[ENG] Hashed People: Fueling the Robotics Economy by Co-founder from Kambria, Thuc Vu

In spite of its high usability, innovation in the robotics market is suffering from labor substitution problems and cost problems. Kambria is decentralized open AI&robotics platform to accelerate the development and adoption of impactful robots. Hashed Post interviewed co-founders Thuc Vu and Jared Go. All answers were answered directly by Thuc Vu.

Can you briefly introduce yourself, including your history?

I am an engineer nerd at heart who is passionate about entrepreneurship and social causes. I started writing computer programs back in junior high, and was competing nationally and internationally like it was a sport. I left Vietnam when I was 17 to go to the US for an undergraduate program at Carnegie Mellon University, and later a PhD at Stanford, both in Computer Science, focusing on Artificial Intelligence.

Right after Stanford, I started a company called Katango which provided social analytics for users on Facebook. Katango got acquired by Google less than 2 years later. I stayed at Google for 3 years, and then left to start OhmniLabs/Kambria in July 2015.

Besides OhmniLabs and Kambria, I am also involved with several community and non-profit projects in Vietnam, such as VietSeeds, a scholarship program that helps underprivileged students to attend universities, and VietAI, an educational project that bring AI courses from Silicon Valley back to train engineers in Vietnam.

(→)Thuc Vu, Co-founder of Kambria. Simon Seojoon Kim, CEO of #HASHED. Jared Go, Co-founder of Kambria.

How and why did you start Kambria?

Even after more than couple decades of research, we still have made little headway in developing affordable robots that can address our everyday needs. Traditional development processes used by robotics companies result in high cost production, effectively isolating the everyday consumer market. Only robots programmed to do very simple household tasks, such as vacuuming or mowing, were able to capitalize on the small profit margin.

Highly functional robots, including the Honda Asimo that can walk up the stairs and the Toyota’s Human Support Robot that can fetch, only exist in research facilities due to their expensive price tags. Neither will be commercially viable in the near future.

We are passionate not only about robotics but also about bringing value to people. Our mission is to accelerate the process of robotics innovation, enabling faster, cheaper, and easier robotics development and adoption by everyone. It will be revolutionary to be able to foster an open collaborative ecosystem, where every contribution can easily be shared, manufactured, and implemented. And this is the reason why we start developing Kambria.

Speaking of Asimo, how expensive is Asimo now? And How much low it can be when Kambria is successfully built?

Asimo is economically prohibitive right now, with price tag quoted at no less than $2.5Million. It is more of a branding and marketing tool for Honda rather than a practical functional robot. Kambria will allow for the robotics community to develop new technology on top of previous work. No longer do we have to reinvent the wheel with every new modification. (This current practice often result in 85% of wasted effort.) Given this approach we foresee a much shorter development time and lower cost. Possibly seeing Asimo made at 15% of the current price.

What is a meaning of its name, Kambria?

Kambria is named after the Cambrian Explosion, 500 million years ago, when an accelerated evolutionary rate gave rise to biodiversity and abundance. We believe the Kambria platform will be the catalyst for a similar explosion in Robotics, creating millions of robots of different sizes, shapes, and functionalities to help improve the quality of life of people around the world.

Can you describe your team? how many engineers do you have in your team?

We have three co-founders: Jared Go, Tingxi Tan and myself. Jared and I know each other for years. We were roommate back then at Carnegie Mellon University. We did a lot of research projects together, especially with multi-agent systems. Jared and Tingxi were working together for a long time at their previous tech startup and got along very well too. That’s how we all got together.

In terms of engineers, we have about 10 engineers, covering a wide range of expertise from full-stack mobile and web development, to mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, to machine learning, and of course blockchain. We are aggressively scaling out our team to 30 by the end of the year.

Who are Kambria’s competitors?

At a high level, we don't actually have competitors, only potential collaborators and contributors. The whole point of Kambria is to bring people, projects, institutions together to build an advanced robotics ecosystem and share the upside of the values we generate through applying robotics technology in the society. The entire robotics industry has been secretive and fragmented for too long. We want to create a platform that bring people together to collaborate.

In terms of similar projects, there are some open-source robotics projects such as ROS or Yale Open Hand Project. However ROS is focusing on operating system for robots only. There is no other robotics projects in the crypto space, as far as we know. There are some other AI projects in the crypto space such as SingularityNET or SynapseAI.

