Cyber Talk Radio: Robot Security with Plus One Robotics

Bret Piatt, CTR Host, and Erik Nieves, CEO of Plus One Robotics - Episode 125 of Cyber Talk Radio

This past Saturday, February 16, episode 125 of Cyber Talk Radio hit the air on 1200 WOAI and iHeartRadio streaming. I was joined by Erik Nieves, CEO of Plus One Robotics to discuss the complexities of building robots.

We start off the first segment talking about building hardware and software for robots. I introduce Erik, a full-time robot geek who even did his undergraduate work in physics. He’s got quite the robot resume: He spent 25 years working for a welding robot company, and then decided to come back to Texas in 2005 to work at the Toyota plant for the robot provider for the facility for 10 years. Then, he decided to start his own robot company! Many of the processes in the auto manufacturing assembly line are robot friendly. Plus One Robotics makes fixed robots, which are the same type of robots you would find on the automotive assembly line, however, he taught an old dog new tricks. They now focus their robots on manufacturing and supply chain. Since the mantra of Plus One Robotics is “people are better than robots,” how do you tackle the complexity of creating robots for very human tasks? There is a labor availability crisis in the ecommerce/packaging industry with the rise of quick delivery and shipment requirements. Plus One Robotics started in 2016 and was bootstrapped until 2017, when they got some initial investors and then raised another funding round in 2018. One of Erik’s main tips for startups is to find investors that understand the problem you are solving. We then chat about the three elements of robots: the eyes, the arm and the hand. Plus One Robotics is “robot agnostic,” which means they make software that is modular and works well with all robots. Plus One Robotics makes the vision piece — software that develops the PointCloud — that analyzes it and makes the decision of what’s next to go pick, called the PickOne Perception system, which works similarly to the tomato picking robot in the agricultural industry.

After the break, I ask Erik a pressing question: How far away are we from having Rosie the robot from The Jetsons? He thinks we are likely at the least 50 years away from that. All of the technologies that would have to be created in order for that happen is a lot of work. The industry is always looking at Rosie as a goal for the future, but there is still plenty of work to do before they get there. Currently, robots do not have the perception, the ability to coordinate two hands, among other things. Where robots are generally the stupidest thing on the factory floor, we don’t want to replicate that for the house. People are qualitatively better. We discussed the abundance of robot commercials during the Super Bowl. In the U.S., we grew up with media that gave us a fear of robots. We need to get rid of the robot apocalypse mindset. Robots have limitations that will not allow them to take away human jobs, and instead they will give us the ability to unlock human creativity by taking over the dull, monotonous tasks. We discuss an amusing example of a robot-operated hotel in Japan, where the robots ended up causing so much headache that they effectively fired half of the robot staff and ended up hiring humans. Humans covet interpersonal relationships and want to interact with another human, especially in the service industry, like hotels, restaurants, etc. Because robots are so naive, there is also a security concern there. Is Erik concerned with hackers getting ahold of your software/robots and causing amuck? The future of this industry is not just mechanical, and two important things are cloud connectivity and cybersecurity. That’s why Port San Antonio is a good fit for Plus One. Security is an important element of where they are going next. For customers, an information security policy is important. Lastly, we discuss the potential for robotics and drone technology to be more widely and practically used.

Listen to the full episode replay to learn more about Plus One Robotics and how they are building robots for the manufacturing and packaging industries.

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