, the inhabitants of which bleed in a fierce competition, to the “blue ocean” of new market niches and segments.
Consumer robotics, according to Belyy’s statement, is now just a “blue ocean.” In the world of about a dozen projects with commercial perspectives. But not all the players in reality have results that they claim. There is a lot of self-PR in this area of business (as well as confidential information), but not enough investment. Anyway, the market is just being created, which gives a chance to even a small company like ours to claim 10-15% of the world market. Vladimir Belyy has engaged into robotics in the early 2000′s, along with his friend and previous business projects partner Permyakov Alexander, the owner of “Android Robots” (now called- “Android Technique”). By working with the company of his friend, Belyy has worked on a variety of areas: in marketing, sales, project management, event management, with the participation of robots (eg, fighting and dancing championships with anthropomorphic robots). The company supplied imported robots, and performed military contracts for research and development (starting with the first developments designed for ammunition disposal).
Last circumstance imposed certain obligations. For example – when you create a robot to use components from Russian manufacturers. “There were other limitations associated with the State secret – remembers Vladimir Belyy. – But for me any kind of a “recognizance not to leave” were very uncomfortable. Besides, I always wanted to make robots for an open market, and not only of Russian components. Wind up with the fact that Mr. Belyy decided to found his own company and by the personal funds to start developing robots. However, a partnership with Alexander Permyakov he retained until now: “Alpha Smart System” favored by his distributor, and uses laboratory of “Android Techniques” in Magnitogorsk for collaboration. However, orders for parts and electronics for the robot Belyy plans to place in China, and headquarters would open in New York. It does not make sense for innovative companies to rely on the local market only, as well as producing all the components by itself. Vladimir Belyy did not hide the fact that the development of full-size anthropomorphic robots was unwittingly prompted by the Japanese.
In 2006, in the “Android Robots”, when a delegation of the company went to Japan, with the idea of an agreement with the corporation to lease Honda’s Asimo, in order to show this miracle of technology in Russia. Japanese robot was not given. The rejection was followed with something like: “Aborigines in Russia do not need robots!” – Says Belyy. – It was very disappointing. But it was a good motivation: we realized that it was a perfect time to make our own human-height anthropomorphic robot!”. Indeed, after that was built the Russian anthropomorphic robot AR-600 – during very short period of time. For Vladimir Belyy it was a good school project work and helped to formulate the principles of domestic robotic development: not to give in to the scale of problems. Robot development hampered not by the technical, but psychological barriers.
“The Japanese are working on Asimo for 22 years now and have already spent more than $ 300 million, is it possible to repeat their results within nine months?” – exclaimed employees.
“The tension reached its peak during the final assembly that had to be completed within two weeks, – says Vladimir Belyy.
– This race is explained by the fact that we definitely wanted to show the robot to the President of the country – at the National Youth Innovation Convention in 2008. “We did it, and showed the robot and the president even shook hands. The fear of developer of the complex technical problems, according to Vladimir Belyy should be removed using the “decomposition” of large tasks into smaller ones. And sometimes do not even inform professionals about the ultimate goal of the task, not to plunge into a psychological dissonance. Because, for example, “the development of the computer vision” sounds complicated, and “controller which enables the camera to follow the user” is perceived as an elementary task. “This technique is very effective, – says Belyy. – Ultimately, everyone did their small, highly specified part, and generally it turned to a decent result”. However, the technical challenges that are currently facing the robotics, has another side – talented developers respond to them and appear to join. The backbone of the team “Alpha Smart Systems” is formed special way business “on the verge of fantasy” that constantly pulls like-minded enthusiasts willing to co-operate.