The superlatives and hyperbole in this press release masked a good idea—bringing robotic programming into the 21stCentury. “Pioneering the next frontier of manufacturing through a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and industrial robotics,” proclaims the press release. The meat of the announcement—Symbio Robotics announced its official company launch armed with $30M and a goal of modernizing industrial manufacturing by breathing new life into existing industrial robots — making them faster, more capable and more flexible.
At the heart of Symbio’s strategy is the introduction of SymbioDCS, an industrial robotics middleware and python programming framework that radically simplifies the programming of industrial robots to make them far more intelligent. SymbioDCS enables robot programmers to leverage real-time sensor information and feedback from existing automation sensors in combination with advanced control software. As a result, industrial robots that are programmed and managed with SymbioDCS quickly learn and execute tasks — increasing efficiency, improving quality and reducing ergonomic hazards.
Symbio currently is working with Nissan Motor Corporation and Toyota in addition to other major companies.
The recent investment was led by ACMECapital, with participation from existing investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Eclipse Ventures and The House Fund.
“Symbio is doing for manufacturing what Windows did for DOS. Existing industrial manufacturing robots run proprietary programming languages making them slow and cumbersome. Not only do these robots lack dexterity, they lack the intelligence to make them do what they need to do,” said Max Reynolds, Symbio CEO and co-founder. “Our technology is designed to fundamentally reframe these existing manufacturing pain points by utilizing the best practices of AI and human robot interaction. That’s what we believe will drive success.”
Symbio is focused on a different problem: building automation that enables the best of human-machine collaboration. Its framework is designed to support the programmers that are already working in these environments.
“Developers are humans too, so the human-machine collaboration paradigm should apply to them as well!” said Anca Dragan, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences (EECS), at UC Berkeley. “Instead of exclusively providing automation solutions, Symbio is also designing the tools that enable the developers and domain experts working in manufacturing to create their own automation solutions and easily adapt them to new tasks. To do this, they are building products that leverage AI strengths and human insight in a symbiotic way.”
Symbio’s focus is on providing generalized solutions that enable companies to adopt AI as a core competency, as opposed to the traditional automation approach, which is to provide a custom solution to a specific problem. This means that AI solutions will look very different because it’s not just about creating the automation, it’s about creating and providing the tools that empower teams to design their own solutions through the use of AI, and easily adapt to the task at hand.
“We’ve seen cars become much more complex and customized in the decades since the onset of industrial automation. Today’s automakers need more nimble and nuanced robotics to perform increasingly sophisticated assemblies,” said Greg Reichow, Partner at Eclipse Ventures and the former head of global manufacturing and automation engineering at Tesla. “Symbio provides the exact solution for forward-thinking manufacturers, through an AI-powered platform that combines advanced compute, sensing and precision-control software.”
The company’s framework runs on edge computing infrastructure through industrial networks to inform and instruct current factory systems to make final assembly tasks available that were never automated before. This allows, for the first time, the development of new sets of applications and programs that can inform and instruct current factory systems to perform more complex and dexterous tasks, in addition to improving automation that already exists like door, wheel and windshield assembly, fastening, welding and painting.
“We believe that tech-enabled automation is defining the modern economy. Symbio is on the leading edge of the shift toward an era of software-defined manufacturing where
intelligent, self-aware devices will be capable of automating even the most complex tasks like assembly. The company is taking a thoughtful approach and has proven that their technology works with some of the toughest customers possible, Automotive OEMs. We are excited to partner with the Symbio team as they scale across the automotive sector and beyond.” Hany Nada, Co-founder and Partner, ACME Capital.