Brain Corp is a San Diego-based AI company creating transformative core technology for the robotics industry. Brain Corp’s comprehensive solutions support the builders of today’s autonomous machines in successfully producing, deploying, and supporting robots across commercial industries and applications. Brain Corp is funded by the SoftBank Vision Fund and Qualcomm Ventures.
Can you tell us a little bit about Brain Corp?
So Brain Corp was established in 2009 and started as a consultancy department within Qualcomm in San Diego, where they worked on A.I. for robotics for the first five years. After five years in 2014, our CEO, Eugene Izhikevich, wanted to live his dream which was building brains for robots and make the world a better, safer place where robots help people do their jobs more effectively and efficiently. We have been doing that since 2014. After doing market research, we came to believe that the cleaning industry was one of the most receptive for change. So we decided to work with OEM partners to create commercial cleaning robots with our BrainOS software. We raised capital in 2017 and our team grew from around 30 to 40 people to around 300 today. In 2018, the first orders from Walmart came in and then we have been scaling rapidly since then. We currently have more than 14,500 BrainOS-powered robots. And in 2019, we started an office in Europe. And now, a year and a half later and we’re growing fast to meet demand.
Do you find that robotic cleaning is seen as more important in certain countries and the adoption is greater in certain countries than others?
Yes, obviously, we started in the US where we saw lot of adoption. Europe is a little bit behind that. If I look back a year and a half ago when we entered the European market, there was still a lot of pushback against deploying robots. We’re now at a stage where there’s a lot of interest. More people have begun to see the purpose of the robots in real environments. Uptake is currently highest in Western Europe but definitely in the coming years we will see this spread out to other regions in Europe.
Can you tell us a little bit about your management team?
Brain Corp has brought together an immensely strong team of specialists. We believe in the power of having the right team, the right people in place to drive innovation forward. Eugene, Brain Corp’s CEO, is a world-renowned neuroscientist. Company CTO, Jon Thomason, is a recognized leader in AI and self-driving software, bringing three decades of experience at companies like Uber, Oculus VR and Amazon.
Our people need to have the flexibility to be creative and that is an important part of the company culture. The way we are structured ensures that people are able to do their best work.
What is the mission of the company?
The mission of the company is obviously to have an increasing number robots in areas of industry where our platform can provide value. We believe that robots can help people do their work better, more safely and with more satisfaction. A lot of the work we are doing with the robots is repetitive work. We are able to do the heavy lifting with robots and free up people to do more specialist cleaning tasks that need a human touch. They are able to spend more time cleaning the high touch surfaces, so that the workforce or the consumers feel more comfortable in high traffic environments. People can also focus more on customer service or customer interaction.
How can your products assist innovation in other sectors?
We started off with cleaning robots and have now also launched auto-delivery machines. These enable stock to be brought from storage areas to shop floors autonomously. Again, staff can be better utilized stocking shelves with products delivered to them. We are also doing shelf scanning to track stock levels in a store. This functionality can be combined with cleaning robots whereby machines will run through the store and tracks shelves while they clean.
You are in a number of sectors such as retail, health care and education malls, commercial offices and warehouses? What other areas are you going to be going into?
We are now in almost every sector where a robot can be deployed. We are most active in retail and warehousing and we see rapidly increasing demand in malls.
Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) work very are very well in expansive areas where there is a lot of repetitive cleaning work. We’re seeing increasing interest in schools and within healthcare environments. We have always had a strong presence in grocery retail but we are also now seeing more and more demand coming from the clothing retailers because they also have a lot of surfaces to clean. And because our robots are highly sensitive in public environment where there are a lot of people, they are ideal for these types of environments. We are seeing significant interest from the logistics and warehouse sector which has been under immense pressure during Covid to maintain or increase operations while doing everything in their power to ensure worker safety .
How do you see the market for robotics and automation developing?
In 2020, Brain Corp surpassed 4 million hours of global operation, up from 331,000 hours the previous year. The BrainOS-powered robotic fleet grew by over 4X during 2020 as adoption of robotic scrubbers skyrocketed to meet heightened cleaning expectations due to the health crisis. In 2021, we will continue to grow our fleet and help more organizations, to support their workforce and maintain high levels of sanitation and productivity.
Who are your biggest partners? Which clients do you work with internally like say for example on product development, who do you work with for your products externally?
We deploy our BrainOS software with the biggest OEMs in the world including Tennant, Hako-Minuteman, Karcher, Nilfisk and Softbank Robotics because they make the best cleaning machines. When we look at the areas where we are selling a lot of machines right now, it is in grocery retail. We have the best in class navigation software so our machines can operate in these hyper dynamic environments. Our machines are also very easy to operate. We work with a teach and repeat method. What that means is that an operator can clean as normal and the machine remembers routes and repeat it autonomously. The robot will navigate the route on its own, able to distinguish between a dynamic object such as a person and a static one, such as a pallet. If it comes up against an obstacle on a route, the machine will stop and observe it and then try to find a way around it. If there’s not enough space, it will call for an assist to the operator and he or she can come to the location of the machine and adjust whatever is needed to get it back on its route. In dynamic circumstances where there are people involved, the machine will stop and wait until the person has moved before carrying on.
I think that, moving forward, we will find more and more ways to support humans in their tasks through robotics. It It will become more of a recognizable part of life in the future. It isn’t something to be afraid of but, in my opinion, something to be embraced as a tool able to help create better and safer working environments where operations are optimized.
The growth in robot usage in public environments shouldn’t be about replacing people but creating different jobs that use their time and skill more effectively.