What are main differences of Kambria from its competitors?

Most of other AI projects focus on creating a medium for entities to exchange certain things such as ideas, data, services for tokens. They are too dependent on third parties to develop new and useful services.

At Kambria, we are creating a comprehensive innovation engine that supercharges both of the development and adoption of new technology. Our platform is uniquely designed to take robotics development all the way from ideation to manufacturing to assembly and distribution.

Last but not least, we are the only project in the crypto space that has a real physical product that can bring concrete value to our users. We are an existing robotics company already selling hundreds of robots worldwide. We also have deep expertise over our entire production pipeline from building boards, to arms to robots. We can definitely jumpstart the ecosystem with a product of value from day 1 instead of waiting for people to contribute.

How many robotics companies and developers there are globally? And how big is the total amount of funding in robotics and its industry? How fast is this growing?

The robotics market is estimated to be $40B globally(reference link). It is projected to grow at a dizzying pace to top $240B in 5 years. robotics used to be dominated by industry robots that you see on the assembly lines but more and more robots are being made for the home and office environment. For example healthcare is a $2 Trillion usd market in which automation is gaining traction.

The only value inflow is from Companies, which means Companies can control margin between the revenue they get from Users and the payments for developments. What do you think of this inequality of money flow?

On the contrary, we designed our ecosystem to capture the value generated at 3 key points: when a robot is manufactured, when the robot is sold to a customer, and when the robot is performing task for end-users. This enables multiple revenue inflows from manufacturers, from resellers, and from service providers. Moreover, we are creating a platform that enables any entrepreneurs to go after a new market using robotics applications without having the same resources of big companies. Companies with too high margin can be outcompeted by other Kambrian companies. This will create an interesting equilibrium in the long run in which companies will have to collaborate fairly with developers and the community unless they want to risk getting excluded from the ecosystem. The community will have the power to control the margin through voting.

I think the success of Linux and Android cannot be justified only with open source philosophy. In case of Android, strong support from Google was the key factor and there are many open source projects which couldn't compete against the tech developed by single entity. How do you think Kambria eventually win in the robotics market?

Yes, we agree that open source is tricky. There are not that many successful and lasting projects such as Linux or Android. But each has an enormous impact to not just the progress of technology but also the quality of life of the human race. The success of Linux and Android should be attributed in part to strong support from either large corporations or strong community. Linux is a good example of community development but it took them a long time to achieve the critical mass.

We spent a lot of time thinking about the game theoretical aspect of Kambria so that we can bootstrap our community very quickly and incentivize key stakeholders to collaborate and stay for the long-run benefits. We are also bringing key partnerships onto the platform to create a dynamic and robust ecosystem.

Do you have partnerships you want to introduce?

Partnership is very important for us to build out our robotics ecosystem. We have 4 types of partners:
  • Academics such as CMU, NTU, and who are working with us to build out AI & robotics research labs around the world. We provide the students and researchers at these labs with robotics dev kits/platforms from Kambria and equip them with ultra-lean rapid prototyping capability so that they can focus on the research area they are most passionate about.
  • Other existing robotics and open-source communities such as ROS to bring their existing technology onto Kambria and provide them with additional revenue streams as well as help grow their developer communities.
  • Tech companies such as Toppan or Intel who want to co-develop new technology either in robotics or manufacturing and tackle new promising markets.
  • Corporations in other verticals such as Home Care Assistance, or Zumedic who want to apply our robotics technology in their particular fields to address their current needs and help reduce their costs or improve their quality of services.

Do you think Korea is important market if yes why?

Absolutely. In the last decade, Korea has emerged as an innovation leader in consumer technology, especially in the mobile space. And in the last few years, it has further cemented its position as a major player in the crypto market. Our Kambria project is right at the intersection of consumer with robotics with crypto. We believe Korea would be the perfect “eye for the storm” for us to launch Kambria and capture other markets.

All right, then. Thanks for the interview.

Thank you!

Kambria: Fueling the Robotics Economy(Korean Caption) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5gf4m6ek4Q
* Kambria Official Hompage : https://kambria.io/
* Kambria Official Telegram : https://t.me/kambriaofficial
* Kambria Offical Korean Telegram : https://t.me/KambriaKorea
* HASHED LOUNGE Telegram : https://t.me/hashedlounge

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