Bernard LOUVAT, President of Evolution Robotics Inc.

Evolution Robotics war created in March 2001, but released its first product in February 2002. This product is a Software Platform (and a hardware kit) allowing the development of personal robots for home and commercial use. Sometimes referred as the "Microsoft of robotics", the young company has indeed the ambition to provide a standard platform powering the creation of robots and robotics applications.
The company was funded with the help of idealab! and Ben Rosen. Bernard Louvat (below) is its President and COO. The software platform you are proposing intends to become a standard of the personal robots industry. Do you foresee a "standards war" (such as the "browser war", a few years ago, for the Internet) for robots?

    Bernard Louvat: We are not the only company that has developed a robot control system and brought it to market, and, undoubtedly, we won't be the last. However there are many reasons we believe that the Evolution Robotics Software Platform has the best chance to become the standard for the emerging personal robotics industry. To name a few:
    1. Robotics is a complex discipline requiring expertise in many fields including mechanics, electronics, software, and industrial design. We have extensive talent in all these areas due to our alliances with institutions like Caltech, JPL, USC and Pasadena Art Center.
    2. Evolution Robotics is a company with a unique blend of extremely talented entrepreneurs, Roboticists, business managers and commercial engineers. Our staff and advisors have extraordinary accomplishments, such as building robots that have been sent to other planets; developing best-selling software; building over 30 companies; and holding executive management positions at companies like Compaq, Apple, Disney, and Lotus. With this compilation of talent, Evolution Robotics will move robotics out of the lab and into the home and workplace.
    3. The Evolution Robotics Software Platform was developed from the ground up to be used with a variety of hardware designs and operating systems. The platform has no legacy issues relating to an original robot platform - it has not been generalized for a specific use.

The Evolution software platform is reffered as "Open". In which way is it open? Do you intend to make the sourcecode (or part of it) public in a near future?

    Evolution Robotics provides open APIs so developers can write applications to work with the platform. The software license also enables third party developers to resell their applications as long as is doesn't require the redistribution of Evolution Robotics software code. However we aren't providing source code. We will provide code examples to help developers in their efforts, but the platform itself if proprietary.

In a world of numerous Internet-connected personal robots, do you consider "robot hacking" (taking control of a robot from a remote location, with bad intentions) or "robot virusing" (introducing damaging data in the robot's system) a real threat, or at least a serious concern?

    Hacking and viruses should always be taken seriously by anyone developing any network-connected product.

Could you indicate what are the financial objectives of Evolution Robotics, in terms of sales, for the first years of activities, or in the long term?

    Our financial objectives are to create a strong return for our investors and to be a profitable company. Regarding the specific numbers, that’s hard to estimate at this time. However, we are pursuing partnerships and licensing agreements aggressively and hope to have 2-4 deals closed before the end of 2002.

In terms of "categories", what in your opinion will be the most important market segment for Evolution Robotics, between functional robots (doing helpful tasks), entertainment robots (autonomous toys) or combat robots?

    There are a number of market segments that we believe will be most attractive to and interested in a product and services offering from Evolution Robotics. Those include the appliance industry (vacuums, mowers, etc), the toy/entertainment industry and the healthcare industry. All of these market segments have initial robotic products.

According to you, when will we see the introduction on the market of a personal, voice-activated robot, able to perform complex tasks (for instance, say, prepare a full breakfast alone)?

    Making breakfast alone is a tall order, even for some people! Truthfully though, a multipurpose, personal robot is not as far off as you might expect. The trick is in the interpretation of "complex tasks." C3PO is at least 10 years away. But a robot in your home that can let in the cable man, make reservations, answer your phone and improve your child’s performance in school - that will arrive sooner that any of us expect.

Interview by Cyril Fievet, February 26, 2002

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